Dior Addict Be Iconicad

Kate Moss for Dior Addict lipstick

The video is choppy as a coke fiend's razorblade.

She puts the needle into the record's groove instead of into her arm. Duran Duran. She's in Paris. There's a grey Bentley town car headed her way.

Her dressing room? A boudoir  frantic with unboxed possessions, every surface ruffled with discarded dresses, spiked with elaborate shoes, but she is unflappable. The shell white walls and gold molding, the tall windows with their gauzy curtains puffed with light suggest that Kate Moss, who is getting dressed to leave her lair, is preparing for a grand entrance at a royal court or a quick exit by guillotine.

Give me luxury or give me death, you think. It's what Dior wants.The company hopes to hook you on the latest version of Dior Addict lipstick. But it's the ad itself---a feast of empty cultural calories---that's addictive.

At the mirror, Moss picks up The Product with her fingertips so as not to scratch her beetle-black nail polish, and presses it to her enviable lips. It glides on, pink as a baby's tongue. The precious substance will make your lips puffy and sweet, like hers. At 37 her skin still looks flawless.She kisses herself in the mirror. No longer the waif, she is now a French courtesan, self-assured, self-kept and free to choose her poisons...

daily mirror 2005 cover

Daily Mirror's "Cocaine Kate" cover

...Of which, off-screen, she has many. You are expected to remember that she likes her boys and girls tricky and wild, starting with Johnny Depp, including a micro-fling with Courtney Love and transitioning into her incipient marriage to The Kills guitarist, Jamie Hince. Her birthday celebrations, notoriously, go on for days. Her most recent do, a pre-marital ladies night themed "Kate's Big, Fat Gypsy Hen Night," included 300 bottles of Mahiki rum ($81.93 for size "medium"). In defiance of French law, she recently sauntered down Louis Vuitton's runway smoking a cigarette. Back in 2005 The Daily Mirror's front page showed her preparing and snorting cocaine. The sordid image cost her several modeling contracts, but re-hab redeemed her and her fees soon doubled; Dior, among others, needed her to sex up their brand's musty respectability. She now reportedly has £42 million. She doesn't have to care what you think of her.

She works as hard as she plays, launching line after line: bags, clothes, jams. And those other lines? Does the lady still ...? It's a question Dior's fantasy teasingly exploits.

Back to that ad:

Wearing huge black sunglasses---the sort Jackie Kennedy relied upon to hide her widow's tears, Moss makes her way through a swarm of paparazzi. The director, Jonas Akerlund, who also directed Madonna and Lady Gaga videos, has switched to black and white, evoking a time of Dolce Vita when addiction was more vice than disease and aristocratic pleasures were often cut with downers, existential angst, ennui.

"Great POT-tea last night,"(1) she murmurs, wearily, under the blaze of a cervical chandelier.

Ensconced in her limo and back in color, she succumbs, once again, to a bout of sensuous lipstick re-application as her chariot whisks her off to Dior's runway show. Her fashionista drawl, clarified by subtitles: "A girl can't make an entrance without her lipstick."

Kate's true addiction, we are asked to believe, is to Dior. She gazes up worshipfully at Dior's unwearable ball gowns, claps, murmurs approval.

"Be iconic," is Dior's advice. Like her.

Needless to say, the ad is quite amusing. It is winkingly corrupt, lush, defiantly shameless... glamour porn, really, but delicious. Palm your mouse in the privacy of your cubicle and enjoy.

But it's not an easy pleasure, this "Dior Addict---Be iconic," business; its edgy edge cuts deep.

For one thing, it represents a strange triumph by a group called Faces and Voices of Recovery (FAVOR) that back in 2002 protested Dior's original campaign for its Addict line. As reported by Fashion pundit Robin Givhan described the early video as: (2)

"... an Internet film featuring a sweaty and anxious model who appears to be craving a fix . . . of Dior Addict lipstick. Her jones is satisfied by the film's end when she smears a bright red gloss on her pouting lips. The tag line for the campaign is 'Admit it.'"

