To see the women who are at the top of their game, look no further than Marks and Spencer's latest ad campaign writes Anna Hunter

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We certainly weren’t complaining when Britain’s favourite department store splashed the delicious David Gandy and ravishing Ryan Reynolds across its shop fronts. There’s no doubt that Rosie-Huntington Whiteley and Twiggy represent beautiful Britain at every age, and, quite frankly, Myleene could rival any Bond Girl emerging from the surf in THAT bikini. But Marks and Spencer's Autumn 2013 campaign has quite literally blown some of its past advertisements out of the water. Meet the Leading Ladies…

Actually, you probably know most of them already, but it’s highly unlikely that you’ve witnessed them gathered together in a celebration of their diverse and awe-inspiring glory (unless you broke onto the top secret campaign set or have been lucky enough to attend a particularly prestigious party). In a refreshing new take on British heritage and values, M&S’s new collection is showcased by an influential group of UK pacesetters and tastemakers.

There’s Olympic boxing gold medallist Nicola Adams, former Royal Ballet principal ballerina and children’s author Darcey Bussell CBE, and award-winning singer-songwriter and Royal favourite Ellie Goulding. Also striking a powerful pose is acid-attack victim and charity campaigner Katie Piper, acclaimed Bangladeshi-born, British-raised author Monica Ali, Brit-award nominated singer and Gospel Choir leader Laura Mvula and CEO of Save the Children Jasmine Whitbread.

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That’s not to mention Nurse of the Year 2011 and founder of charity PEPAIDS Helen Allen, Tracey Emin CBE and Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren. Finally, bringing some fearsome, flame-haired fashion credentials to the table are model, mother and musician Karen Elson and creative director of US Vogue Grace Coddington. Self-assured, highly successful and at the top of their respective fields, these women don’t just look good, they DO good.

The lady behind the lens is just as illustrious, none other than the legendary Annie Leibovitz. The American portrait photographer is famed for her majestic editorial images for Vogue and Vanity Fair, and in the words of M&S executive director of marketing and business developments Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne:

“Annie’s photography has become synonymous with defining key moments in the history of brands over the years and, as such, we feel that this campaign is the ideal way to illustrate M&S’s move into a new era.”

With backdrops including Tower Bridge, a traditional country house, an artist’s studio and an English country landscape, the campaign’s imagery really does convey the best of British. According to Tracey Emin CBE, the atmosphere on set was also characteristic of us down-to-earth Brits:

“[…] there was a real camaraderie of spirit. No one was vain, and no one was a prima donna.”

Tracey also admitted to spending ‘half my life’ in M&S pyjamas, whilst Ms Mirren declared herself a fan of the brand’s ‘basics’. And aren’t we all? Despite the brand’s sales having plummeted over the past few years, Mr Bousquet-Chavanne has announced that the Autumn 2013 collection, with Belinda Earl at the helm, marks ‘a new and confident tone of voice’ for good old Marks and Sparks.

The collection has already caused a sartorial stir, and with a bit of luck (and no doubt a lot of cash on M&S’s part) the success and strength of the campaign’s stars will rub off on our high street national treasure. Get in line for the launch on 3rd September.

Follow the campaign on Twitter with the hashtag #LeadingLadies