It’s a bust-stop!
Model Andrej Pejic could well be the fashion world’s liberality litmus test, having provoked outrage by appearing ‘topless’ on the cover of edgy Dossier magazine and a worldly shrug from the French when he stormed the John Paul Gautier catwalk in a see-through wedding gown. So we weren’t entirely surprised, when, earlier this week, it was those clever clogs Dutch – with their liberated, legalise-everything approach to life* - who finally gave the Serbian beauty his high-street break, in a push-up bra campaign, of all things, for retail giant HEMA, a store akin to the late, great Woolworths in terms of its fashion credentials.
Of course, the uplifting images of Andrej sparked debate (not to mention incalculable free publicity) on the Internet, but what does your average Dutch person think of the ads, in the country where the ads are actually running? As Grazia Daily's guest blogger, I took to the bus stops of Amsterdam to find out.
Incidentally, while I – like most of the people I spoke to – applaud HEMA for its charmingly light-hearted campaign, I’d like to point out that they’re less open-minded when a man goes into one of their stores and tries to take a picture of its push-up bras. Just saying.
Claire, 29, sales executive
Already knew? 'Yes. And they say Holland is flat! I love this campaign, it’s exactly the right balance of cheeky and provocative.'
Ruud, 53, software developer
Already knew? 'No. I’m really shocked because I had no idea it was a boy! Looking at the eyes, I think you can tell if you look really closely. We’re pretty cool with gender and sexuality in the Netherlands, so I don’t think this will cause a scandal.’
Lara, 20, carer
Already knew? 'No. It’s funny because the imagery they’ve used is way too glamorous for the shop. The model isn’t perfect, and I like that. But I assumed it was a girl, of course! It must have been done with Photoshop, no?'
Already knew? 'No. I don’t like her beauty marks very much. Otherwise quite unremarkable. Do you have some discount vouchers for me, then?’
Mark, 22, sports marketing student
Already knew? 'No. That’s a dude? No way! Well, he’s extremely handsome, isn’t he! I think models generally are quite androgynous at the moment.’
Danny, 18, communications student
Already knew? 'No. I think he may regret it in ten year’s time. I sure hope they’re paying him well.'
Amory, 31, marketing executive
Already knew? 'Yes. A friend of mine works for HEMA and had tipped me off, so I was looking out for these. For a mass-market brand, they’re extremely brave in the way they advertise. It’s admirable.'
Michael & Jeffrey, 17 & 15, students
Already knew? 'No' and 'Yes.' M: ‘She looks hot! But I feel bad now that you’ve told me it’s a guy!’ J: ‘This was all over the internet, so I already knew. Ha ha!’
Zaera, 28, teacher
Already knew? 'No. That’s a proper surprise! But a totally great idea! I guess the product really works, then.'
Already knew? 'No. I don’t think I’d buy the bra because she still looks quite flat-chested to me. It’s a man? Wow, that’s cool!’
George, 22, student
Already knew? 'No. She’s absolutely gorgeous and beautiful. I had absolutely no idea, although now I look at the image again I guess it’s not the bustiest model they could have chosen!’
Celina & Marloes, 19 & 19, make up artists
Already knew? 'No' and 'Yes'. C: ‘My friend just told me about this. Amazing! We’ve just been staring at it for 10 minutes!’ M: ‘I think it’s a really positive campaign. Go Holland!’
Andras, 18, student
Already knew? 'No. That’s crazy! I’ve seen this ad all over town and thought it was quite unremarkable. Until now.’
Charlotte, 22, dancer
Already knew? 'Yes. I don’t find it that remarkable, to be honest, but then I’m quite open-minded. You should dress however you want to dress. I’m going to show this to a friend of mine. It would be his dream to be styled like this!’
* slight reliance on easy stereotype here. They also live in windmills, FYI.