Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Paris Vogue suffers a lapse of Taste


What's going on in Carine Roitfeld's head? Has her mind gone the way of hem lengths for this season: short circuited? Maybe she had the idea to ape Italian Vogue's BLACK issue and decided to pay homage with a regrettable spread of her own. Maybe in her rush to shoot she forgot that the model was supposed to be black...you know like Leya Kabeede, or Chanel Iman, or Alek Wek. Maybe she just thought it would be clever and original to just go with a black faced(actually, black bodied) Lara Stone. Where does one draw the line between commerce, art and stupidity?

I bought French Vogue for a much needed change of pace from our homegrown version. I expected to find a different take on what's modern, an aesthetic shifting of gears from first to fifth. What started out as a nice revving of the engine stalled out on page LARA. What appeared at first glance to be a Moorish princess was at closer inspection a white Lara Stone spray painted to look like a Black woman. I thought it was just a momentary lapse of judgment til I turned the page and came upon a whole story of black-faced and black-bodied Lara . Iffy judgment shifted to ferociously bad taste in a Paris minute.

The associations and connotations of black-faced white people is a one way street in reverse to Minstrel entertainers, the days of Jim Crow laws and segregation. It it is not stylish, amusing or creative. Vogue has started a very unpleasant and offensive habit, thanks to Ms. Sozzani and Steven Meisel at Italian Vogue, of celebrating Tokenism and all of it's odious and depressing implications. What irks me the most is I fear they aren't even remotely aware of the offense most women of color will take when they look at these pages.

The first of the "Black Issues" that came out last year was annoying enough. One whole issue dedicated to black models was a sad statement when the rest of the year precious few , if any, were used in the editorial pages. This summer it was down-sized to a spread and not the full issue. They dragged it down to a new low by using Barbie dolls (white featured ones spray-painted brown) instead of Black models. Maybe the only models available were all booked and the shoot had to go on. I think the agency who handled Barbie cut a better deal and the magazine went with a cheaper price.....It's just a matter of economizing in these difficult times. Now French Vogue and it's thoughtless editor along with Steven Klein, who should stick to shooting horses and hosting Madonna, have gone a step further. Fashion seems to be saying that it can no longer afford or be bothered with a social conscience.

I don't want to waste another moment on this issue . It gives it legs and in a backhanded way supports this idiotic myopia that is running helter skelter through the halls of Conde Nast's farther flung offices.

I have done the only responsible thing and lined my litter box with this issue. It's a dirty job but I'm not about to waste perfectly good reads like Horse and Hound or Ebony.

21 comments:

WendyB said...

I found this strange and disturbing.

tiffBit said...

I can't say I completely understand your perspective because physically, I can't- but I do get the gist of what you're trying to say.

But aside from suffering "a lapse of taste" of these Vogue spreads, what would you want to see in a black issue? or do you think there should be a black issue at all?

Simone said...

I can't even fully express the many reactions I have to this..I am still processing my outrage and grief at this..My first thought is that as Americans we believe Europeans to be so much more accepting of diversity because of their curiosity for those not seeped in the European traditions and look. We are distracted by the celebrity they bestow upon the select few which perhaps distracts us from the fact that like America they still have a long way to go when it comes to truly seeing the beauty in people as well as allowing that beauty to be proudly owned and worn by those same people not stolen or borrowed in order to be the "next big thing". And we, the readers, must make that journey as well...

Claudine said...

I've been reading your blog since the Times article, and am enjoying your perspective on the shows. This magazine has me offended and baffled as well. Then there's this:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/oct/08/jackson-5-black-facepaint-apology. What's going on?

Christa Weil said...

Hey Fluff:

Have just gotten the issue and am keen to see the shoot. I remember the shock I felt in Paris back in the early 90s seeing minstrel dolls for sale in shops, and, of course, the Banania man . . .

Horse and Hound? Really?!!

Tally-ho!

Old School Brand said...

Revolting...Who ever said that fashion was not racist?

texastrailerparktrash said...

This photo spread would have looked so much nicer with a model with lovely, NATURALLY black skin. Instead it just looks weird. Maybe that's what Roitfeld is going for, but who knows? I would much prefer seeing beautiful black models such as those you mentioned rather than the pale and pasty, eyebrowless wonders that are being promoted now. Ugh!

bahiaus said...

I enjoyed your blog post and I am as offended by the spray painted model as I was when I attended the Opera, Othello and the lead character was spray painted or spray tanned to appear of African decent rather than having the guts to hire an African American opera singer for the role. I don't get it. I'm glad I read the article in the times and will continue to follow your blog posts. Would love to share this on fb. Good post.

Anonymous said...

Fluff, You are dead on with the Paris Vogue issue. Insulting is right and the photo's were not "all that" either!

girl said...

While I see your point of view I was wondering if the idea could be to promote black beauty in one way. Since the norm has been to make women of color want to be more caucasian with regards to hair and makeup; this could be seen as a reverse idea. After seeing the movie "Good Hair" i can't believe how inherent it is in the black community to make women feel more beautiful by changing to look like you are more caucasian. I would like to think that the Louis Vuitton show featuring all the models with afros and the paris vogue with the Lara spread is a way to reconcile - even if not really done by what many consider the most tasteful means. I would also like to point out that this is not the first time a white model is 'painted' black instead of using a black model - Kate Moss was painted black for the cover of The Independent

becca said...

