Creatives reflect on Levi's 'Laundrette' following the death of Nick Kamen

Nick Kamen, the star of the 1985 Levi's ad "Laundrette" by Bartle Bogle Hegarty, has died at 59.


Nick Kamen, the model and singer, has died aged 59.

He shot to prominence in 1985 when he starred in a Bartle Bogle Hegarty ad for Levi's in which he took off his clothes and put them in a washing machine in a busy laundrette.

Kamen went on to work with Madonna, having a top-five hit with Each Time You Break My Heart, which he co-wrote with Madonna.

Robert Campbell, co-founder of Outsider and Unit 9 and the producer of five Levi’s ads including "Swimmer"

BBH created a game-changer with Levi's "Launderette".

Levi's had been seen as jeans yer dad wore. Very uncool.

Sir JH and Barbara Nokes wrote an ad that would change all that and the late Roger Lyons did a perfect job of casting and directing it.

We all know the story… fit bloke takes his jeans off.

But is was the charm of that scenario that nailed it.

Girls went mad for young Nick Kamen and wanted what he wore.

Boys wanted to be Nick Kamen so wore them. Job done.

Added to all of this EVERYONE loved the ad.

The track defined this moment in UK advertising. Anyone from that time hearing that track will think of the ad... Thirty-five years later.

It looked beautiful both in the art direction, by Arthur Max, and in Richard Greatrex’s lighting.

True attention to detail.

It laid the groundwork for a myriad of brilliant Levi's commercials.

Clients looked at and its results (sales went through the roof, they couldn’t make 'em quick enough) and became bolder across the board.

Production companies would wait by the fax machine for a Levi's script to come pinging through.

The general public waited by the telly to see the next Levi's ad.

It really was a total gamechanger.

Rick Brim, chief creative officer at Adam & Eve/DDB, reflected on the ad for Campaign's 50th.

I’m not sure I can sit here in overly twatty trainers and critique Levi’s "Laundrette" ad. It defined a generation, resurrected boxer shorts as the undies of choice and sold shitloads of mid-blue, high-waisted jeans. It is ageless and the perfect example of what we should be doing as an industry.

But before you get all "don’t be a dinosaur" on my ass, what I mean by that is producing work (whatever the medium) for brands that people talk about, that people will remember and that shifts things forward. From a craft point of view, it is frame perfect.

Doctor's report (as imagined by Creature's CCO Ben Middleton)

Date: May '21
Patient: Ben Middleton
Status: In recovery
Inciting incident: Levi's television commercial 1985

The patient is a late-thirties male currently working in advertising. He is suffering from a chronic infatuation with mass broadcast television advertising and is concerned that it is starting to affect his view of the world.

After several sessions, we have discovered that the patient's drive and obsession to create work that real people can’t help but care about can be traced back to the patient seeing a piece of television advertising for the Levi's brand when he was a child.

He states that everything about it was perfect. A true moment in advertising history where an ad transcended the culture it was surrounded by. From the other-worldly nature of the 1950’s aesthetic, through the Marvin Gay soundtrack (which the patient has also attributed to a life-long love of soul and Motown music) through to the visceral eroticism of the film and the giggling ladies. The film cut through, it captured people's imaginations and it made the product look sexy as hell. No purpose here, just a product shot that made people all over the country drool.

The patient believes that since that formative moment, he has always strived to put things out into the world that have the same level of impact. He has in recent years gone as far as calling himself chief creative officer of a creative agency named Creature.

Recommended course of action: Continue current course of action aspiring to create work for world-famous brands that’s as good as "Levi's laundrette".

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