Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rust Belt Chic: Wearing Braddock

Levi Strauss & Company want to sell you Braddock, PA. Via True/Slant, I learned how Rust Belt Chic has invaded the fashion industry:

The ads also address a point raised in the last year about the “Go forth” campaign, which some deemed too ethereal. The ads included salutes to the pioneering spirit of young Americans and the poetry of Walt Whitman.

“We’re marrying ‘Go forth’ with something very tangible,” Mr. Sweeny said, by grounding the upbeat optimism of the theme with the gritty realism provided by the Braddock settings.

The suggestion to feature Braddock in the campaign came from the Levi’s creative agency, Wieden & Kennedy in Portland, Ore., which also produced the first year of “Go forth” ads, which began running last July.

The agency said it could be risky for the Levi’s brand to do this, Mr. Sweeny recalled, but after he met with Mr. Fetterman and other residents, he realized that “the people have an incredible sense of optimism.”

“No one knows” if Braddock will be able to reverse its decline, Mr. Sweeny said. “It’s a big question mark. Nothing in life is guaranteed.”

“But I do fundamentally believe that real work and real people will ultimately drive real change,” Mr. Sweeny said.

The campaign plays up the concept that Braddock residents are descendants of the pioneers who first wore Levi’s in the 1870s.

“People don’t think there are frontiers anymore,” says a girl who narrates a commercial that depicts scenes of life in Braddock. “They can’t see how frontiers are all around us.”

Lately, I feel like I see the urban frontier meme wherever I look, "all around us." Now this geographic lens is being used to sell jeans. I hope the campaign proves to be popular. Either way, Braddock is rewarded for playing the central character in the advertisements. The community receives $1 million plus the pay that goes to the actors who live in Braddock. I'd imagine there would be some spillover from the filming taking place there.

More importantly, it puts Braddock and other shrinking cities on the map in terms of what is currently cool. As if you needed another reason to drop everything, go forth and move to Pittsburgh. Beats boring Austin any day of the week.

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