Iconic Tiffany & Co. signs first-ever celebrities for a bold new look

That little blue box feels more accessible than ever thanks to a striking new ad campaign featuring Elle Fanning, Lupito Nyong’o and more.

From left to right: Lupita Nyong'o attends the 70th Annual Tony Awards in June 2016 in New York City. Elle Fanning during the 69th annual Cannes Film Festival in May 2016 in France.

The tiny robin’s-egg blue box tied crisp and tight with a white bow. The classic six-pronged, knife-edge platinum ring set with a round-cut diamond, sparkling against a white background. And of course, Holly Golightly—all long neck, high hair, black-dress, and jewels (and French cigarette holder to boot!).

These images have shaped the way we’ve come to know and think of Tiffany & Co., the nearly 200-year-old purveyor of “fancy goods.” The very name “Tiffany” conjures up images of riches and glamour, diamonds, and silver flatware settings—and maybe even of times gone by. It’s an image (i.e., old people) that Tiffany is perhaps aiming to change, and thereby, the way we view its brand.

Its previous ad campaigns (and books and movies) have added to the glamorous, almost distant, allure of Tiffany’s famous jewelry, keeping its higher-end baubles the stuff of dreams destined for other people.

But a new campaign by Vogue‘s At Large creative director, Grace Coddington, seeks to connect the Tiffany brand to newer, younger customers by using—for the first time ever—celebrities. The ads feature actresses Lupita Nyong’o and Elle Fanning along with models Christy Turlington and Natalie Westling.

And although using celebrities, especially the ones Coddington says are “beyond the average celebrity,” wouldn’t normally strike us as a way to make products more accessible and relatable, something about this campaign does just that.

Perhaps it’s the diversity (race, age, and profession) of the women in the ads, or the simplicity and sharp elegance of the photographs. Maybe it’s the familiar blue background or the classic, feminine focus and the way the celebrities make eye contact with us. Mainly, it’s how these celebrities are being presented—familiar faces in dazzling jewelry—that taps into the “beyond average” Coddington talked about.

We discover it’s not so much about us wanting to be like the celebrity women, and more that somehow they seem just like us.

For all the beauty of Lupita Nyong’o, her roles—perhaps most notably of “Patsey” in 12 Years a Slave—exude what film critic Peter Travers called “grit and radiant grace.” We’ve seen 18-year-old Elle Fanning grow up before our eyes on-screen, from her earliest bit parts to stealing scenes from Angelina Jolie in Maleficent; and we’ve watched model Christy Turlington grow older before us, from supermodel of the 1990s to the still-stunning business woman, writer, and humanitarian she is today. Then there’s Natalie Westling, a young model whose daring style choices (the red hair!) and bright future tap into the young and “wild” hope we’ve all felt.

Me and @TiffanyAndCo! Unforgettable to work with @TheRealGraceCoddington on this new campaign! #legendarystyle

A photo posted by Lupita Nyong'o (@lupitanyongo) on

Growing up and growing older in public allows a vulnerability and humanity we love. By putting the jewelry on these celebrities, rather than keeping it in a more ethereal realm just out of arms reach, Tiffany’s connects its products to our real lives in a strangely paradoxical way.

Of course, the purpose of using celebrities to sell products has always been to tap into our fantasy lives, to make us think we could be like them if we drove the car, used the insurance, or wore whatever they were wearing. But these images of women we know and admire—whose simple and striking beauty spans generations and seems “real” and familiar—ultimately offers us something different, and helps us connect with them in some way. We discover it’s not so much about us wanting to be like them, and more that somehow they seem just like us. It’s an interesting twist, really, that a celebrity can bring a dose of reality to jewelry we fantasize about.

But this is rooted in the fact that ultimately these ads sell more than jewelry. They speak to our lives, to who we want to be as we grow up or grow older, as we take on new roles and risks in life. The classic, straightforward beauty of the photos and the campaign—capturing familiar women against a familiar color in a familiar studio setting—sells the idea of everyday elegance. It’s glamour for the rest of us.

Caryn Rivadeneira
Caryn Rivadeneira
Caryn Rivadeneira is the author of five books and is a columnist for Her.meneutics and ThinkChristian. She lives outside Chicago with her husband, three kids, and one red-nose pit bull. Visit her at carynrivadeneira.com.

Leave a comment: