Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Those who shall remain nameless
Vogue India is coming under fire. An August photo spread featuring average citizens of India modeling some of fashion's most expensive, least accessible brands displays a "tacky, distasteful" lack of social consciousness.
The man in the above photo is holding a Burberry umbrella, which retails at $200. Nearly half of India's population (about 456 million) live on less than $1.25 a day.
Other photos include a baby, in rumpled clothing, wearing a $100 Fendi bib and a woman commuting on a motorbike, clutching a $10,000 Hermes Birkin bag.
These are luxury brands that only a tiny percentage of India's population can actually afford-- even if the country does have a fast-growing class of nouveau riche. In a society known for its strict social caste system (in which the lowest-ranking are labeled "untouchables"), letting a fashion magazine depict toothless, barefoot individuals modeling fashion's biggest names - high-end brands that, for them, will forever be untouchable - seems like a cruel mockery.
Priya Tanna, editor of Vogue India, defends the fashion shoot. "Lighten up," she said. Vogue is about "the power of fashion," and the photos show that "fashion is no longer a rich man's privilege. Anyone can carry it off and make it look beautiful."
Indeed, these people are beautiful, with or without Hermes. But, sadly, their identities aren't even credited in the Vogue photos. Theirs are not the names Vogue cares for you to know: Hermes, Fendi and Burberry are.