"Advertising has become very explicit: face – bag. You don't need innovative photographers to do that," said the Balenciaga photographer David Sims last year. "But we never shoot the bag; Parisian fashion is about the atelier. Nicolas [Ghesquière, the brand's head designer] is trying to create something... beautiful [and] culturally significant."

The choice of an actress rather than a model for a campaign or magazine cover is never popular with the fashion diehards, but here Sims has treated Ghesquière's friend, the actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, like an old-fashioned couture model, photographing her in mannered positions to reflect the austere cuts and techno fabrics of the clothes.

The strangeness of the poses – particularly the "automaton" hands on the left and the inward-facing knee – provide "atelier" edge to the shoot's commercial context. The statement is of high fashion, not low celebrity.

Verdict: high drama, haute attitude

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