Wow. I am equally shocked. A few years ago some white frat boys at the university I attended decided to dress up as Venus and Serena Williams for Halloween, complete with blackface. Their ignorant actions sparked a huge race riot on campus and I'm curious to see what will happen with this. Someone at vogue should have known better.

tarleisio said...

There are many words - not all of them polite - that come to mind reading about this, but outrageous in the original sense - as in, provoking outrage - is one of them. What were French Vogue thinking? If they wanted the striking counterpoint of white-on-black, which I can understand, then they should have chosen the appropriate model for it, and there are no end of absolutely breathtaking women to choose from. You even mentioned a few of them yourself, Alek Wek, Chanel Iman - oh, it makes for a long list of beauties! And given that beauty and aesthetics lie at the heart of what French Vogue (or any issue of Vogue) is really promoting, using a definitely white model such as Ms. Stone is an insult, an outrage and the very epitome of execrable taste.

To my mind, beauty is beauty - in any color and in several shapes, not all of them promoted by Vogue as "ideal". This spread is as disturbing as it is outrageous, and most of all, it sadly proves just how far we still have to go to evolve, and not just in fashion editorials!

Although I am a pasty shade of pink myself, I feel your pain, Fluff and I understand your reaction. The one thing I can't understand is the choice made by French Vogue - unless it is to provoke discussion such as this one?

chris in SF said...

I think I see what they were going for, not to offend but to provoke....a commentary on race and perceived beauty but it wasn't executed well, they should have gone further and had an African model painted white in the same shoot. then we can truly reflect on the images... we know the beauty that exists under the heavy make-up and are forced to look beyond it to find it; go beyond the obvious, to look under their "skins" and see who they really are. if anything, the make-up obscures the inner beauty, it is an obstacle, an unnecessary distraction. real beauty comes naturally....
just a thought, I might be wrong...

leslyworld said...

Personally I am not shocked however disturbing the spread is. I have come to accept that Europe simply objectifies minorities. If you've been to France and understand the dynamics of race then you would understand why this is possible even applauded. It is a country where being blatantly racist is perfectly accepted- think Jean- Marie Lepen a French looking and version Limbaugh with the same right wing rhetoric with a political party. The fight for equality for minority groups is an American story so i think.

As if la Roitfeld would have chosen a dark Arabic girl for the story, mais non! C’est la France. And they are a stubborn bunch it’s a fact. This editorial is for white women to fantasize about being dark while remaining in the comfort of being white with all the privileges. And France will be France even if the black and Arabic minority is ready to blow the place as we have seen a couple of years ago.

This is only the follow up to another vogue editorial (not sure if it was Italian or French) where Naomi was gallivanting in the jungle in leather outfits. The one picture that really offended me is the one where she was on an alligator clad in Hermes crocodile something! Sincerely, I blame Naomi for going a long with it.

Some Like it Vintage said...

Very much agree with you. Black face is insulting just as painting a black woman white would be. It does not make sense nor is it artistic. It's just bad taste.

Anonymous said...

leslyworld makes a very interested and valid point. Is this anymore offensive as when a black or arab is stereotype in the jungle and desert. Why is either not presented in a country club or boardroom (albeit not being depicted as a domestic). Europeans, French and German especially, do objectify dark skin as exotic in a colonistic fetish way. I would say the difference in an American vs European is an almost sexual way as oppose to a humilation and degrading depiction as you would get in the US, South Africa or Australia. The French fetishize everything. I doubt this is meant to be offensive, just ignorant of it cultural implications.

Divalocity said...

First Kaiser Karl and now this?While writing about the Kaiser named Lagerfeld and his slip of the lips, I had a reality check. Women all over the world love fashion and want to follow the newest trends and ideas like most women. The only problem is that their true diversity as women is not being celebrated. I subscribe to a lot of magazines, many of them are about to expire and I'm seriously thinking about not renewing my subscription to the majority of them. It's time that the majority of us develop a social conscience and stop supporting these magazines and businesses that do not show the diversity of people in this country and in this world. I'm tired of being rendered as non-existent and invisible. Why should I continue to support anyone who does not support me? I read the French Vogue right in the book store and I don't waste my money on it period! If I see something that interest me, I just pull out the handy BlackBerry and snap away!

Anonymous said...

Quote "Maybe she had the idea to ape Italian Vogue's BLACK issue and decided to pay homage with a regrettable spread of her own."Unquote

'to ape'???

Somehow your choice of words makes your post lose credibility. Remember the old saying about "taking that beam out of your own eye"?

chris in sf said...

hummm.... now Tyra Banks gets in on the action on ANTM...
thoughts anyone?

Anonymous said...

Fluffy...methinks Carine made a booboo (or is that a bobo?)! LOL I know this got you hot rembering how Italian Vogue had you so steamed!

;)

brooksie

Lola said...

I think it's great...

Really good