The current issue of Vogue India is causing quite a stir. Approaching their one year anniversary, the publication made waves this month by doing a sixteen page spread of Fendi, Alexander McQueen, Burberry, and Birkin accessories all modeled by rural Indian villager who will not ever make in their lives the cost of some of these items. See below, from HighHeeledConfidential, a photo of a toddler and his toothless grandmother, his older sister dirty and downtrodden behind him. But look! The toddler is sporting a $75 fendi bib. Fashion is for everyone!

And this is the message of Vogue India Editor. According to the New York Times:

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.

I’ve heard the “it’s just entertainment” argument before, and I’ve never liked it much. But there are larger things going on here, apparently. What are Vogue India’s business practices like? How do they market? Who are they marketing to? The Independent gives these important topics more time than I have the patience to right now. It seems to me that what we have here is a terrible mistranslation of American Consumerism in a place where it doesn’t fit. Not that it fits here.

If your argument is that fashion is for everyone and that anyone can make it beautiful, then celebrate the beauty of what these people already have and are. At least do an issue on bargain fashion. But this is the problem, the idea that we all need to try to keep up with the Rockefellers. Regardless of how they coerced the models, the idea that they have a woman posing with a Birkin Bag that costs more than her family’s lifetime networth is downright insulting. Further, it highlights a sickness in our international consumer culture that we somehow need these things in order to be valuable human beings.

I don’t consider the perception of high cost fashion as being available to the masses an advancement. What I’d be more impressed with is if we as a culture thought a little bit harder about what beauty, fashion, and success mean to us.


Name (required)

Email (required)


XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Share your wisdom