Have you ever seen a picture, been completely outraged and felt as though you just have to show another person? You then show that person and then…
They don’t think it’s that bad? They think it’s funny? They think it’s brilliant?
The problem is, their interpretation is completely different to yours. Sure, you’ll feel stupid for about 5 seconds but don’t worry – This happens regarding every single piece of media text.

I’ll prove it –


Photo found here

Here is an advertising campaign for the Italian fashion brand Sisley, bearing the tagline, “Fashion Junkie.” It caused quiet a stir when it appeared in high fashion magazines around China in 2007. The signifiers (what’s there on the screen or page), being two models snorting something that at first glance appears to be cocaine, but on closer inspection is actually a top. The denotation (literal meaning) being – the girls are as addicted to fashion as others may be to drugs, and Sisley believe they can fuel fashion addicts.

One of many interpretations taken from this advert is the inadvertently promotion of the use of cocaine. The connotations being that through this campaign, Sisley acknowledged the rampant use of cocaine by people who have enough money to afford their clothes, associating it with fashion. Somehow cocaine is suddenly being signified with style. It is then further justifying the harmful use of dangerous substances by essentially categorising them next to a girl’s passion for fashion. This then raises the issue of Sisley’s disregard to the consequences of fashion becoming an addiction. (You should watch “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” for a better perspective). Another issue is the portrayal of the models. Both girls are shown with heavy makeup, party dresses on with a dark background indicating their position being in a club, signifying the brand’s view the models as no more than stereotypical, living to party on the weekends and suffering from a unhealthy drug addiction to keep their weight down. These unfair generalisations are not doing society any favours.

I believe what truly makes this advertisement so dangerous is the vast reach and impact of today’s media. There are thousands of possible responses, some in total contrast to how someone else perceived the message. In this case, ads like these are incredibly dangerous for young girls who idolise the fashion industry. They’ll see this advertisement and believe that drugs are an acceptable thing and if they do them they’ll be seen as cool and fashionable.

These are only a few different interpretations of this image, out of thousands of different ones. Each individual interprets the image and it’s visual signs differently because of the cultural (denotation) background, along with the socio-cultural and personal (connotation) background. Because of this, media texts will almost always have controversial aspects to it, resulting in different impacts to each person.

If you want to read more here are:
– Other examples
– Semiotic terminology
– Semiotics explained

Until next time,

  • Georgie

One thought on “And/Or

  1. I feel like the medias representation of the fashion industry and modelling world seem to always be associated with partying and drug use. As worrying as it is, it seems to me that these representations that they are presenting to us don’t even intend to have positive connotations (promoting the risks affiliated with drug use). Its almost as if it is glamorising the use of excessive partying, starvation and drug addiction.
    In sisley’s advertising campaign thats exactly what they’re doing. They’re associating drugs with what seems to be a luxurious brand. This can lead naive media audiences (particularly young girls) to thinking that drug use is cool and fashionable.

    Liked by 1 person

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