Laissez-Faire | In Love & Free Trade

The rich get richer, the poor become en vogue
September 3, 2008, 1:31 pm
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vogue india

Photo: NY Times


The NY Times featured an article this week about a photo shoot for Vogue India that uses the country’s poor as models for its luxury brands. 

Vogue India editor Priya Tanna’s message to critics of the August shoot: “Lighten up,” she said in a telephone interview. Vogue is about realizing the “power of fashion” she said, and the shoot was saying that “fashion is no longer a rich man’s privilege. Anyone can carry it off and make it look beautiful,” she said.

“You have to remember with fashion, you can’t take it that seriously,” Ms. Tanna said. “We weren’t trying to make a political statement or save the world,” she said.

Throwing a $3,000 shawl on a peasant woman who will never earn that much in a lifetime seems a bit unfair, no? As a papaya seller on the side of the road modeling a luxury umbrella for an ad, I’d be wondering, Where’s my cut? Actually, I’d probably be wondering if I could have half of the photographer’s sandwich, but moving on – to be an advertiser asserting that you’re democratizing fashion while neglecting the reality, the social contexts, surrounding the spread itself demonstrates poor taste if not sheer ignorance and exploitation – to say that fashion is for everyone, while stating that your publication is neither making a political statement nor helping the world is contradictory. Surely, a publication of Vogue’s caliber is not ignorant. More importantly, capitalism is not that ignorant. Or is it? Statements are made whether or not they’re intended; fashion at its core is a statement whether you wear nothing or couture.

There are ethics that extend beyond the prerogative of a high profile shoot, certain things that one simply does not do – impoverished citizens, making $1.25 a day, are not the same as struggling models paying their dues, people.

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