Thursday, July 31, 2003

Gap ads grab superstars

Madonna, Missy Elliott bring flair to new campaign

By Samantha Critchell
The Associated Press

When you're working with Madonna and Missy Elliott, you never know what you're going to get - and that's just what Gap wanted.

For its new fall ad campaign, the retailer gave each of the two music and fashion icons a pair of corduroy pants and a couple of tops with instructions to customize the garments any way they wanted.

Madonna had "Lady M" silkscreened down one of the legs of her light-blue, low-rise cuffed cords, pairing the pants with a Lana Marks alligator belt and her own newsboy hat.

Elliott decorated her pants with studs, attached a gray hoodie sweatshirt to a corduroy jacket and had an airbrushed portrait of herself added to a plain white T-shirt.

Each also had a big M embroidered onto her back pocket.

Unique style

"The essence of each of their styles is so different, but both these women emphasize individuality and uniqueness. And both look good in regular cords and T-shirts - just like everyone else," says Joe Zee, W magazine's fashion director who styled the print and TV ads.

Aside from telling them the theme was corduroy, Gap allowed him to work directly with Madonna and Elliott to devise the look of the ads, says Zee. It really was a coincidence that both women chose the same color pants.

"It was never dictated, it was a collaboration from Day 1. ... Both Madonna and Missy liked the blue because it had a vintage feel," Zee says.

Was it weird to see such glamorous women in the clothes that the rest of us wear to the grocery store?

"This is what they (Madonna and Elliott) wear. Missy gets on an airplane dressed like this, and I definitely think Madonna wears a tank top and short cords on the weekend," Zee responds.

But for a little extra sparkle, Elliott brought her own monogrammed jewels to the Gap photo shoot, while Madonna wore a borrowed diamond wallet chain by Neil Lane and several diamond bracelets, together valued at $5 million.

"The diamond wallet chain is very street, hip and urban, but it's Madonna so we wanted it to be a little more glam," Zee says.

Willing to take chances

Rebecca Weill, director of public relations for Gap, says the company sought out Madonna and Elliott because they are fashion fans who are willing to take chances.

"We knew we wanted the campaign to have an optimistic youthful energy, something that would appeal to our more adventurous customers," she explains.

(Those adventurous Gap customers get their chance to embroider their own cord pants on, while supplies last.)

Madonna, 44 and mother of two, has maintained her position as the ultimate fashionista for 20 years because of her instincts and her willingness to change.

"I don't think she consciously decides, 'Today I'm going to be blond and rock the world' or, 'Today I'm going to be a brunette geisha and rock the world,' " says Zee.

"She just has such a strong instinct about what's going and what she feels is right, and she just runs with it."

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