In this creepy but compelling new spot for her forthcoming line at the affordable-clothing chain, Donatella Versace plays an omniscient manipulator—using a series of cute dresses and surreal contraptions to manufacture and control a small army of pretty, bleach-blonde models. The spot, directed by Johan Renck, opens on the haute designer peering through a peephole into a gilded factory room. There, a pair of fair-haired fembots—models Lindsey Wixson and Daphne Groeneveld, looking an awful lot like vacant versions of the fashion icon herself—work a lever and valve as a machine nearby cranks out more identical blondes. The ad then offers a tour of the Versace training program, which requires the models to dangle as human marionettes, march in circles in a birdcage, and wander through a labyrinth, among other tasks. Perhaps most amusing: One girl walks inside a giant golden hamster wheel, powering the entire enterprise.
It's an appropriately luxurious spot for a fashion partnership, packed with gratifying eye candy and reaching heights of bizarreness that disallow any sense that it might take itself seriously. It's also rich with visual allusions to Illuminati mind-control tactics—dangling fodder for the pop-culture conspiracy theorists, and brilliantly working up those corners of the Internet. "My house. My rules . . . my pleasure," Versace smirks at the end.
Hypotheses about vast and nefarious plots to program the masses tend to seem a little far-fetched. Still, there's a kernel of truth in the ad that makes it all the more compelling as a piece of influence: The fashion industry certainly knows how to shape desire. And people really, really want those dresses.
Product: Versace for H&M, Winter 2011
Director: Johan Renck
Models: Lindsey Wixson and Daphne Groeneveld