Today in things you shouldn't watch on a full stomach: In an ad for organic clothing brand PACT, agency Denizen reprises the aesthetics of old Calvin Klein ads, producing something that is sometimes funny, mostly damning and completely uncomfortable.
"Skidmarks" features people lounging around nearly nude, making passionate love to the camera and touching each other the way beautiful people in fashion industry ads do—possessively, reverentially, like they're caressing an art form and need you to watch.
There's just one problem: The unsightly fruits of what we can only imagine were a stunning amount of sharts (did they have chili before the shoot?), staining the backs of their otherwise pristine white skivvies.
At the end, three models make a pyramid—two guys stooped on the sides, a woman crouched in the middle, her back toward us. Her underwear remains snowy, but as the camera lowers toward that third eye, you can guess what's coming.
It's a splashy ending (sorry, we couldn't resist), and a reminder of why white underwear is just not worth the trouble. "The fashion industry leaves a stain on the world," the ad concludes. "Change starts with your underwear."
We would have liked a clearer explanation of this point and how it works, but it suffices to visit the PACT website, whose About page explains its commitment to organic cotton: 20 percent of industrial water pollution worldwide comes from the treatment and dyeing of textiles, and conventional cotton takes up about 16 percent of insecticides and 7 percent of pesticides. Add the child labor, dangerous factory conditions and indentured servitude, and you've got yourself a shit sandwich.
"It's a dirty business (and we're on a mission to change it)," PACT states.
"PACT engaged us to expose the dark side of the fashion industry in a funny way—the only logical place to go was a fart joke," explained Denizen co-founder Joel Jensen. "The idea was based around a problem most of us have encountered at some point in our lives, skid marks. We came back with a concept for the video that had all of us on the floor laughing. Our reaction was both delight and disgust, but we knew right away that we had to greenlight the idea."
"Skidmarks" was directed by Kurt Schmidt and shot in a day in Los Angeles. (Fun fact: A "poo cannon" was involved. While we're on the topic, here's a weird history of poo as a weapon.) The goal was to underline PACT's ideology in a way that shines a lowbrow light on fast fashion, whose high production and low costs encourage people to buy both impulsively and in bulk. The result is that we increasingly consume and dispose of clothes like they're single-serve handwipes.
"We wanted to subvert the tropes of the fashion industry," Jensen said. "It's a flawed industry … that refuses to look at itself honestly. There is an ugly reality lurking beneath the surface, and it's very easy to be distracted from that when beautiful, titillating imagery comes with the package."
PACT is vigilant about its supply chain's integrity, working with Fair Trade and Global Organic Textile Standard organizations. And apart from producing tummy-turning laughs, the skid marks shtick is also a meaningful contrast to fashion advertising: An "immature" approach "felt like the right way to counter and call out the self-absorbed way the fashion industry talks about itself," said Jensen. "Sometimes nuanced critique isn't as effective as throwing a brick through the window or, perhaps more relevantly, smearing poop on underwear."
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