Tag Archives: fashion

Quoted: Priyamvada Gopal on Vogue Italia’s Black Issue

The real problem is less the absence of non-white faces from the media than the repeated underlining of “whiteness” as universally relevant even within the already “special” domain of women’s interests. A quick survey of columnists writing on “women’s issues” in the British media underscores this. Hardly any are non-white, while those that are will be invariably positioned as specialists on “multicultural”, “Muslim” or “black” issues. Put simply, white people have ordinary lives and concerns while non-white people have “issues”. “White” is content-free; everybody else is marked by their ethnicity. [...]

Fashion, of course, has long relied on non-white women – the multitudes of farm and factory workers who pluck the cotton, tend the silkworms, weave the fabrics and sew the garments. Their invisibility and ongoing exploitation by the industry is not going to be addressed by a proliferation of Tyras and Naomis. Nor are difficult issues of ethnic divisions and social marginalisation about to be sorted by special issues which only render whiteness further invisible and, hence, unquestionably normative. Maybe it is time now for a “white issue” with a focus, for once, on “whiteness”, what underlies its privileges and internal divisions, and how it perpetuates itself as a norm, one so entrenched that it has the power to render everything else a separate issue.

— Priyamvada Gopal, the Guardian’s Comment is Free, “Vogue: all white now?”

Background Color

by Guest Contributor Mimi, originally published at Threadbared

While the Gossip isn’t in my regular rotation (there’s always something about the production value of their albums that throws me), Beth Ditto’s ascension as a fearlessly fat and femme style icon is on my radar for sure. There’s much to be said about Beth Ditto, fat and fashion, but the above photograph from Ditto’s eight-page editorial in NYLON’s recent music issue is about none of these things for me.

It’s about the woman who may or may not be a real housekeeper at the motel at which this editorial was photographed, sitting on the edge of the bed with a handful of cards and gazing at Ditto with a weary but guarded expression. In the story that coalesces for me, studying this photograph, she has just been forced to play cards with a guest — not because she wants to, but because she could lose her job if she doesn’t. Nor does the game even feel like a break from her domestic labor; this sort of affective labor is no less taxing. In her mind (in the story I imagine about this editorial), she calculates how much longer she’ll have to stay and clean in order to meet her day’s quota.

But none of this is supposed to be visible (or even viable) in the photograph. We are not meant to consider her story. (And I’m made uncomfortable by my own attempt to “give” her an interior life.) Instead, the woman of color in her drab housekeeper’s uniform is simply another part of the furnishing in this bland motel room. She is banished as mere and muted background, the better to illuminate Ditto’s extraordinary excess of shine and glamor. For that reason, this editorial photograph both angers and saddens me.

Much has been written about the uses of people of color as part of the landscape in fashion editorials. (See, for just a small sample, Make Fetch Happen‘s disgust for colonial chic, Racialicious’ archive on fashion, or bell hooks’ canonical essay “Eating the Other”). This cliché includes “exotic” locales and touristic images of the “natives,” who wear clothes and other adornment that are imagined as traditional and time-bound. (In Viet Nam, a frequent setting, these might be so-called pajamas and conical hats; in the often-undifferentiated Africa, also a regular landscape, loincloths and face paint). The deliberate contrast between these figures (native and model) is arranged along a spectrum of race, but also time and space. The Vietnamese, the African, the Peruvian, are imagined to live at a temporal and geographic distance from the modern, and implicitly Western, woman who might wear these fashionable clothes. The compulsion to return to this scene, through which the natives in their deindividuating garb serve to highlight the cosmopolitanism, the expressive and unique sense of self, of the woman who wears (or at least covets) Prada, reveals much about the continuing investments of fashionable discourses to an inheritance of colonial regimes of power and knowledge. It is a fantasy, yes, but no less powerful for being so.

What is happening here is no less committed to this uneven distribution. Continue reading

Vogue Asks “Is Fashion Racist?”

by Guest Contributor Brigitte, originally published at Make Fetch Happen

“Are we still talking about this in 2008?” asks Iman in an irate voice kicking off the “Is Fashion Racist?” article in the July issue of Vogue. I’ve certainly pondered that question myself over the past few years and I am sure that many other fashion enthusiasts have as well.

