Art and science support each other’s inflated ideas

The Airotic Ultrabra is evidence of art and science working together, with inflatable cups that ensure the wearer always has something new to offer, says Iain Murray

Very occasionally, science and art move forward perfectly in step, one serving the cause of the other, and recent developments have thrown up just such an instance.

First, the art. We have grown used to the notion that there is nothing on Earth that cannot be branded or rebranded. Political parties, counties, countries, religions, you name it; all that is needed is a fresh lick of paint, a slogan and bingo! Cool Britannia and Brontë Country. It has, however, taken an “image guru” (soon to become a cutting-edge cult icon guru?) to take the microcosmic view and argue that each and every one of us is a brand. Yes, you and me, and her, and him over there, we are all wee products, and what we wear and how we do our hair and the smells we exude, and the faces we pull are our packaging, to be changed as the situation requires.

We owe this discovery to Mary Spillane, who for almost 20 years ran the European division of the image advisory business Color Me Beautiful. (That sickly title has to be American. There is no idiom to match it in English, other than Strike Me Pink, which isn’t quite the same.) She has now set off on her own with a new company, Imageworks, and a new message: “We need to create a personal brand that is unique, but synergistic with the corporate one we are working for.” (She, too, has to be American.)

“We have to decide,” she explains, “what core values we want to project and also what may need to change from situation to situation. It is always good to surprise people by showing them you have something new to offer.” (Remember that bit, it’s where the science comes in.)

We are told that when Miss Spillane is advising a global law firm in the City she wears a navy blue pinstriped trouser suit. “But this gesture to understanding traditional values is enlivened with a turquoise silk shirt and quirky contemporary jewellery to show her individualism.” The day before would have found her in a mint green satin suit and green nail varnish trying to show female board members of a major supermarket chain “a way to be different in a male-dominated organisation – still professional, but modern and taking risks.” When she was asked to represent motor racing champion Damon Hill she “rebranded herself as a Formula One chick with short skirts and chunky gold jewellery to follow him around the international circuit.”

The theme is plain. Had she been invited to advise a North Sea oil exploration company, she might have rebranded herself as a deep sea diver with lead boots and one of those big metal, screw-on helmets with a window at the front.

Despite wearing a navy blue pinstriped suit in their presence, she is not impressed by the City lawyers. “They don’t have a notion of what their brand should be and are still heavily pinstriped even though they’re talking about being whizzy e-types.” As one who has a heavily pinstriped mind, I have to confess puzzlement at the requirement to dress for technology. Dressing for dinner, perhaps, but dressing to e-mail seems unnecessary and so time-consuming as to negate the main advantage of information technology, namely speed. In any case, what is the appropriate attire when addressing an Apple Mac? If, as I suspect, it’s a Malibu shirt, beach shorts, and shades worn on top of the head, include me out. Nor am I entirely happy with the need “always to have an up-to-date CV or a succinct, dynamic biography on file, ready to print out”. Worse still, I am expected to update it regularly, “refreshing it every few months with my ‘Aha!’ List of Amazing Hits Achieved to remind others of my brand values.”

Well, color me dull, but “fitted new hose to dishwasher” and “did crossword in 27 minutes” were my only amazing hits achieved last week. Aha!

Now for the science. Miss Spillane may be pleased to hear that this advance is purely for the use of women, particularly those struggling to be different in a male-dominated organisation. Gossard has invented Ultrabra Airotic, an underwired bra with a pair of inflatable sachets sewn into the front where the padding would normally be. The idea is that the wearer blows air in through a two-way valve system, thus pumping up her breasts by two cup sizes.

Available in black, white and Lavender Lust, the Airotic promises the “most incredible rounded cleavage ever with the lightest lift imaginable.”

How’s that for rebranding? Remember what Miss Spillane said about surprising people and having something new to offer? With a little ingenuity it is now possible to do both in a spectacularly synergistic fashion. By means of a length of tube concealed under the wearer’s clothing and connecting the bra at one end to a rubber bulb hidden in a handbag at the other, it would be possible surreptitiously to squeeze air up the pipe and achieve an incredible “boiling-over” effect before the transfixed eyes of the onlooker.

Regrettably, even in this post-feminist age there remain unreconstructed males for whom the owner of an immense auto-expanding bust would be ripe for promotion. Pump in too much air, however, and you could bring the glass ceiling crashing down amid shards of Lavender Lust.


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