Tag Archives: fashion

Unintentionally Eating the Other

by Guest Contributor Minh-ha T. Pham, originally published at Threadbared

Last Thursday, Crystal Renn, the model who recently appeared in a Vogue Japan spread with her eyes taped in ways that were suggestive of an old theater makeup trick meant to make white actors look “Asian,” offered an explanation and defense of the cosmetic practice. Tape, it should be noted, is only one of many tools in the arsenal of this particular form of racial drag, also known as yellowfacing – a practice that is literally older than America. Contrary to popular headlines suggesting that “yellowface is the new blackface,” there is nothing new or novel about yellowfacing. One of the earliest incidences of yellowfacing in the U.S. occurred in 1767 when Arthur Murphy presented his play The Orphan of China in Philadelphia.

What interests me about this moment of racial drag or “transformation,” as Renn’s called it, are the reactions to it and her own explanation of the decision to tape her eyes. In last week’s published conversation with Jezebel editor Jenna Sauers, Renn insists that she “wasn’t trying To ‘look Asian’ in that eye tape shoot”. And I wanted to believe her. I have great respect for Sauers. Her writing has always displayed a great deal of thoughtfulness and acuity and she’s been a generous supporter of Threadbared for a long time. For all these reasons, I approached Sauers’ conversation with Renn as a generous reader, willing to be convinced. After all, Sauers initially assumed Renn was yellowfacing too. If she could be surprised with Renn’s explanation, I thought I might be too.

Here’s how Renn explains the eye-taping:

  • In a way you become something else.
  • No, it tends to be when there’s more makeup and drama. And the point is transformation.
  • To transform is the greatest part of my work. It’s the thing that makes me the happiest. And to be able to try to do as many looks as I can and to show as many faces as I can, it’s exciting to me . . . I’ve had moles painted on my face. I’ve had freckles painted on.
  • I become something else.
  • We didn’t even think about [race] on the shoot. I’m the one who suggested it, and it didn’t even cross my mind. It’s something that I regularly ask makeup artists, you know, if it will bring something more to the character. Offer a different face.
  • As the model, as somebody who thrives on the transformation, I am beyond thrilled to do stories where they change my gender, where they take me and make me something completely different.

What is so striking about Renn’s explanation is its ambiguity. She never says what look she was going for – just that she intended to become “something else.” This intangible “something” that has more “drama”, more “character” , and is so “exciting” is, for Renn, not racially specific. It is instead a generalized exotica, an experience of vague sensuousness. But do racist acts require intentionality? And what are the implications of Renn’s deracialization of a practice that was so clearly racist to so many people?

Continue reading

The Heather Grey, Jersey Knit, Racism of Fashion

by Our New Fashion Correspondent Joseph Lamour

Racism in the fashion industry is still alive and well. Duh. I have to say it somewhere in an article like this, so I thought, why not get it out the way from the start? However, the opinions put forth in Charles Beckwith’s modaCYCLE rebuttal piece “Racism In Fashion” are not themselves racist. But they certainly are ironic.

Naive Boy's rendition of racism in fashion
Beckwith opens with a reference to Naiveboy’s well travelled work equating Anna Wintour with the Reich. He contends that the fashion industry isn’t racist, but in fact sensitive to the collective unconscious. And what the public wants to see is more gaunt blondes. We do? Of all the pervasive excuses diversity naysayers in the fashion community claim, profit and profit alone drives some of the racially myopic choices fashion people make. And yet, 2011’s trend is “Global Prints”. Irony alarm!

Burberry Resort Wear

Image from Burberry Prorsum’s 2012/13 Resort Collection

I think he might have forgotten to italicize part of his title. Racism: In Fashion. Can’t you just hear Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa in the background? Beckwith explains why Naomi Campbell has appeared on 8 covers of Vogue and Kate Moss has appeared on 24, is because consumers (read white consumers) want to see someone in the clothes that they want to be. Kate Moss dated Pete Doherty for a long stretch- I’m pretty sure no one’s clamoring to be in her shoes these days. But would they rather be in Naomi’s or Kate’s? An editor apparently lost their job over making the wrong choice, and Beckwith states:

“I have never met Naomi Campbell, nor can I confirm or dispel the claim of an Australian editor being fired for putting her on a cover. Though, if an editor had been fired for putting Ms. Campbell on a cover, no evidence was cited that would lead anyone to believe that the action was specifically related to racism more than likely profit motives.”

