H&M and Naomi Campbell are taking an 1980s song about unemployed male empowerment and turning it into a 2017 ad about global female empowerment—through fashion.
The clothing retailer is out with a new ad featuring the supermodel, set to the 1986 version of “Wham Rap (Enjoy What You Do),” by Wham!, the British pop duo comprising George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley.
In the minute-long spot, made by adam&eveDDB, Campbell struts through the streets of Tokyo in a power suit, lip-syncing to the song, which features lyrics about rebelling against working for a living and instead dressing flash from head to toe. A montage of hip and happy women join Campbell as the chorus approaches: “Wham, bam, I am a man,” they mime. “Job or no job you can’t tell me I’m not.”
It’s a clever juxtaposition of image and sound to create a clear, pseudo-political but mostly marketing-savvy sales message, by appealing to a sort of pop feminism and gender-bending aesthetic. No matter who you are or what you do, H&M will make you look, and by extension feel, strong and fabulous … with, as Harper’s Bazaar points out, clothes that blur the line between masculine and feminine.
It’s also, and arguably primarily, an homage to the video for George Michael’s 1990 hit “Freedom ’90,” wherein Campbell and four other top models also lip-synced to Michael’s lyrics. Somewhat ironically, given this context, those included use of clothing as a metaphor, and focused on his shedding the manufactured public image of his Wham! days in pursuit of a more authentic presentation of himself. David Fincher directed that video. Michael died last Christmas at age 53.
Campbell, for her part, worked for H&M back in the 1990s as well. “It’s always an honor when a brand comes back to you 20 years later,” she tells Harper’s Bazaar. “I love Tokyo, so any excuse to be there, I’m happy.”
Given the city’s lush aesthetics—also on display in the karaoke-themed ad—it’s certainly hard to blame her for that.