Fashion has always been about pushing boundaries and exploring new creative avenues. In the early 2000s, Steve Madden, the iconic footwear brand, did just that with their unconventional advertising campaign, "Big Headed Girls." This campaign, which appeared in teen magazines between 1999-2005, was the
brainchild of the talented art director and illustrator, Tommy Kane.
Kane, an ardent admirer of Japanese anime was inspired by “Akira” and “Ghost In The Shell.” He drew people with unusually large heads, and this quirk became the central idea behind Steve Madden's campaign. The brand wanted to stand out from the competition by doing something different from the standard fashion advertisements featuring beautiful models and poised poses. They wanted something unique, and Kane knew he could deliver.
Kane's vision was to create a realistic caricature of big-headed girls, and he enlisted the help of photographer Butch Belair, who was known for his expertise in digital manipulation. Belair used a fisheye lens to capture the vertiginous sense of falling into the scene and then digitally edited the images using software that was not Photoshop.
Years later, Kane and Belair came up with a new commercial idea after watching a Levi's ad that incorporated a series of photos stitched together as a video. They realized that they too could use this same technique for their own advertisement.
The "Big Headed Girls" campaign not only influenced teens but also inspired the creator of Bratz dolls, Carter Bryant. The quirky and unconventional approach resonated with the younger audience, who were drawn to the playful and imaginative style of the campaign.
Years after the "Big Headed Girls" campaign, Steve Madden faced legal troubles and was convicted of stock manipulation. As a result, the ads featuring the big-headed girls were replaced by ones announcing Steve's return in the Spring of 2005.
The "Big Headed Girls" campaign was a testament to the power of creativity and pushing the boundaries in fashion advertising. It showed that unconventional ideas can be a game-changer and can capture the imagination of the audience, making a lasting impact on the fashion industry. Steve Madden's campaign will always be remembered as a defining moment in early 2000s fashion.