But, in what world are these mutually exclusive? In Ms. Campbell’s defense, if someone got canned partially in relation to your face, wouldn’t you be upset? I might not call a bunch of publicists, but is it so far fetched that it couldn’t be true? Maybe fashion recycles social mores as much as they recycle trends. Continue reading

Do Only White Models Get to be “Ugly?”

by Guest Contributor Alex Jung, originally published at Fashion Mole

Laura Stone

Fashion is having a Lara Stone moment – again. She is the face for Tom Ford’s new beauty line, meaning her exclusive for Calvin Klein has come to an end . No matter – she is still the face of Calvin Klein’s Fall/Winter campaign and its new underwear line, Naked Glamour. Stone is a unique face in fashion. While she can look pretty and soft, she has granite cheekbones, a protruding brow and a gap between her front teeth that give her a harder, more masculine edge. She also has breasts (a no-no in high fashion) and a clumsy walk. Still, her uniqueness has catapulted her to the top of fashion. In 2009, W called her the “most-wanted face” in fashion. In Interview magazine, Marc Jacobs writes that she brims with “feral attitude and personality and sexuality.” Stone, on the cover of August’s French Vogue, is an editorial favorite. That marked her seventh cover; former French Vogue editor, Carine Roitfeld put Stone on six covers, and even dedicated an entire issue to her. It’s easy to see why. Stone epitomizes the Roitfeld woman: tough, sexy, and a little freaky.

Lara Stone is part of an increasingly visible portion of high fashion – odd, gawky, and sometimes, downright busted. In a post entitled, “What is Beauty?” Photographer Garance Doré was taken by Nina Porter, then the face of Burberry. Porter’s grey eyes, short hair, and scrunched features look more appropriate in Middle Earth than on a catwalk. Doré believes that Porter, and other models like her, are an indication of evolving fashion standards. Others include Daphne Groeneveld, Lindsey Wixson, and Saskia de Brauw. They have awesomely odd features that makes them look distinctive, interesting, and alluring.

Saskia for Versace F/W 11 (left) and Saskia on the cover of French Vogue (right)
Saskia

Nevertheless, the “blank canvases” – like Anja Rubik and Angela Lindvall – still exist. It is also true that any skilled Photoshopper can turn any of these eccentric beauties into a blank canvas. Compare the two images above: de Brauw’s Versace ad with her March cover of French Vogue. Still, the band of weird, tattooed, sometimes androgynous, sometimes masculine models are pushing the boundaries of fashion. They are moving fashion more towards the idea of individual beauty, and often, designers and editors use them to give their images personality and edge.

While fashion’s expanding idea of beauty is something to celebrate, it’s important to ask: why all of these “pretty-ugly” models white? Continue reading

Fashion Discussion: Black Men as Props

by Guest Contributor Claire, originally published at The Fashion Bomb

I was cruising on one of my favorite fashion editorial sites, Fashion Gone Rogue, when I happened upon this February/March 2011 cover of Russh Magazine featuring Delfine Bafort:

Delfine Cover

The Belgian model is surrounded by a group of adoring black men, who all seem to be looking at her lustfully. Her white dress, blonde tresses, and aloof stare contrasts markedly with their dark naked skin and enraptured looks.

Interesting.

The shoot seemed very reminiscent of other editorials I’ve seen in the past few years:

Mode Matthias

Vriends 2
Continue reading

Monday Round Up: Racial Fashion Faux Pas, Ethnic is the New It “Color”

by Latoya Peterson and Andrea Plaid

Via Claire at the Fashion Bomb, French fashionistas are boycotting the beauty brand Guerlain due to racist comments made by Jean Paul Guerlain. The Fashion Bomb explains:

When talking about working on a fragrance, he said “I put myself to work like a [n-word]. I don’t know if the [n-words] have always worked hard, but…” ["Je me suis mis à travailler comme un nègre. Je ne sais pas si les Nègres ont toujours tellement travaillé mais enfin..."]
The actual word he used was nègre, which, translated, could mean anything from negro to coon to the n-word.

