Who amongst us doesn’t love a fantastic glossy fashion editorial? Whether it’s image after image of Jessica Stam striking fierce in the latest haute couture, Julia Nobis chilling out in no makeup or a Tim Walker fantasy come to life, I’m the first to dive head first into the pages, breathe in their fashioney goodness and let it rub off on me. My love for clever editorials shoots and fashion fantasy may be strong but I’m also the first to admit that there are times when the Anna’s and Franca’s of this world get it very wrong. Sweet baby cheeses do they ever.
If you missed it last week, 12 Magazine’s ‘Victim of Beauty‘ shoot depicting beautiful models with black eyes and acid burns is the latest to leave us feeling a little off-colour. And judging by the following ten misdemeanors, I’m sure it won’t be the last.
Steven Klein shoots Lara Stone in blackface
In theory Steven Klein, Lara Stone and Carine Roitfeld should be a dream team, creating innovative and inspiring images worthy of perusing over a glass of bubbles in the bath. Sadly, this was not the case in 2009 for Paris Vogue’s October edition. It seemed in the spirit of aiming to be edgy and eye catching, the team took a wrong turn into racist land, making the strange and rather cringe-worthy choice of painting the pale skin of Lara, black. While this wasn’t the only time Steven had painted Caucasian models black; in 2006 he shot an editorial entitled ‘Individualook’ for Vogue Italia, this shoot stirred up a lot of anger. It also just so happened that a week before the issue launched, Hey Hey It’s Saturday suffered backlash from the airing of that controversial black-face ‘Red Faces’ skit. If only Carine had been at home on a Saturday night to watch it, they could have avoided the tut-tutting of media.
Lesson learnt: If you want to shoot a black model, use a black model. There is no paint required.
Tom Ford glamourises little girls
When Tom Ford edited his own issue of Paris Vogue most of us were expecting a lot of not-so subtle innuendo, pubic hair art and nipples galore. While a lot of that wasn’t so far off (the tongue-in-cheek plastic surgery shoot was a thing of genius), we were also subject to eerie images of 6 year olds looking well over 16. The super creepy ‘Cadeaux’ editorial starred little girls dressed to the nines and wearing more makeup than a pageant toddler. As you can imagine parents were up in arms, bringing about the ‘how young is too young’ debate once again.
Lesson learnt: While 14 may be too young for a women’s magazine, 6 years old is just scary.
Kirstin McMenamy models in an oil spill
Images of an oil covered Kirstin McManamy lying on rocks would be deemed a bold statement at any time, let alone in the aftermath of the 2010 Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill. There’s no denying Vogue Italia was timely in the publishing of these brave yet beautiful Steven Meisel images but for the rest of the world it was all too much, too soon.
Lesson learnt: When you’re going to ‘go there’ – timing is everything.
Lara Stone drinks blood
Steven Klein and Lara Stone were at it again in the controversial editorial ‘Lara Fiction Noir’ for the February 2009 issue of Vogue Paris. Though most of it was just Lara smoking in black leather, there were some disturbing shots of her mouth dripping with blood. Now I know we all love a good vampire sub-plot, but these images were incredibly real looking, and with little else to them it just looked like a cheap shot at attention grabbing.
Lesson learnt: Violence is never beautiful, so stop trying.
Easy Jet’s shoot at the Holocaust Memorial
Seriously? When a stylist casually mentions the word ‘Holocaust,’ the most common reaction would be this:
Followed closely by this:
Not for Easy Jet though. Firstly, it’s amazing that the budget airline even has an in-flight magazine. Let alone a magazine that features fashion editorial. So one sunny day when the Easy Jet fashion stylist came to pitch to the editor they said ‘I’m thinking the LBD, I’m thinking sculptural poses. I’m thinking the Holocaust Memorial.’ And the editor said ‘yes, good idea. Nothing could possibly go wrong.’
Lesson learnt: Holocaust + fashion = No! No! Nooooooo!!!!!!!!!!
V Magazine depicts dogging
If you never knew what ‘dogging’ was, Steven Meisel ensured you do now with his editorial depicting couples rudely romping in the bushes. Just when good old fashion sex wasn’t enough, the V Magazine shoot was inspired by the British craze for couples having sex in public places while others watch. The night-vision styled editorial was originally shot for Vogue Italia but was deemed too taboo. V Magazine’s tawdry standards were a little lower and they happily published the uh, spreads, in their 2008 November/December issue. Interestingly enough, there is no nudity in the shoot. Just lots of seedy crotch shots.
Lesson learnt: Fashion magazines can be sexy, but not pornographic. There’s a whole other genre for that.
W Magazine goes Derelicte
It was bound to happen. When the concept of homeless style on the runway termed ‘Derelicte’ was suggested in Zoolander, the outrageous notion was considered comedic. Then W Magazine actually commissioned a shoot based around models looking homeless in designer clothes, and the reaction was outrage. The shoot featured Sasha Pivovarova wrapped in a Prada paper bag as dress and an Armani plastic as a skirt. Such clever touches in a different context definitely have merit, but juxtaposing high fashion with homelessness, no matter what the styling, is the epitome of poor taste.
Lesson learnt: Homelessness is not a joke.
Just when you thought the Derelicte idea couldn’t go any lower, Vogue India not only went there but took the bad tasting images to prove it. In a country where approximately 500 million people live on less than $1 a day, Vogue India decided to not only set a shoot within the slums of Rajasthan, but use the poor inhabitants as models and props. The editorial featured a baby photographed wearing a Fendi bib and a man with a Burberry umbrella next to his wife holding an Etro handbag; items that cost more money than they most likely will make in their lifetime. While I know in normal shoots the models might not be able to afford the haute couture they pose in, this level of contrast took it to an extreme, sucking the fantasy out of fashion and leaving us feeling very guilty about our wardrobes.
Lesson learnt: The homeless are not props
Vogue Italia goes ghetto
What was supposed to be a fun and fabulous editorial in this year’s March issue of Vogue Italia was accused of fuelling racial stereotypes of the African American community. Entitled ‘Haute Mess’ the over the top shoot featured an array of top models including Abbey Lee, Lindsey Wixson, Joan Smalls and Coco Rocha hanging out at a diner wearing fake nails, garish makeup, weaves and eating Cheetos. Though I can see the humour in the shoot, others were offended by the jab at African American style and saw it more as a case of ‘laughing at’ instead of ‘laughing with.’
Lesson learnt: When depicting different cultures, err on the side of caution.
Kate Moss as nun in W magazine
Racism, age, sex – none compare in controversy to religion. Just breath on a bible wrong and your shoot turns from quirky to controversial. But that’s never stopped the fashion world from being sacrilegious. We put crosses on everything without even a thought for our sins or what is sacred. Religious references are no stranger to collections and editorials either, but when Kate Moss was depicted as a sexy nun in W Magazine this year, the Catholic Church was really not sold on the idea. It goes without saying, Kate Moss is no nun, so depicting her as one is going to raise a few eye brows. Then to add fuel to the fire, Kate not only held a cross upside down (a devil reference) but also suspiciously close to her crotch, reminiscent of a wooden… well… you know.
Lesson learnt: Kate Moss is not a nun.