Friday, October 16, 2009

It's an Insular World After All

If you've got an eye on fashionland (and even if you have your head in a hole in the ground), you're likely to have heard of the controversy sparked by the photoshoot commissioned by Vogue Paris by Steven Klein for the October issue, in which model Lara Stone posed in makeup that ranged from titanium white to umber.

Vogue's editor, Carine Roitfeld, has been blasted for insensitivity. The photos in which Stone's skin was darkened have been likened to blackface, the notorious black-and-white makeup worn by white entertainers to caricature and ridicule blacks.

The Emperor's Old Clothes blog, among others, has commented thoughtfully on the issue. I won't, but did think it would be interesting to post some imagery along similar lines. Are they racist? Are they art? Or are they merely fashion being fashion, which takes endless pains to be edgy, but then acts shocked, shocked! when it actually succeeds in causing offense.


  1. Hey Christa...
    I mostly thought the editorial was in bad taste and coming out at a bad time. I mean why use a white model if they were looking to show the clothes on different skin tones? I already think that they should use more diverse models to start with and this was a great opportunity. So I can understand why people are mad.

  2. Thanks so much for the comment, Milla. Now that I've had some time to think about it . . .

    The spread in which Stone featured was part of a editorial story celebraing various legendary models, including Moss and McManemy. Stone was being held up as an exemplar of shapeshifting: a model who could metamorphose mood, attitude, and even, they hoped, ethnicity at will. This shoot wasn't about not using a black model. It was about celebrating a white model who is a virtuoso at her game.

    Which to my mind isn't heinous, just pigheadedly dumb given all the issues it raises, and certainly in no way pushing the envelope, on the contrary staying cozily within it.

    It seems obvious to me that heavyweights like Roitfeld and Klein ought to be working their asses off to find the modeling talent that isn't another skinny white girl. When that happens, they'll truly be on the cutting edge.

  3. Christa, I could not agree with you more.
    That is exactly the issue. Right now the only "out of the box" working models are Liya Kebede, Chanel Iman, and occasionally Alex Wek, Linda Evangelista and Christie and Claudia because of their age and longevity and Crystal Renn who is the only plus model to crossover into "mainstream" work. They could do do much more than that. Personally, I would love to see models of all heights, colors and sizes. It would actually make for more creative editorials.

  4. I've always been a fan of plus-size models! There's a great site with many images of Crystal and other plus-size models here:

    They're all gorgeous.

    The site's forum also has thought-provoking discussions about body image and the media.