Also, in fashion faux pas, Threadbared points out yet another ad featuring a white model in blackface:

blackface model ad

Continue reading

Coloring Whiteness: POC Community Building and Mistaken Racial Identity

by Former Special Correspondent Wendi Muse

Nina Garcia

I can count the days following Fashion Week on two hands, the same abacus I could use to count the women of color featured on its runways. Despite constant cries from communities of color, models, the press, and even many designers to increase diversity on the catwalk, progress is slower than the careful steps taken in a pair of Alexander McQueen heels. The fashion world is working at a snail’s pace to color its image, and even then, only by way of appeasement, tiny bits to the masses so that they are temporarily satisfied. But among those scraps, people become desperate, sometimes seeing glimmers that hope that are far from it, and yearning for some acknowledgment from those who have little connection to their plight despite presumed allegiance.

To cite a specific example, one need look no further than the coverage of one of the most poignant protests of fashion’s alienation and exclusion of black fashion editors (and, not-so-tangentially, models and designers) on the opening day of Fashion Week. One of the participants noted that the only prominent woman of color in the business and publishing side of the fashion industry was Marie Claire Fashion Director and Project Runway judge Nina Garcia (pictured, at top).

I stopped reading for a moment. Since when is Nina Garcia a woman of color? Continue reading

Blackface, and the Violence of Revulsion

by Guest Contributor Minh-ha, originally published at Threadbared

This post is supposed to be about the latest occurrences of blackface in fashion — specifically, the 14-page editorial featuring Lara Stone, a white Dutch model, painted black and shot by Steven Klein for the October 2009 issue of French Vogue and also Carlos Diez‘s show at Madrid Fashion Week (September 22, 2009) in which models walked in blackface and, at times, with bared breasts.

There is indeed quite a lot to say about both events. To begin, fashion’s seeming ineptness for dealing with race in ways that do not accommodate and/or supplement the already too long histories of racial objectification and commodification. We’ve discussed much of this history on Threadbared (see especially here, here, here, here, and here) already and will no doubt continue to, as there seems to be an inexhaustible amount of material. Second, these events (and others like it) are revealing of the ways in which multiculturalism and multiracialism –under the guise of postracialism, postmodernism, or just artistic edginess– enables the continuation of white supremacy. Continue reading

You Say You Want A Revolution (In a Loose Headscarf)

by Guest Contributor Mimi, originally published at Threadbared

Because this is a fashion plus politics blog, I want to post some very brief thoughts about the protests rocking Iran after what some observers are calling a fraudulent election, reinstalling President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against his main opposition, moderate reformer Mir Hossein Mousavi. (For news about the election and protests, The New York Times’ The Lede News Blog is frequently updated. For more analysis, check out Juan Cole.)

A glance at the Western media coverage from before and after the election reveals an overwhelming visual trope — the color photograph of a young and often beautiful Iranian woman wearing a colorful headscarf, usually pinned far back from her forehead to frame a sweep of dark hair. Such an image condenses a wealth of historical references, political struggles, and aesthetic judgments, because the hijab does. As Minoo Moallem argues in her book Between Warrior Brother and Veiled Sister: Islamic Fundamentalism and the Politics of Patriarchy in Iran, both pre- and postrevolutionary discourses commemorate specific bodies –whose clothing practices play a large part— to create forms and norms of gendered citizenship, both national and transnational. What Moallem calls the civic body becomes the site of political performances in the particular contexts of modern nationalist and fundamentalist movements.

This particular image being disseminated throughout the Western press right now is no exception — we are meant to understand the looseness of the scarf, the amount of hair she shows, as political acts, manifesting a desire for Western-style democracy. But this shorthand is too simplistic, too easy. As Moallem argues, Islamic nationalism and fundamentalism are not premodern remnants but themselves “by-products of modernity.” As such, the image of the Iranian woman in her loose headscarf is not a straightforward arrow from Islamic backwardness to liberal progress, but a nuanced and multi-dimensional map of political discourse and struggle. Continue reading