Downtime

“She’s Almost Eating Him”

Why the world needs ads with people licking each other on the face a lot.

The Suitsupply ad in which a man a woman kiss each other with a lot of tongue, next to same-sex couples kissing. Basically it does not look like something you'd want to do during the coronavirus.
How many licks? Etc. Suitsupply

For the past year, we’ve been taking our pandemic cues from public health authorities, but maybe we should have been looking to menswear brands. This week the soothsayers at Suitsupply declared that the “new normal” is coming, and since no one else has told us when this is really going to end, it seemed like a prophecy worth considering. And the company’s words came with a vision—several visions, actually. This “new normal,” according to them, is going to look a lot like an orgy. Yes, when post-pandemic life starts up again, we’re all going to be licking each other—and if Suitsupply has its way, a bunch of us will be wearing business casual while we do it. After the campaign became the talk of social media, Suitsupply’s CEO, Fokke de Jong, agreed to a very sanitary phone conversation to answer some of Slate’s questions about how we’ll dress in the bacchanalia to come. Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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Slate: Where did the idea for this ad campaign come from?

Fokke de Jong: Advertising has been extremely focused on the pandemic and of course being careful and “We’re in this together.” And that’s true. But we felt that now is the time to, I don’t know, take a look into the future. We’re now in a moment that we all can see that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. So doing something like that, focusing on getting back together again and partying is a different image. It’s a new thing for people to look at in communication and advertising, because nobody’s been doing that yet.

Do you think it’ll sell suits, though?

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I think now everybody’s talking about the Roaring ‘20s, about dressing up again, about going out again. And I think that’s important for our brand. We are something different than athleticwear and hoodies. I think a lot of people have been wearing those clothes now for the last year. Our business is about, “What do you wear when you have a party, if you have a date, if you’re going out for dinner, an important meeting?” You want to look good.

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This is also has to do with attraction. We’re not only dressing to keep ourselves warm, right? Attraction between people is always part of fashion.

I was told you were pretty involved in making the ad. Were you on the photo shoot? How did that … work?

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No, I was not on the shoot. The photographer Carli Hermès does our campaigns. We talked it over and I was especially involved in the casting. First of all, it needed to be shot in a safe way, but you also want it to look natural. There has to be passion in there. So we were looking for real couples. These are all people that are also couples in real life. So there’s a little bit of natural passion in there. And actually our main models in there, the guy and the girl that are kissing, hadn’t seen each other for two months before they came on the shoot. That helped.

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What did you think of the photos when you first saw them?

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“Whoa.” It made me smile. I think that’s a lot of what we’re getting. Most people, it makes them smile. I know that it’s all about the timing, and when can you send something out like this? Like, where are we in the world right now? I thought that at this moment, the timing was sort of there and right, because we all know vaccinations are going, cases are dropping, we’re all going to see what’s next.

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And of course I understand, a lot of responses that have been, “But we’re still in the middle of a pandemic,” and I agree. I mean, we’re not saying do it now. It’s just saying it’s coming.

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It is a lot of tongue, though.  

It’s about not having to be afraid with physical contact. That also makes it interesting to look at. Our campaigns are always a little edgier. If they’re just there to do a film kiss, you’re not going to get that feeling. My favorite, I like the second one—you really see that they haven’t seen each other for a long time. She’s almost eating him. That’s actually exactly the feeling, right? That also goes really well with our brand. We’re in tailoring, but there needs to be sort of a playfulness.

Are there any plans to put the ads on billboards?

We just ran it in Europe, on billboards and outdoors. It was fine. There’s two people kissing here; I don’t think in the world that is the most shocking thing to look at.

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You mentioned that this is not the brand’s first controversial ad campaign.

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I don’t think we have a specific strategy to create controversy, but there are topics that we feel that are nice or good to look at. We did a gay campaign a year and a half or two years ago, with outdoor ads, where you had two guys really kissing and making out. We thought that was gonna create some reaction because people were not used to seeing that in normal mainstream advertising. We were expecting some, but it became a lot bigger than we expected. But it also was very cool to look at and it was part of the personality of the brand—and, by the way, a big part of our clientele. So I think these things go very hand in hand.

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What was the pandemic like for your business?

You buy our stuff not to sit at home or sit on the couch. There are way more comfortable and cheaper options for that. You buy our stuff when you go to the restaurant, when you have a date, you have a special occasion or a party, if you want to look good for a meeting or you’re in a social environment. With a lack of that, our business was very largely disrupted.

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I know a lot of brands started making sweats and things they hadn’t made before. Did you consider any of that?

No. We’re extremely good at making beautiful, high-end clothes made of the best Italian fabrics, best construction. And this has a very, very significant value. To translate that to other categories is very hard. I also think as a brand, you have to stay very true to your core. And it might be that sometimes that’s not the most popular stuff, the flavor of the month. For us to go in athleticwear or sweatpants, that’s too far off. I’ve seen a lot of brands that have moved away from these categories and we said, “No, we’re going to stay the course, and we’re going to double down on it.”

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I read some of the clothes in the ads as a bit more casual than the full suit. Are you predicting that suiting is going to be more casual going forward?

I think things will be a lot more dressed up than we think. As a global company, we are getting a view of how things are going to look, because, you know, China is of course ahead in how things have gotten back to normal; Australia has sort of gotten back to normal; South Korea. We thought everything was going to be more jackets and knits, more of an elevated casual, but we see actually way more dressing up going on than we’ve expected.

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To your point, you’re seeing these suits wearing a little casual. I mean, we have both options. I wear mine most of the time with a knit underneath it. It’s easier to wear, it’s cooler. But I already even find myself looking forward to dressing up again in a full-blown suit with a shirt and tie. I think what will happen is generally people want to dress up again, whether it’s a more casual way of dressing up or a more formal way of dressing up. If you read the fashion press, they say everybody’s going to work from home, and nobody’s gonna dress up again. We’re totally not seeing that.

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