Karlie Kloss on the Victoria’s Secret fashion show runway.
The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show costs $12 million. Preparations for it begin a year in advance. The creative team starts working on costumes and show themes in January or February, even though the show doesn’t tape until November. This is a huge, expensive, news-making fashion show — probably the most viewed in the world — that is planned over many, many hours, spanning many months. Even with all that planning and thinking and discussing of things before the show, young supermodel Karlie Kloss made it down the runway blowing kisses in a gigantic, floor-grazing Native American headdress. That costume, within a few days after the photos coming out, became controversial enough for Victoria’s Secret to apologize for its inclusion and to announce the look would be edited out of the the show when it airs on CBS on December 4.
Many compared the gaffe to No Doubt’s Native American–inspired video, which also had to quickly be pulled down and apologized for after similar backlash. But the Victoria’s Secret incident felt symptomatic of the racial insensitivity on many runways and in many fashion photo shoots, whose long planning periods don’t seem to prevent serious missteps. Let’s review.
3. For its spring 2013 show, Dolce & Gabbana included imagery of black women that was widely viewed as “colonialist” and offensive.
4. These earrings drew particular ire.
5. The collection prompted Azealia Banks to proclaim her intent to “definitely boycott” the label.
So far, no one as famous as her has said the same about Victoria’s Secret. But Indian Country columnist Ruth Hopkins is advocating a boycott of the brand. “As a Victoria’s Secret customer, I am livid,” she wrote. “After years of patronage and loyalty to the Victoria’s Secret brand, I am repaid with the mean-spirited, disrespectful trivialization of my blood ancestry and the proud Native identity I work hard to instill in my children. Well, I’ve got news for you, Victoria’s Secret. Consider yourself boycotted.”
Moving on to other gaffes:
7. Tom Ford wore a Native American headdress in the issue of “Vogue Paris” that forced then-editor Carine Roitfeld to resign.
This image of Ford — who is best known for making James Bond’s suits, Julianne Moore’s red-carpet dresses, and wildly expensive apparel generally (see: $990 jeans) — was not the most controversial in this particular issue. That honor went to the portraits of disturbingly sexualized 6-year-olds.
10. In 2010, Chanel designer (and Choupette the cat owner) Karl Lagerfeld released images of supermodel Claudia Schiffer in blackface and yellowface.
These images are the six different covers Karl shot for German photography magazine Stern Fotografie’s 60th anniversary issue. When they came out in 2010, Fashionista called the covers “everything from crazy and sexy to mildly racist and altogether strange.” Complex wrote, “At least he didn’t style her as a geisha or a slave.” But the two tags on the Complex post say it all: “fashion, racism.”
12. Blackface has shockingly been sort of a Thing in fashion editorials — like this one from “Numéro.”
Contance Jablonski poses with a black baby in a prairie! Why couldn’t Numéro hire a black model, especially when they’re woefully underrepresented on the runways and in fashion magazines? Good luck figuring that one out.
14. Victoria’s Secret itself has gotten in trouble before for exploiting racial stereotypes. This “Sexy Little Geisha” bodysuit was pulled from the site after backlash erupted online.
Bloggers were disgusted by this alleged outfit. The Frisky wrote, “‘Sexy Little Geisha’ is part of a ‘Go East’ line, which, again, is not in-and-of-itself racist. This particular execution just makes me, well, want to execute myself.”
And these are just a few examples of the fashion industry’s puzzling insensitivity to race issues. I could spend all day pulling more, but you only have to Google “fashion racism” to come up with a slew of other roundups.
Victoria’s Secret may be a suburban-mall lingerie brand, but its fashion show exists on a rare high-fashion plane as well as a commercial one. Well-heeled fashion editors like Carine Roitfeld and painfully cool designers like Alexander Wang attend and adore the show (they don’t do the same for, say, Bebe). Costume designer Todd Thomas did not return request for comment about how the headdress made it all the way through the show’s creation process to the main stage. And I don’t buy Indian Country’s notion that Karlie Kloss did this to get back at an ex with Native American blood (models don’t get to choose their outfits for fashion shows). But it feels safe to assume it was just another moment that’s symptomatic of an industry that has a very hard time separating sensitive racial issues from artistry.
