Pictures for Clothes

Adrian Tomine for Perry EllisI’m going to make it a two-fer week for comics fans here: I never got around to writing about the Adrian Tomine-illustrated advertising campaign for Perry Ellis that kicked off earlier in the year, so following on my post about Seth’s wonderful “Wimbeldon Green,” I thought I would. It’s a fairly striking creative strategy for a fashion label that completely eschews photography for hand-drawn illustrations from the author and artist of the indie comic book “Optic Nerve.” Tomine uses his self-consciously mild drawing style to recount quiet moments of modest poignancy in the lives of apparently attractive, Perry Ellis-garbed young singles. He tells three short stories in comic strip form with the same attention to detail and deft draughtsmanship that you’ll find in his normal comic work. None of them are of any particular consequence, but reading each of them at, they come off as reasonably successful impressions for the brand.

Illustration Sets You Free

Below: Panel discussion. One of Tomine⁏s short comic stories, shown in transition via Flash.

Excusing its strong under-current of banality put in service to superficial goods (it’s hard to describe the stories as anything more than laughably shallow), I have to say I really like this campaign. It’s a novel, eye-catching use of a talented independent comic book artist, and I have to applaud Perry Ellis’ advertising agency at least for possessing the cultural acuity and taste to choose Tomine; pairing his work with the Perry Ellis brand is completely unexpected. Someone over there has taste, clearly, and it bears out especially well in the print ads; they’re single-panel excerpts from the short comic stories, and they have an intriguing artfulness that echoes Roy Lichtenstein while avoiding the cloying, overbearing irony to which most uses of comic book conventions inevitably succumb.

Most of all, I like the use of illustration in the campaign, especially the willingness to apply at least some user experience savvy to the comic book panels as they appear online. The Flash viewer actually makes it easy and enjoyable to move from panel to panel; it’s not a groundbreaking instance of comics moving online, but it’s quite nice. It’s pleasing to me that they carried the unorthodox thinking they used to actually select Tomine throughout the various incarnations of the campaign. It’s a happy instance of the kind of freedom that drawings from human hands can impart on a design problem. Though I’m not particularly anxious for more luxury brands to co-opt the inventiveness of independent comics, I’d be more than happy to see more designers use more illustration online.

  1. Seems pretty groundbreaking to me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen comic books represented online like that. I love the subtle motion. It feels like what you’d want real comic books to do if they were animated. Illustration like that would make anything look good. Awesome link.

  2. I like it. You’re right that the mini-stories are banal (they don’t really qualify as stories even) but I have to admit they worked well enough to make me want to find out what’s going to happen to our dapperly-clad hero.

    I agree with Seamus that the simple panning across of the panels effectively adds something special to the experience that differentiates it from printed sequential artwork.

    This seems like a natural progression for on-line marketing. Imagine a similar campaign for a lawn mower company. A husband could look at a calendar and see a date circled in red. He could then look out the back window and see the back yard is a mess of overgrown weeds. The next few panels could show him mowing the grass, edging up with a weedeater, and using a leaf blower to tidy up. Then he could stand in the center of an immaculately manicured lawn. The final panel could show the next day, the day circled in red on the calendar, when he and his wife throw a grand birthday party for their 6 year-old daughter.

    This is an idea that should really take off. I wonder if there are any other examples of this sort of on-line marketing?

    Thanks for the link.

  3. Yeah, I’m not sure if I would necessarily advocate for short comic stories as a way of selling more products. As I mentioned in my post, using ‘sequential art’ in advertising has tended to succumb to cliched irony. This is an improvement over that, but not necessarily an advancement. For me, it’s the power of the drawings themselves that’s the real breakthrough… in fact, I think I would have liked this campaign better if in fact it had been composed of the same panels but perhaps without any words whatsoever.

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