Foreign Attraction

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In early 2014 the women’s clothing company Kate Spade released advertisements promoting their spring line, which centered around the theme of the Italian island Capri. The ads’ models, text, scenery and props  signify beauty in a foreign landscape. The advertising campaign incorporates the images of their models in Italy, as well as photographs, film clips, recipes and fashion that exemplify Italian culture. As consumers, we are led to believe that the women who wear Kate Spade are beautiful, sophisticated, and well-traveled, attributes that are highly valued in today’s American society. Kate Spade is using the American fascination with Italy to market their brand to American women through advertisements that portray beautiful images of an idealized romantic, luxurious, leisurely lifestyle.

Kate Spade uses a variety of images on their website to represent the beauty and foreign attraction of Italy, and therefore advance the theme of their campaign. One of the main images widely circulated throughout the campaign portrays a young woman standing in a car on a boardwalk, with the ocean in the background (figure 1). The woman is wearing a white dress, yellow bracelet, and sunglasses, and is posing with a car-shaped Kate Spade handbag. There is very little text on the advertisement apart from the words “Ciao!,” “italia,” “spring 2014,” and “#travelcolorfully.” The setting, how the woman is dressed, and the accompanying text gives the viewer the impression that the model is in Italy in the springtime. This advertisement uses signs such as the car, the lemons, and the text to also signify Italy.

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In addition to this advertisement, Kate Spade uses a collection of various images on their website to advertise this campaign. The “21 Days in Capri” element of the campaign is a segment of the company’s website dedicated to the Italian culture that inspired their spring 2014 line. The sections include links to other websites such as Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube with content that highlights various aspects of Italian culture such as language, cuisine, landscape, and fashion. For example, the “Learn Italian” section displays brightly colored virtual flash cards with illustrations and English to Italian translations (figure 2). The “Capri Inspiration” page links to the company’s Pinterest page, which is a series of images portraying Capri’s landmarks, films, and other snapshots of Italian life (figure 3). The “Saturday Stroll” section includes scenic images of the island from their Instagram account. One image shows a sunny scene of a boat in bright blue water passing under a cliff (figure 4). The photo is captioned “the arco naturale. mother nature does it best” and includes the hashtag “#travelcolorfully.” The image has bright colors, and shows off the beautiful natural features of the island. Unlike the original image, it does not show any of the Kate Spade merchandise, and the image itself has no text. The hashtag is consistent with other advertisements from this campaign, tying this image to their advertisements. Kate Spade is using this photo, and many others like it, to create an image of paradise.

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The use of the image of a beautiful day boating on the water channels the idea of leisure and the laid-back lifestyle that many Americans associate with Italy. By providing this additional section on their website alongside the area devoted to purchasing products, the company is playing to their consumers’ desires. They are exploiting the fact that seeing beautiful photos of a country and learning about their culture inherently makes us want to travel there. The goal is to make a connection between travel and the products they are trying to sell. By labeling the spring line as ‘Capri-inspired’, the company is creating a subtle connection in the minds of its consumers between the allure of the island and their clothes.

Johnson fig5In an effort to make a connection between Italy and its products, Kate Spade models their advertisements on scenes from real Italian advertisements. Like figure 1, many of these advertisements have a vintage and light, easy-going feel. Other advertisements on the site portray women on the beach, sipping lemonade, and riding on Vespas to signify elements of leisure in the Italian lifestyle. In comparison to the Kate Spade advertisement, the high-end Italian clothing company Dolce & Gabbana released their spring/summer 2014 marketing with a similar theme. The images incorporate the elements of luxury and romance commonly associated with Italy. Figure 5 is one of these images; it is a scene with three women in formal dresses, a man in a suit, and two men who are selling fish. The figures are situated on a cliff with a scenic background. The signs of lemons and the scenic background are repeated from the Kate Spade advertisement. Although the scene appears staged, viewers are lead to believe that these models are “real italians”, interacting with fish sellers. The women are tall and beautiful, and the man in the suit is sharply dressed, in contrast to the men selling fish. Although the scene is obviously staged, this is supposed to convey a scene of Italian daily life. The high-end name of the brand and the expensive, formal clothes shown in an everyday setting suggest a luxurious lifestyle. The beauty of the models coupled with their placement and interactions with the men in the image presents the element of romance.

