Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Fresh or Disrespectful?

In the August 2008 issue of Vogue India, there was a 16 page spread featuring the typical designers, Fendi, Hermes, Burberry, etc. The models weren't so typical, however. Instead of the usual runway beauties, the magazine decided to shoot real impoverished Indian people. One picture shows a toothless, elderly woman holding a little girl in tattered clothing. On top of those clothes sits a Fendi bib. Another picture shows a barefoot man laughing while he clutches a Burberry umbrella and is wrapped in a Burberry shawl.

Some people in India were pretty upset with Vogue for this photo shoot. One columnist from a local newspaper said, "There is nothing fun or funny about putting a poor person in a mud hut in clothing designed by Alexander McQueen." She also said the editorial spread was "not just tacky but downright disrespectful." Nearly half of the population in India live off of less than $1.25 a day, so it seems like a mockery to have pictures of a woman holding an Hermes Birkin bag that costs $10,000 when she will probably never see that much money in her life.

Vogue editors said people need to lighten up and that the shoot was meant to show that "fashion is no longer a rich man's privilege. Anyone can carry it off and make it look beautiful."

I agree that these are some beautiful shots but there is a certain amount of decorum that should have gone into this shoot. The "models" were not even named in the spread, and instead they were labled as man or woman, followed by the names of the brands and accessories they were wearing. Showing the beauty of the people of India is one thing, but trying to hide the ugly side of poverty under the shadow of a Burberry umbrella is another.