Ok people need to get over themselves and appreciate the fact that their culture and heritage is even being acknowledged in the fashion industry I see nothing racist about any of these. Designers are simply inspired by a certain culture and then try to convey that in their designs. So what if they’re wearing native American head dresses is not that what native Americans wore as part of their traditions? And so what if a model is sporting an afro, that was all the rage in the 70s by blacks and whites and is still embraced by black woman today, it’s not like their stereotyping bad aspects of a culture. People need to stop being so sensitive and just need to relax and enjoy the fashion and embrace the fact they’re culture and traditions are remembered, represented and admired in the fashion industry.
- Saeed Jones thinks Victoria's Secret's Native... is Facepalm!
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- avivah thinks Victoria's Secret's Native... is Fail
You know American is a rich country when they can dedicate this much time and energy into bitching about trivial things. Designers should not have to sit there and think about every little detail to avoid insulting people. At the rate we are going we risk offending everyone and might as well lose all creativity and art, because fuck, we just might insult somebody. What will never cease to piss me off is that people through around the term ‘racist’ way to easy and make it out to seem that all this is considered insulting and racist because it is white models or white designers. What if it was a black model dressed as a geisha or a Chinese model dressed as an Native American, would people care as much? Probably not, because there is no biased historical reason too. But should history really matter in what the future generations can and can’t do? No. If that were the case then all Germans would be Nazis and all Japanese would be Kamakazi and all Russians would be communists… this list can go on. Perhaps the manner in which the head dress was used could be offensive to some but is it offensive to all? And are the reasons for it to be considered offensive just as important as the reasons for which it may not be considered offensive? Yes. This is a win-lose situation for both parties. Consider it offensive and take it away and the art world loses it’s ability to incorporate other cultures and to draw inspiration for fear of offending. Not considering it offensive will cause this issue to fester and might cause some individuals grief.
This is much to complicated an issue to simply call racist and insensitive, it is also a misunderstanding, an over-examination and exaggeration fuelled be emotion and creativity.
In a way this issue is akin to separating government and church it is a whole lot more complicated that what the surface shows and both sides feel strong and emotional about the issue. What might be needed to aid the issue is to have cultural consultants, if the designer is inspired by a culture have a Q&A with a person of that culture to see what might be unintentionally considered offensive - however there is the argument there that it might cost extra money and time that isn’t there and might just seem like a hassle or a potential stifling of creativity. That is just my thought, things are not as black and white as people like to pretend. There is no easy solution to this no matter what some may think. Perhaps though, this blow-up, as ridiculous as I perceive it to be might cause another fashion house or company to reconsider or put a bit more research into the culture or symbolisms they plan to channel for their next show.
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TWO IMPORTANT POINTS:
1) The Washington Redskins refuse to change their name even though “redskin” is the equivalent of calling a Native American the “N” word. Imagine if instead of Redskins, we called the team the “Popes”, and at halftime someone dressed in the sacred garments and headgear of the Catholic Pope, dancing up & down the field swinging a crucifix up in the air in a circle around his head like a cowboy’s lasso, while he was flinging sacred communion wafers out to the crowd as a snack? When Catholics ask this team to stop using their religious leaders as team mascots, would you still say “Why do Catholics see this as an insult?” 2) You can’t tell another person how to say “ouch”. Haven’t we already taken enough from Native Americans - now you want to take away their right as adult human beings to decide when they are offended by what they determine to be a desecration of their sacred religious symbols? Please take a moment to give some serious consideration to these two important points…
- micaelal thinks Victoria's Secret's Native... is Fail
- Sean Dunn thinks Victoria's Secret's Native... is Fail
- Randee15 Victoria's Secret's Native... and thinks it’s Trashy, Fail & WTF
wait whats the problem agian? do you really think these people design things w that in mind? do you think these models care who they offend, what they wear, who they do? because news flash, no one next to that industry cares less. these people speaking of racism still are the real hatemongers. they found inspiration in your culture, get a grip.
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