The Kate Spade advertisement also conveys a classic, vintage feel. It is reminiscent of vintage Italian advertisements, such as those Johnson fig6for the scooter company, Lambretta. A vintage Lambretta ad (figure 6) shows a woman riding a scooter and waving, her hair blowing in the wind. The carefree attitude exhibited by the model represents the element of leisure associated with the Italian lifestyle. The advertisement is from the 1950s, yet has many similarities to the Kate Spade spring ad. Both advertisements show young, beautiful women, driving with a blue sky background. Kate Spade is emulating this style of advertisement with their use of bright colors and bold text. Images such as these serve as the inspiration for the vintage Italian feel of the Kate Spade advertisements, as well as represent elements of Italian culture valued by Americans.

For many Americans, Italy represents the ideals of beauty, sophistication, and worldliness. The idea of an exotic, far-away country, with legendary style and scenery, make it a place desired by many well-to-do Americans. In terms of the fashion world, Italy is renowned for their high-end designers and models. Italy is home to some of the most famous designers, who throughout history have “successfully struck a chord with American women… that complemented their own lifestyles” (Hill, 124). The iconic Italian styles have been popular with women in the United States for decades, as “the luxury and sexiness of Italian clothing had great appeal to the American woman as a countermeasure to the severity of many styles from U.S. makers” (Hill, 123). American women identify Italian designs with luxurious, stylish clothes. This campaign is advancing the idealized and stereotyped view Americans have about Italy. In a study conducted by the Italy-USA Foundation, “in the eyes of young Americans, Italy stands as a global leader in wine, food and fashion” (L’Italo-Americano). These stereotypes about the Italian lifestyle continue to appeal to American consumers, as nearly 50% of people surveyed who had not yet visited Italy said that they wanted to see the country (L’Italo-Americano).

To attract customers, Kate Spade’s advertising campaign thus incorporates images and ideas that play into the American fascination with the Italian lifestyle. By emulating the essence of Italy in their advertisements, Kate Spade is forging a connection, particularly in the minds of well-to-do American women, between the prestige of Italian fashion and their brand.

–Cate Johnson

Works cited

Hill, Daniel Delis. As Seen in Vogue. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University Press, 2004.

Kate Spade. “21 Days in Capri.” (accessed April 22, 2014).

L’Italo-Americano. “Young Americans’ Perceptions of Italy: Wine, Food and Fashion.” L’Italo-Americano. June 13, 2013.


Figure 1. Advertisement for Kate Spade’s spring 2014 line, InStyle Magazine, March 2014.

Figure 2. “Learn Italian,”, 2014.

Figure 3. “Capri Inspiration,”, 2014.

Figure 4. “Saturday Stroll,”, 2014.

Figure 5. Advertisement for Dolce & Gabbana’s spring/summer 2014 line, 2014, (accessed April 21, 2014).

Figure 6. Advertisement for Lambretta, ca. 1950s, reproduced in Felice Cúnsolo, Italian Advertising Art (Milan, Italy: G.G. Görlich Editore, 1955).


  1. Ellie-
    Thank you for your comment! You raise some really good points. I agree that the money factor is an important element of this discourse analysis by nature of the brand. It is true that travel, especially to destinations like Italy and most of Europe, is extremely expensive. Kate Spade as well is a brand that is quite expensive for everyday clothing by most peoples standards. Therefore Kate Spade might be using this campaign because they know the type of people their brand attracts. Alternatively, Kate Spade is creating this image of an idealized lifestyle that they know not everyone can achieve, so they are presenting their clothes as the next best thing. The connection they make suggests that people can splurge on a dress or a handbag, and it will still feel like Italy. Your point about Americans traveling to fashion week would be really interesting to research further. I think that too is connected to the idea of wealth, that people can take vacations just to go see some of the world’s most high-end designers.