Really, why is it that an industry such as this one known for embracing a variety of outlandish personalities and ideas is so blind when it comes to putting new faces in its clothes, on its runways or in its magazines? For example, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen designer Philip Lim glorified on the pages of fashion tomes but I struggle to remember when I last saw and Asian model featured in a multi-page editorial. In spite of the fact that Pat McGrath, Andre Leon Talley, photographer Mark Baptist and designers like Tracey Reese are influential enough to sit at the proverbial table, that diversity hasn’t tricked down to model employment office. This seems to suggest that people of other races are welcome to provide the glitz for a shoot but must never be the one to wear the accessories.

I think about this topic often and it’s become the main focus of my blog because it wasn’t like this when I was growing up and first became enamored with fashion. I still remember the day my English teacher brought in a stack of old ELLE magazines to give away and I got my first taste of it. I spent hours pouring over those images back then. It was superficial and I knew but I didn’t care. It still meant something to me. Seeing the Beverly Peele on the cover of Seventeen when I was in high school back then made me feel good. It made me feel included in that fabulous something even though my bi-level two toned jheri curl was decidedly not happening. Side note: I still haven’t forgiven my mother for making get a jheri curl. I honestly think of it as child abuse.

My fashion jones followed me to college where I always had the latest pictures of Naomi Campbell tacked to my mirror for fierce make up inspiration. But then it seemed, things started to reverse themselves. Instead of marching forward and including larger cross section of ethnicities, fashion started marching backwards. The change was slow but deliberate. Black models became less visible as lighter skinned, more racially ambiguous Brazilian beauties hit the scene. They started dropping off too, save Gisele, in favor of Eastern European models, each new batch even more nondescript than the previous seasons.

Nowadays, when I talk about how it used to be I feel like an old woman rocking on my porch talking about the good ole’ days when they let us colored folk take pretty pictures. Continue reading

Lindsay Lohan Creating the Next American Apparel?

by Latoya Peterson

Reader Natalia sends us this casting notice posted by Perez Hilton:


Here’s the casting notice an industry insider sent our way:

    Casting for Models for Look book Shoot- Looking for diverse, multi-cultural, mixed races, an “off beauty” is good as well as “beautiful”.. No Blondes please.

    CASTING FOR: The Look Book Shoot for 6126 – a new contemporary collection of leggings designed by Lindsay Lohan

    USAGE: web, look book, worldwide
    RATE: trade
    DATE of SHOOT: May 9th 6am call time in Los Feliz (address TBC)
    CASTING DATE: May 8, 2008 430pm
    ADDRESS OF CASTING: 450 N Roxbury Drive (Little Santa Monica and Roxbury) 6th floor (Membrane Offices) ask for Sarah or Ken.

    No phone calls please.
    Please do not send models to the casting unless they are available for shoot and call time and they agree to trade terms.

C-H-E-A-P.

Part of me wants to just be happy that multi-ethnic models are getting any kind of play whatsoever. Even if it is for no pay.

But the other part of me thinks Dov Charney- style fetishization.

What say you?

(Photo Credit: BuzzBeyotch)

Model Minority: How Women’s Magazines Whitewash Different Ethnicities

by Guest Contributor Alex Alvarez, originally published at Guanabee

Associate Editor Alex Alvarez, befuddled to find that her boobs and hips, or lack thereof, seem to fall in and out fashion like leggings and stirrup pants and poppers, takes a look at the American women’s magazine industry in an attempt to decipher just how, exactly, they can get away with telling women their bodies are ok – if only they’d look more like white girls. (Take The Quiz On Page 62!)

My name is Alex Alvarez. And I hate women’s magazines.

Don’t get me wrong: I like fashion and I’ve worked at several magazines over the past couple of years. I can talk about Courrèges and Two Girls, One Cup in the same breath. But so many women’s magazines, both “fashion” mags like Glamour and Vogue and “sexy” mags like Cosmo and Horse & Hound do women so much more harm than good.

Women’s magazines have long been accused of creating a standard of beauty that will forever be just out of the grasp of most women – prompting them, of course, to wait until next month’s issue for more advice on how to be perfect. (Hint! Transplant your face with this other face.) Selling women this promise not only keeps magazines on newsstands and subscriptions in the mail, it also helps appease the real driving force behind all magazines — advertisers and Satan. And what women end up purchasing is cosmetic “whiteness.” You know you’ve made it, baby, when you wake up looking like you faceplanted on Plymouth Rock.

