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Make-out marketing is back on the menu…

Looks like SS21 is going to be hot

Tongue, saliva and fashionable orgies are on the cards this summer, as the fashion industry ramps up the spice for SS21. Serving fashion followers a vision of a post-pandemic world, sex is on everyone minds as this season’s trends and campaigns showcase the best that human connection has to offer. Think sweat-drenched skin, bodies upon bodies and a few games of tonsil tennis to celebrate the end of COVID restrictions. Brands, designers and marketing agencies alike are pulling out all the stops for a season filled with visible thongs, nipples galore and sexual tension like you’ve never seen before.

It’s no secret that many of us have been left hankering for a hand-holding during the lockdown, so it should be no surprise the industry is dishing out S-E-X. For SS21, Rick Owen’s came through with a chest-bearing cut-out tank, Mason Margiela gave us life with its androgynous thigh slit jeans and if you didn’t see Givenchy’s visible thong, we don’t know where you’ve been hiding. 


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The industry has flipped our sexual tension into just about anything marketable. For those of us that went without the S word during COVID, Suit Supply would have certainly added to your blue balls. The Dutch tailoring label broke the internet back in March of this year, with its salacious, spit-dripping ad. Titled ‘The New Normal’, the campaign defied life as we knew it for the last year. Using sweat-glistening bodies, blissfully unaware of the personal space we were taught to avoid; the vibe of a beautifully vulgar orgy sprung to mind. Shot in the midst of the pandemic, it raised eyebrows for its frank and abrupt display of intimacy at a time of social distancing. 

The faces of the campaign? Existing couple Viktoria Leonardo and Robin Decaux. Leonardo, a Brazilian model and animal activist told _shift: “As an activist, it meant everything to me to be a part of this ad, especially today. I believe the most important thing is human connection, so to have been a part of a project that reminds people we can’t lose that, solidified all I believe into one kiss. It was a real moment where people were able to connect to our love story in hopes of awakening that very same love in themselves.”


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Following suit, (pun fully intended) was fashion’s lover of love, Simon Porte Jacquemus. The French designer, known for his open-book personality on social media, added to our lockdown lust with a 30-piece photo series titled ‘L’AMOUR’. The series went live on Instagram in February this year, celebrating love as the diversely inclusive phenomenon it is. Shot by photographer Tom Kneller and styled by Zoey Radford Scott, the images show couples from different walks of life kissing, cuddling and gazing into each other eyes. Of course, they were all semi-dressed in Jacquemus’ signature, oversized and slouchy silhouettes. 

But are these brands championing love and sexuality without cause or is there a hidden agenda paired with the all too familiar saying “sex sells”? 

We spoke to Rosanna Maxwell, a sex, love and relationship coach to find out the psychology behind make-out marketing and the rise in sex as a trend. She tells _shift, “One thing that is banded around a lot is how ‘sex sells’ and a good theory about why this is, other than we are sex-obsessed, is that intimacy and social bonding is evolutionary core to our survival.”

When looking at the scientific facts behind human interaction Maxwell says, “Extended social distancing, lockdown and isolation have led many to experience touch deprivation. We actually have a specific touch-hungry nerve that is important to our physical and mental well-being called the C-Tactile afferent. This nerve responds to gentle stroking of the skin and when stimulated releases oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine; our love, happiness and reward chemicals. As many of us have been missing this crucial human touch, it’s becoming something we’re craving, so it’s no surprise marketers are jumping on this. With [advertisers] using this to sell products psychologically, we may find ourselves desiring the product even more”.

Is it that the industry is using our sexual subconscious to monetise our desires or are we genetically addicted to just about anything that increases our dopamine and serotonin levels?

Whether the industry is jumping on the sex bandwagon for an element of clickbait or self-professed lovers like Simon Porte Jacquemus are using this time to celebrate love, we welcome the sweaty bodies, the pronoun-free passion and the call to canoodle for the steamiest of Spring/Summer seasons. 

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