press: collaborations in art, fashion and advertising – interview with creative director ucef hanjani

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“for ucef hanjani, uniting separate forces to create a more effective end-result is a mantra. during a project for the nike free women’s apparel, which included print and film, he was determined to choose a photographer that would complement the brand.”

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“nike’s inspiration comes from the streets and the sports that propel everyday people into global athletics,’ hanjani explains. ‘to express this, we contacted the gallery of a french art photographer, denis darzacq, who had no agent or commercial representative…we arranged a shoot that was not just in line with denis’ work, but true to nike’s brand.’ the ad features a woman dressed in the relevant nike apparel, suspended in mid-air on the streets of new york city in a way that defies gravity..”

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“…this motion signifies the elevation from reality. darzacq, who had never before dabbled in commercial work, approached the project from an art-based vantage point. in this way, the inclusion of another person from a separate business and background provided ceft and company with an approach that was atypical. if the term ‘marketing strategy’ is anathema to artists, then ceft and company deserve accolades for their approach which deliberately freshens the images constructed by someone outside of the advertising industry.”

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“hanjani, who considers this advertisement one of his ‘favourites of all time’, concurs: “this was so powerful and so appropriate for vuitton, positioning it as not just a luxury brand, but the brand that accompanies the most powerful men and women in the world. of course, the undertone of vuitton being the king of capitalism and winning over the communist adversary made another statement about the brand, the economic ‘ruler’ that it became. that was just brilliant.” hanjani is indeed on the money. purely by positioning, labels are able to make an assertion about their brand through their advertising. in this case, the former king of communism has succumbed to the power of the chic vuitton label.”

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“...however, there is a fine line between tact and insincerity. having been involved for years with the crossbreeding of artists and brands – working with artists such as ryan mcginley, graydon carter, tristan eaton, denis darzacq, the virgins, and terry richardson – hanjani emphasises that ceft and company advocate unions’ only when appropriate. being appropriate is an important point if the collaboration is intended for success and the creation of something that is truly absorbed by the audience.’ if only this were always the case. often celebrities are hired to represent a brand simply for financial expedience, or to cut corners, or even worse, to obtain societal approval by association. hanjani shrewdly comments, “[these collaborations] often say little more than ‘buy me if you are that stupid.”

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“to me, those alliances are despicable and desperate on both sides and in a way damage both brands – the personality and the sponsoring company.” accentuating further his disapproval of an inappropriate alliance, hanjani draws upon his previous work with LVMH’s luxury champagne krug as an example. while ceft and company were specifically asked to establish an artist or celebrity platform in order to expand the audience, it was deliberately excluded from the end result. “in our opinion…the aura of paid stars has lost all its meaning. after all, why do intelligent people consider someone to be a star? not for their looks, or their marital dramas played out across rag magazines, but for their contributions to society and their actual work. so we chose to focus the campaign not on the artists themselves, but rather on their interests and inspirations.”

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“hanjani included style icon anjelica huston and editor of vanity fair, graydon carter, to maintain the edge of opulence and relevance to the fashion and lifestyle world. it can be noted from hanjani’s approach that while collaboration can certainly be exploited, it is for the most part a positive step towards artistic unification so long as those in charge remain loyal to their own brand.” – sarah scaife for three magazine.

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ceft and company is a creative luxury agency based in new york. their work includes advertising, packaging design and digital creations such as web based campaigns, social media and apps.