In this feature, I’ll take a look at women from four, over-simplified ethnic or racial backgrounds and see just how, exactly, magazines are fucking them all up. Then, after a few dozen sex quizzes and several minutes of trying to figure out how you can both “Love Your Body!” and orient yourself on the latest “Plastic Surgery Tips Every Woman Should Know!” without wanting to gag yourself on an exclamation point, I’ll give the magazine industry a few tips on how to talk to women.

Latina

Brief Overview: Latinas are portrayed as being sultry and seductive. They can get away with playing the “bad girl,” possibly because they are allowed – and even encouraged – to have more overtly sexual bodies, with an emphasis on curves, dark eyes and bright, plump, shiny, slick, wet lips shown in loving close-ups, usually while the face to which they’re attached is growling or purring or doing something else that’s totally fierce. They also give better head. Oh. There goes my attempt at subtlety.

The ideal: Jennifer Lopez

Hair: Often enough, Latinas have “big hair” with lots of volume, possibly as a middle ground among the various hair textures found among Latinas of different races.

Skin: Latinas are often depicted as having an olive complexion, with lighter or darker generally ignored or unmentioned by mainstream media.

Ass: Big, round. Makes a “ka-ching ka-ching” sound when bouncing in time to a song about cars and beach houses.

Breasts: While Latinas are generally depicted with large backsides, breast size is allowed to vary. As long as they’re big.

How magazines fucked up: “Latina” is not a race. It’s a diverse group made of many racial, ethnic and religious groups. Some who don’t even look like J-Lo. Additionally, women can’t have it both ways. While Latinas have been “en vogue” for a period of time, certain celebrated icons of “Latina beauty,” such as Jennifer Lopez and Salma Hayek, have whittled down their once-celebrated curvy figures as the years have gone by. Wait until Jennifer loses all that baby weight. She’ll look so much better without Marc.

Continue reading

Will There Ever Be an African Vogue?

by guest contributor Brigitte, originally published at Make Fetch Happen

Do you remember when Vogue India hit the stands and Australian model Gemma Ward was front and center flanked by two presumably Indian models in what I like to call “the coveted Beyonce spot?” All I could do was laugh at how predictable that move was on the editors part.

In the months since that launch last year, Vogue India has featured a dazzling array of Bollywood actresses and models on the cover. It’s as if to say, “yeah, we thought the cover on that premiere issue was lame too but we fully intend to make up for it!”

Anytime I think about that launch I wonder if an African country will ever get its own Vogue. Maybe a Vogue Nigeria or a South African Vogue.

I’ve debated back and forth on message boards about who would be chosen for the imaginary inagural cover. Legendary Iman? Alek Wek? Liya? Oluchi? Gemma in a safari hat?

I read an article in The Times last week about Oluchi in which she was quoted as saying that top magazines in South Africa (like Glamour and GQ) refuse to put blacks on their covers. This in a country that is 79% black.

She said:

“As a Nigerian and an African I have done so much in my career to represent everything African in Western countries. There is a diverse group of people in South Africa, be it black, white, Asian. …If you pick up Vogue India everything about it, from the first page to the last, is very Indian…I would like to see that in South Africa. They [magazines] need to embrace diversity and show more love …It doesn’t give me joy to pick up a copy of South African GQ and feel like I’m reading American GQ.”

Damn.

This saddens me. I recall seeing the cover of South African ELLE once with a dark skinned woman on the cover and for months I tried to find an issue at various newsstands only to come up empty. I was dying to know if the cover I saw was an anomoly. So far, I’m not willing to pony up the $90 or so for a subscription to find out.

Back to my magazine fantasy…I picture two covers. The first one featuring a mix of models from all over the continent with Iman or Liya Kebede, Alek Wek or Ajuma to show the very different types of African beauty. My second thought has editors mixing it up a bit more with the likes of a Jourdan Dunn, Emanuela dePaula, Chanel Iman, Chrystelle Saint-Louis Augustin, or Damaris Lewis to illustrate how there isn’t a corner of the world that hasn’t been touched by this so called dark continent’s beauty and influence.

