Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cut copy: MJ Bale's cartoon campaign a dead ringer for P Johnson's

p johnson SS0910
So yesterday frockwriter posted an exclusive preview of a new ad campaign by new Australian luxury menswear label MJ Bale, which was launched in late 2009 by cashed-up Herringbone co-founder Matt Jensen. The idea for the campaign was a bunch of images of a model in the MJ Bale collection – with cartoon faces, hands and feet superimposed over the model. The cartoons were courtesy Sydney graffiti artist Jumbo. Fantastic idea. Only problem: Patrick Johnson says it's his. Who is Johnson? A London-trained Sydney tailor who has been in business for three years and who launched his first campaign this time last year: a series of images of a model in his collection, with cartoon faces, hands and feet superimposed over the originals. Here is a selection, above and below (which remain on Johnson's website). The creative collaborator in Johnson's case was Sydney artist Tristan Ceddia and Johnson reports it took the duo six months to nail the concept. The MJ Bale images were supplied to frockwriter in good faith and unfortunately we were not familiar with Johnson’s brand or campaign prior to a large volume of hostile comments from his supporters this morning. Others claim the real pioneer of the photo/cartoon/fashion mashup is yet another Australian artist, Ashley Wood, who created some earlier illustrations for Diesel's spinoff streetwear brand 55DSL. To be fair to Johnson here, it's not just the general photo/cartoon idea that was picked up by MJ Bale, but the exact look of Johnson's campaign.   

What says Johnson? 

“Copying is the best form of flattery I suppose, but it’s a little bit too close for comfort. It’s a tiny market in Australia and there’s only two of us doing it. It would be nice if people came up with something a little bit original. Not many people have probably seen my campaign and that’s why he probably thought he could do it. It’s frustrating for me because I’m small. It’s annoying”.

What says Jensen?

“Patrick does have a campaign like that. But we actually have have a long interest in illustration. Really what we’re creating here is harking back to the old New Yorker magazine-type illustrative concepts”.

As to the criticism that the new MJ Bale campaign is just a blatant ripoff of P Johnson’s, Jensen told frockwriter:

“We’ll take that criticism on the chin, What we like is this nostalgic concept of illustration, whether it’s through our patterns that we’re drawing or our illustrations. For us it’s an ongoing process of collaborating with artists. And this is what we’ve got this season. It’s just a bit of fun  It’s a seasonal campaign that’s out there.

“I’m not saying that its our idea. It’s an illustrative format that we like and this is what we’re doing this season. We’re not stuck on any one concept. We’ll take the criticism on the chin. It’s a new campaign. We like it. And we hope other people like it as well.”

Why doesn't Jensen dedicate some of his by all accounts considerable resources to the research and development of new creative ideas? 


all images: supplied to frockwriter by pj johnson


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