  2. Erin-
    I think your comment captures exactly what I was trying to argue in my essay, so thank you! It is definitely easy to imagine an ideal Italian vacation when looking through the images of sunny landscapes and pretty clothes. When I found the Dolce & Gabbana ad, I found it interesting that an Italian designer was portraying this same stereotypical scene as the American companies. In some ways, I think they might be poking fun at the generalizations people make about their culture and lifestyle. It’s hard to tell what the reactions of most “real Italians” would have about the campaign. I think on the one hand they might resent the stereotypes, yet on the other hand Kate Spade does make an effort to shoot their models on location in real Italian cities, and they show the some of the most beautiful locations. I think the goal of Kate Spade’s campaign is to associate their clothes with this lifestyle, so that the customers associate wearing them as the next best thing to actually living this life. I doubt this campaign draws any attention to the realities of Italian life and current events, or if it actually influences people to travel to Italy.

  3. Annie-
    Thank you for your comment! I had a lot of fun going through all the beautiful pictures for my analysis. In response to your question, I think most people when considering their everyday fashion don’t necessarily look to Italy for inspiration. However I feel like the designers of brands we wear every day look to the iconic Italian designers for inspiration, and in some cases model their clothes after those styles. I think Americans do still regard European designers as the pinnacle of fashion. I know personally when I watch award shows and celebrities are asked “who are you wearing?” they often are wearing the designs of popular designers like Chanel, Gucci, or Dolce & Gabbana. So sub-consciously I think many people formulate their ideas of high-fashion based on these brands.

  4. I loved this analysis Cate! I think that your ability to create a connection between the way images and media portray how women tend to feel about luxury and life is really interesting. I also believe that your discourse relating to the worldly perspective and how European travel is typically associated with luxury, high-fashion and overall appeal. The other images you included definitely contribute to your overall discourse because they explore the other world offerings fashion can have. This is especially true with the image you took from Kate Spade’s Facebook page. Overall, great analysis! I do have a question, however, concerning the attraction it has toward American consumers. Do you think that American consumers truly look toward other countries, specifically in Europe, to conjure our idea of high-fashion?

  5. When we went through the advertisements in class, this may have been my favourite; I found it visually engaging, aesthetically appealing, and, overall, uplifting from the dreary weather we had been experiencing. Especially in the dregs of winter, when the trees are still bare, it’s hard not to water at the mouth at the idea of being in Italy during springtime. As a consumer I completely fell for this advert campaign, hook, line, and sinker. Like the other young American women targeted in these campaigns, I also associate travelling in Italy with a “Roman Holiday” sort of journey that involves good food, wine, fashion, coffee, romance, architecture, etc. While I am aware of that there is the Italy with a struggling economy that is politically and socioeconomically divided, it exists as a separate entity from the former Italy and is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of travelling to there. It seems that what these companies do is exploit Americans’ stereotypes of Italian culture. It would be interesting to explore how locals feel about these generalisations. Do they resent that more attention is drawn to a picture-perfect vacation ideal than current events issues in Italy, or do they simply appreciate the free tourism advertising? I enjoyed your piece; it has made me reconsider myself as a consumer, especially one that is so drawn to travel and exotic locales.

  6. elirish says

    I really enjoyed reading this discourse analysis Cate! I love Kate Spade, so naturally I had to read this paper topic and see what connections you made between the American consumer (me) and the advertisement of the model in Italy. It’s true that a large ideology of Americans is: if one is well-traveled and therefore more “sophisticated” or worldlier, then that person is valued more in today’s American society. This holds even truer in the context of this discourse analysis if the travels include European destinations, like Italy, where fashion and glamour are as old as the country’s history. One thing that could have been interesting to research is the history of Americans traveling to Italy for fashion weeks or more directly the beginnings of how Italian fashion was influencing American dress. Also, one thing I would have liked to have read on more in the discourse analysis is how this Kate Spade advertisement is targeted towards those with money to buy Kate Spade products and also the means to travel abroad to places like Italy. I know you stated this fact in the last sentence of the analysis, but I think that this notion that only the people with financial means are able to travel and simultaneously buy Kate Spade is crucial when considering who is actually going to buy the luxurious products. I like how you tied the idea that the Italy that Americans think of is really an idealized and romanticized Italy where everyone is dressed as nicely as in the Kate Spade ad or even as high-end as in the Dolce and Gabbana ad. I also really like how Kate Spade is trying to make consumers more Italian by teaching us Italian words along the way… It’s clear that with Kate Spade products, Italian phrases and picturesque vistas of Italy, Kate Spade is trying to transform us into every day Italians.

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