Pret-a-Reporter

Behind the Mr. Burberry Campaign With Director Steve McQueen (Exclusive)

Courtesy of Mr. Burberry
Josh Whitehouse

The seductive film for the new men's fragrance is the Oscar winner's first commercial effort.

When it came to creating a campaign around Burberry’s latest men’s fragrance, Mr. Burberry, the British heritage label turned to an unlikely talent: Steve McQueen. The Oscar-winning director is hugely respected for his films, of course, but he had never worked on a commercial project before teaming up with the fashion house.

Shot in London on 70mm film — the same that Ben Hur, Lawrence of Arabia and 2001: A Space Odyssey were shot on — this just-revealed, super-seductive campaign stars British actor and musician Josh Whitehouse and British model/actress Amber Anderson. The short's exclusive score is by English songwriter Ben Clementine, who just played at the Burberry Prorsum menswear show. Chief creative and chief executive officer Christopher Bailey collaborated with renowned perfumer Francis Kurkdjian on the sexy, slightly smoky scent.

Regarding this first commercial, McQueen says, laughing, "It was different because I had to get the Mr. Burberry bottle in the film. What was different is that we shot it on 70-millimeter film. I loved the idea of having a situation about something so intimate, and to an extent innocent, but to reverse the lens and make it epic at the same time. It’s a big deal."

He goes on to say that the three-minute film is fantasy and that the 70mm medium adds a grandeur of cinema to the love story being depicted. "What I wanted to convey in this piece for Mr. Burberry was the idea of intimacy, privacy. You know that time when you’re young and in love and it’s all about that other person, and it’s not about anyone else? And we have the privilege, in this case, to look in on these two people who are so engaged with each other."

McQueen, who won his Academy Award for 12 Years A Slave gives a lot of credit to his co-conspirator on the project, Bailey. "Christopher is f—g amazing, man. What’s interesting about Christopher is that he’s such a beautiful person. And I’m so happy he can remain so. That’s half his talent."

The designer was the one who actually discovered the singer Clementine and gave McQueen the track, titled "Won’t Complain," to use.

"We shot it … and as soon as we put the music over the film, it was like, OK, that’s it," says the director. "Christopher has a certain kind of instinct, which you have to have as an artist, a curator. And you have to trust it, and act on it. There aren’t a lot of people who have that power and have trained that muscle as well as him." Further evidence of Bailey’s eye: Previous Burberry campaigns have featured Alex Pettyfer and Eddie Redmayne. We’d be wise to watch where Whitehouse lands next. 

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