The new style icons

Society Materials 7 October 2007 10:37

( Gulf ) - Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev is promoting luxury bags. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is voted one of the best-dressed men in the world.

Politicians have taken a place next to supermodels, actors and sports idols in the style sections of glossy magazines.

"We just look at [politicians] more," said Michael Roberts, fashion and style director at Vanity Fair, the magazine that put Sarkozy on their best-dressed list this year, together with soccer idol David Beckham and rocker Lenny Kravitz.

"If there's coherent thinking behind how [politicians] put themselves together, then [people] make the link to assume they have coherent thinking in terms of their politics ... So the way they present themselves is definitely more important," Roberts told Reuters at the Yves Saint Laurent fashion show.

Although government officials have been largely absent from the front rows of fashion shows in New York, London, Milan and Paris in past weeks, politicians' dress sense is a big issue of debate in many glossy magazines.

And some faces normally found in political pages have even appeared in the ads section.

Gorbachev took many by surprise when he starred in a campaign for luxury label Louis Vuitton, following in the footsteps of actors such as Scarlett Johansson and Uma Thurman.

The ads show Gorbachev sitting in a car with a Vuitton bag, driving along remnants of the Berlin Wall - the monument former US president Ronald Reagan once asked him to tear down.

"It's original, but logical," French actress Catherine Deneuve, who also features in Louis Vuitton ads, said of Gorbachev's participation, adding the campaign had also been in support of environmental causes. "Everyone has their own reasons to do things," Deneuve told Reuters at a Paris fashion show. "As this one is on the issue of travelling ... I think it's rather logical [for him]."

Advertising experts say politicians and politically involved celebrities can draw in customers because consumers have become more aware of political or environmental issues.

"Values that have become stronger in society are solidarity, humanity and less those linked to provocation," said Laure Fontaine from advertising research group TNS Media Intelligence, adding many brands chose celebrities who were socially involved.

"George Clooney for example advertises for luxury brands and is also active in Darfur. These people are known beyond their success in cinema, for their human involvement."

But politicians' dress sense and style is set to be as least as controversial as their policies.

Asked about Sarkozy's style, Vanity Fair's Roberts said the new French president was wearing suits, shirts and ties that were much sharper than those of his predecessor Jacques Chirac. "He looks like a modern chairman of a company that is successful and not failing," he said.

At home, satirical French TV shows have frequently poked fun at Sarkozy for being very short and trying to seem taller by wearing particularly high heels.