Dame leads girls in M&S bid to top fashion polls
Marks & Spencer has put its faith in a dozen high-profile women including Oscar-winning actress Dame Helen Mirren and Olympic boxer Nicola Adams to revive its fashion fortunes.
Other 'Leading Ladies' such as artist Tracey Emin and singer Ellie Goulding feature in the fashion campaign, which is designed to "reassert" M&S's quality and style credentials.
Renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz snapped the women at locations, including a boat on the River Thames and a country house in Berkshire, wearing dinner dresses, leather jackets, faux furs and stiletto heels from across its new autumn/winter range.
Dame Helen, who won an Oscar for her role as leading actress in The Queen, described the campaign as like going to the "ultimate dinner party".
The campaign will run across print, billboards and online – but does not include TV adverts.
The retail giant, under pressure to stem sliding clothing sales, said it picked the women for their "strong sense of personal style and inspirational achievements".
The line-up also includes author Monica Ali, 2011 nurse of the year Helen Allen, former ballerina Darcey Bussell, US Vogue creative director Grace Coddington, model and musician Karen Elson, singer Laura Mvula, burns survivor and TV presenter Katie Piper and Jasmine Whitbread, boss of Save the Children International.
Ms Leibovitz, who has shot portraits of the Queen, picked four settings for the campaign, including the British countryside, an artist's studio and Cliveden House in Berkshire.
Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, executive director for marketing and business development at M&S, said the range signalled a "new and confident" tone.
He said: "Annie was the perfect choice to shoot a campaign of this magnitude. Her unmistakable, signature style, with its truly dramatic aesthetic was exactly what we needed to communicate the essence of the campaign and of the new M&S."
Steve Sharp, creative director at M&S, said: "The British have a history of being creative and pioneering and these women represent just that.
"As industry leaders in their field, they make a significant difference that has seen them break boundaries, challenge stereotypes and create visionary artistic work."
M&S, headed by chief executive Marc Bolland, gave a taste of the new range at its annual shareholder meeting last month at Wembley Stadium – where models paraded on a catwalk wearing items including a red party dress, a pink vintage-effect winter coat and a heritage British wool suit.
Latest figures show M&S's general merchandise sales – which include clothing – fell 1.6% on a like-for-like basis in the 13 weeks to the end of June. It has posted eight consecutive quarters of falling clothing and non-food sales.
Its new autumn/winter range began arriving in stores last month and items featured in the campaign will be available from September.