Harvey Nichols “Walk of Shame” Video or as we see it “Insulting your customers to sell to them”

Harvey Nichols are currently running an advert on YouTube called the “Walk of Shame”. On the immediate surface it appears to be aimed at helping Harvey Nichols sell more party wear for Christmas and New Year parties. An innocent enough desire on the part of any business you might think.

It goes much deeper than that. The advert is called “The walk of shame” and depicts various young women making their way home in the early hours after a party or a night out, all wearing party wear consisting of generally short and skimpy dresses.

The end of the advert blatantly implies that A) these young women are badly dressed B) They are not capable of making a good fashion choice and need it spelt out in a patronising manner and C) they can avoid “The Walk of Shame” by shopping for a more appropriate party frock at Harvey Nicks! Maybe this is supposed to be tongue in cheek but this strong message has had 535,000+ viewings on YouTube at the time of writing, (we are deliberately not publishing a link to it)

All this advert does is insult women for their fashion choices, their right to dress how they want and their right to have a good time. Worse still Harvey Nichols are running a competition for the best “Walk of Shame Story”, 5 winners will receive a “Stride of Pride kit” (if you read Facebook) or 10 winners will receive a “Walk of Shame Kit” if you read the terms and conditions of the competition. So does that mean there is a choice? Dress well (courtesy of Harvey Nichols) for your after party walk home or dress really badly, but with style! (again courtesy of Harvey Nichols).. confusing to say the least.

The advert also plays on the topic of beauty and size. The subtle message being that if you buy your party frock at Harvey Nichols you’ll be beautiful and slim with goddess like hair and a spring in your step. Oh, and a glamourous smile that will knock early morning postmen clean off their feet. Dressing in this manner may also allow you to live in beautiful flat in a classic city building. The actresses all enduring “The Walk of Shame” were no less beautiful than “Miss Glamourous Pride” at the end of the advert but they nearly all appeared to be wearing dresses that were too small for them thus portraying larger women as being less attractive and perhaps even more prone to “The Walk of Shame”.

If you read the comments on YouTube you’ll see this is exactly the image picked up by viewers. In truth there is nothing wrong with the way any of the women dressed in the video and while we are used to the Fashion and Retail industries portraying the “Glamourous Sylph” image it is insulting to rubbish one’s customers in the same breath.

This advert sparked a short online debate between two of my friends a couple of days ago. They had very different views of the advert, one was horrified by the hypocrisy of advert and the other didn’t really see much below the surface of the advert until it was pointed out to them. The interesting thing about my friends reactions is that both of these individuals are different ages and genders, both are informed by their obviously different life experiences. One is very mindful of the hard won achievements for equality and respect for women while the other perhaps takes them for granted.

The advert is very clearly targeted at a certain demographic, namely young women in party mode with some money to spend. Visually, from a technical point of view the advert is well made and it is a clever but dangerous play on a theme. I’d bet the advert is made by people from a younger generation who didn’t think twice about the deeply negative message they are giving about young women enjoying themselves. They also haven’t considered the responsibility they carry with respect to the audience engagement they can generate. Even more sadly there are plenty of people who will not even see the negative message, and will flock, patronised and sheep like to Harvey Nichols to buy that all important party frock.

Joanna Davis | Vida Moda Designer Fashion for Curvy Women | Create your style and walk with your head held high.

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  • Ann Hawkins

    The term ‘walk of shame’ is not, as Harvey Nicks might argue, about the shame of being badly dressed but about the judgements made about the sexuality and morality of young women who stay out all night. It’s the hypocrisy, casual sexism and double standards that get me.
    Has anyone every heard of a man doing the ‘walk of shame’?

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