Seriously, I could ponder this for hours. I am so much more satisfied by made up magazines than by their real conterparts. Maybe there’s an editor out there dreaming of this launch too, and of Gemma Ward posing on an elephant for the cover.

LeBron James as King Kong on cover of Vogue?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

The King Kong-esque imagery on the latest cover of Vogue is so striking that even bloggers who don’t usually write about race are sitting up and taking notice. Blog Fashionista said: “It shows personality, sure, but the whole “Me, Tarzan. You, Jane,” vibe doesn’t sit well with the french fries we had for lunch.”

Brigitte at Make Fetch Happen wonders “why does Anna Wintour have such a hard nipples for black folks with their mouths hanging wide open on her magazine? Specifically, I’m thinking about Jennifer Hudson’s horribly unflattering cover last year.”

And Chic and Untroubled asks if Anna Wintour is just blatantly ripping off her French counterpart, sans drag queen: “Sure, Lebron could never be confused with the ultra-fabulous Andre J. But look how both covers – featuring black man and attractive model – are so similar in format. Even right down to the cover lines – look how they are both mostly concentrated to the left side.”

What do you think of the cover, featuring athlete LeBron James with supermodel Gisele?

En Vogue: Muslim Women in Fashion News

by Racialicious special correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch

A smattering of articles have appeared in newspapers lately, aiming to spread the word about how fashionable Muslim women are. These articles seem to refute the idea that Muslim women are against or unreceptive to fashion: “You can be religious and fashionable! Lots of them are! See?”

Is this supposed to be a compliment? Generalizing an entire religious group into a massive worldwide body of snappy dressers?

I wrote earlier on the popular perception of Muslim/Middle Eastern women as label whores, and many of these articles play up that exact angle. The Independent’s article, written by Sarah Buys, openly states, “This [retail development in the Gulf], in turn, has given rise to one of the most sartorially savvy, high-fashion buying demographs in the world. Middle Eastern Muslim women aren’t just prolific shoppers, now they are discerning, prolific shoppers.”

“Quit your bitching,” you might say. “It’s a compliment to be considered fashionable. What’s your problem?” My problem is that, with this characterization of Muslims as rich and fashionable, we slide right into “label whore” territory, which brings along with it the labels of the “rich Arab teenager” or the “spoiled Persian princess,” both younger cousins to the harmful Jewish-American Princess stereotype. These are class-based stereotypes that attach themselves to specific ethnicities and, now, to Muslims. They are not compliments.

If that’s not offensive enough for you, we can always take a look at the underlying Orientalism surrounding these articles. The title of The Independent’s article is “Muslin women: Beneath the Veil.” And The New York Sun piece, written by Jesse Sposato, is entitled, “Conservative Muslim Women Hide Knack for Fashion Under Their Religious Robes.” All this “beneath the veil” crap is tired. Women who wear more conservative clothes in line with their interpretations of Islamic requirements just wear clothes under those things! But these articles can’t be satisfied with that. What kind of clothes?

Hold on to your fantasies: they wear sexy clothes! Sposato’s article recounts a young woman’s anecdote about what a girl she knew would wear under her abaya: “When I was living in Dubai, there was a girl who wore a closed abaya with a bikini under it! She would just be at university walking around with a bikini under her abaya, and nobody would know. It was great.”

And Buys doesn’t even wait to get into the article to fantasize about what Muslim women are wearing under there. She comes right out and sexualizes us all in the tag line: “…And under that shapeless, monochrome exterior, don’t be surprised to find a daring and imaginative sense of style – not to mention a miniskirt or pink hot pants.”

So, according to these articles, Muslim women walking around in austere black robes are practically naked underneath. Ironic, isn’t it? The majority of these women wear conservative clothes to take focus away from their bodies (in line with cultural practices or certain Islamic schools of thought), and these articles bring it right back to them.

These articles would make more sense to me if these papers were doing some sort of style profile on several different religions; Islam is not the only religion with modesty guidelines. But singling out Muslim women (none of the articles mentioned modesty requirements for men) in order to sexually hint at what’s “underneath the veil” just doesn’t sit well with me.