In another spot, a similarly strung out Dior Addict addict spritzed herself with their perfume in a darkened doorway.  

Insisting (despite much contrary evidence) that "Addiction is not fashionable!" FAVOR, according to its Website, prevailed:

"in the end, Parfums Christian Dior vowed to recast its campaign in a way that distinguished between consumer 'addiction' to their scent and the overall lifestyle and condition of real addiction to alcohol and drugs."

FAVOR has had no complaints about the Moss ads, at least not yet. Its position seems to be that a "real" addiction to alcohol and drugs must take place in dark, gritty streets, not Bentleys---as if agony and elegance never shot up together. Worse, the group implicitly buys Dior's cheery assurance that an addiction to consumerism can't possibly be as destructive to families, society or individual happiness as "real" addictions to chemical intoxicants.

One might quibble a bit with that. Particularly if one's addiction to consumerism manifests as a desire to "Be iconic," that is to be a product, a brand, an image consumed as an object of desire and worship rather than as someone who, at least in private, connects with others.

You don't have to be a supermodel to realize that, with or without Dior's video teases, glamour and fame can be gateway drugs, emotionally unsustainable ego highs whose lows tend to produce cravings for frequently re-applied chemical enhancement. Didn't Kate Moss's friend, designer John Galliano, just recently drink himself into a puddle of Nazi-babble and out of a job?(3) 

Granted, in an economy of intangibles---financial "instruments," apps, games, "social networks," etc., marketing yourself as a megabrand has been one of the few realistic career paths for the likes of Oprah, Lady Gaga and company, so Dior's command to "Be iconic" can be taken, tongue-in-cheek, as good---but uselessly vague---professional advice, the equivalent of "Buy low; sell high."

But,  although it makes a dreadful slogan, "Act iconic" would be far better advice. You could re-write AA's famous saw, "Don't confuse your insides with others' outsides," as: "Don't confuse your lipstick with your lips," because people who equate their public carapaces with their best selves tend to end up addicted for real.

Still, none of Dior's ads put anyone in jeopardy who isn't already neck deep in it. Although Dior's Addict campaign evokes intemperate choices, all it really proposes is a little taste of iconic cool, the pusher's free sample of artificial confidence.

It works its magic with a bit of classic cross-conditioning. Once you associate the jolt of dopamine you get from Kate Moss---the girl who best melds beauty, romantic adventure and substance abuse---with the shiny case and slippery stick of lip grease they're marketing, the stimulus will excite you both ways: you will crave Dior Addict lipstick when you want to feel Kate Mossy, which is good for Dior, but also, you will tend to summon up a Moss-ish aura of self-adoration when you wear it, which can feel good to you.

Like Dumbo's feather, a well-marketed cosmetic is a little delusion that will get you higher than you know how to get on your own. The confidence it gives you, however, will be borrowed--hence the need for frequent re-application---so it's a boost best used by the self-aware and no substitute for real equipoise.

In any case, here are a few of the risks embedded in Addict marketing that one-drum groups like FAVOR ignore:

  • Self-delusion has its limits. If you act iconic and aren't an icon, you risk looking like a moron.
  • Reactions to heavy doses of narcissism vary. Being an icon, particularly one like Moss, who is as famous for hard living as for beauty and taste, is tough on the system and can encourage as much interpersonal estrangement as any chemical dependency.
  • Some of us have a paradoxical reaction to glamour meds. Personally, the whole Dior Addict campaign---which asks me to aspire to many, many things I can never pull off---makes me want to kill a magnum of Moët & Chandon (a product of Dior's subsidiary, LVMH).Which is to say, it's enough to drive me to drink.

Luckily for me, Dior Addict doesn't come in my shade.


(1) POT-tea is British English for "party."

(2) October 25, 2002 Washington Post

(3) See also my previous post, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dream/201105/springtime-hitler

No longer known as narcissism)

About the Author

Lynn Phillips

Lynn Phillips is the author of Self-Loathing for Beginners. She has written (sometimes as "Maggie Cutler") for a variety of publications, from The Nation to T Magazine.

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