Marks & Spencer reveals this season's Leading Ladies

But can the troubled retailer turn round flagging sales?

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Marks & Spencer has unveiled its line-up of 'Leading Ladies' for the spring/summer advertising campaign.

Revealed in a photograph shot by Vanity Fair photographer Annie Leibovitz, the choice of models is intended to celebrate inspirational British women, from actress Emma Thompson to Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon OBE, mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence and campaigner for police reform.



They stand alongside singer and human rights campaigner Annie Lennox OBE, singer Rita Ora, designer Lulu Kennedy MBE, supermodel Alek Wek, chef and writer Rachel Khoo - and structural engineer Roma Agrawal.

The campaign follows the original Leading Ladies lineup, which featured actress Dame Helen Mirren, artist Tracey Emin and Save the Children International chief executive Jasmine Whitbread.

"These dynamic Leading Ladies represent the unique and diverse women of a modern Britain. They are united in their extraordinary achievements but confident in their differences," says M&S executive director for marketing and business development Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne.

"M&S is extremely proud to have convened such an extraordinary group of exceptional women; this campaign is the embodiment of true British style, quality, diversity and success."

All shot in the UK, at locations including Camber Sands and the Cotswolds, the ads launch at the end of the month.



As for the clothes, they represent a more streamlined collection than was showcased in the company's last campaign. There are four key trends: monochrome, abstract prints, pastels and metallics.

M&S is hoping that the new focus will help reverse the decline in sales that has recently seen the company lose its crown as most profitable British womenswear retailer to Next. In terms of sales, too, the company is no longer leader, having been overtaken by John Lewis.

While M&S's food sales are growing steadily, the company's homewares and clothing division has been sliding for some time, with sales falling for 10 quarters in a row. Profits are believed to have taken quite a hit after the introduction of heavy discounts on clothes and homewares over the Christmas period.