11 posts tagged "Iman"
My mother used to work with Haven, a shelter for abused women, when we lived in Detroit. One night, she came home very shaken up after a meeting for the charity. I asked her what was wrong, and she recounted a 911 call she’d listened to, in which a little boy was trying to save his mother, who had been beaten by her boyfriend. The boy kept saying, “My mommy’s not moving,” and just before hanging up, told the operator, “My mommy’s dead.” I was 10 years old at this time, and at that age, I had no idea such horror existed in the world. I sobbed for hours, and to this day, I feel sick when I think about that little boy, that haunting call, and that woman whose life was stolen from her.
I don’t care who shoots it—a scenario like that one cannot, and should not, be translated into a fashion photograph. Franca Sozzani, however, attempted to do just that in her April issue of Vogue Italia, which hits newsstands today.
Sozzani, who serves as the editor in chief of Condé Nast Italia, as well as Vogue Italia, is an original and often fearless creative thinker, and she has frequently addressed hot-button issues through the pages of her glossy magazine. In 2005, she ran a clever editorial about plastic surgery. In 2007, she produced an issue that tackled the elite’s rising obsession with rehab. These editions sparked controversy, too—and Sozzani should be commended for her commitment to asking important questions through her often forward-thinking spreads. But the abovementioned problems more or less affect the privileged classes, and the shoots were done in a certain tongue-in-cheek manner. That approach is not appropriate when discussing domestic abuse.
I’m sure that April’s Steven Meisel-lensed cover story, dubbed “Horror Movie,” was conceived with the best intentions. In a statement, Sozzani explained, “Violence towards women has never been so hard-hitting as it is now, so reminiscent of a ‘real horror show’…The intent is in no way to shock, but rather to raise awareness of a horror that must be condemned!” However, “Horror Movie” takes away from the seriousness of the topic at hand.
The first problem is that, while it’s allegedly meant to raise awareness and provoke conversation, this spread is still selling clothes. It’s using violence to push product. The images—like the one of Natalie Westling laying bloodied and lifeless on the floor in a red Moschino dress, ruffled Melissa Levy garters, and Alexander Wang shoes, her lover slumped in a chair, staring at her while drenched in her blood—are underscored by clothing credits. How can a photograph like this be seen as respectful and empowering to domestic abuse victims, or even taken seriously, when it reads, “chiffon smock, Marc Jacobs” in the corner?
Furthermore, these images are glamorous. They star young women dressed to the nines in the hottest new wares. The models’ faces are elegantly painted, and the girls look pretty while cowering in the corner, hiding from a man with a knife, or grasping at a railing, pressed against a wall smeared with blood. Abuse is not glamorous, and the brutalization of women should never be portrayed as beautiful, especially in a fashion magazine. Additionally, these images are based off of classic horror films, and by design there’s an almost comic quality to them. In a different context, as a commentary on our addiction to the nasty thrills of the ever-popular horror genre, say, they might have worked. The problem arises when Sozzani claims the intent is specifically to raise awareness of domestic abuse. Abuse isn’t funny, period.
Of course, we’ve seen images like these before—in varying degrees of offensiveness and insensitivity. There’s Helmut Newton, whose sexualized photographs of naked women in heels or bonded with rope bordered on misogyny. There’s the particularly macabre Guy Bourdin, who often posed models as if they were dead—one of his snaps features a made-up woman lying in a pool of blood; another depicts two dead models, the first hanging from a noose, the second naked on a table. “Fear is something that we, despite ourselves, want to experience. And I think the violence does add glamour in a kind of perverse way,” Nick Knight told the Guardian while speaking about Bourdin’s photographs back in 2003. I don’t necessarily agree with these images. But in the cases of Newton and Bourdin, the male character isn’t pictured, there’s an air of mystery and ambiguity, and the women aren’t explicitly being abused. And—though again I wouldn’t necessarily concur as quickly as some male critics would—you can argue that these are two great artists walking the line in the way that great artists are driven to do.
Vogue Italia‘s latest outing also calls to mind last year’s Vice editorial, in which models were snapped while pretending to commit suicide. Unsurprisingly, the shoot sparked public outrage. Fashion photographs have an element of fantasy, and, as Knight mentioned, there is something unsettlingly sexy about death—this has been the case throughout history (Sir John Everett Millais’ 1852 painting Ophelia comes to mind). But suicide, and domestic abuse, don’t fall into a “fantasy” category. They’re tragedies that real people struggle with every day. “Photography is such a powerful medium, which we read as being a literal depiction of reality,” explained curator and fashion historian Dr. Valerie Steele when I asked her about this particular issue. “It can be very problematic when you have images of violence that have been staged for a photograph. The image of the fashion model being physically attacked and murdered is one that has considerable existence in pop culture, considering films like the Eyes of Laura Mars ,” she continued. “That further complicates the issue of trying to make a photograph have an ideological point against violence, since the exploitation of violence against beautiful young fashion models is something that has another fantasy existence, apparently.”
It seems strange to me that, judging by social media and editorial responses, people can’t seem to make up their minds about “Horror Movie.” Perhaps they’re afraid to take a stance because, as I mentioned before, it may have been created with the best intentions. But just because one’s intentions are good, doesn’t mean the results are, too.
During her twenty-six-year tenure at Vogue Italia, Sozzani has successfully confronted a bevy of heavy global concerns. For instance, her July 2008 issue, which featured only black models, was the magazine’s best-selling edition. She has proven to be one of the most progressive editors of the last thirty years, constantly championing young designers; driving Italian fashion forward conceptually, commercially, and creatively; and helping her readers to understand fashion in a broader cultural context. This misstep won’t change that.
Sozzani’s more tasteful attempts, as well as efforts by the likes of Vivienne Westwood (always fighting to save the environment), Iman (who frequently speaks out on behalf of models of color), and Riccardo Tisci (who’s aimed to rectify the lack of diversity in the biz with his multicultural runways and Spring ’14 ad campaign), prove that fashion can have an impact. Considering ours is one of the biggest industries on the planet, we can absolutely change the world through fashion. We can get important messages across in magazines, during runway shows, through garments, and in newspaper articles. We just can’t do it like this.
The Pirelli Calendar turns 50 in 2014. To celebrate, the tire company execs have decided not to create a new edition. Rather, they’re releasing a previously unpublished version, originally slated for 1986, shot in Tuscany and Monte Carlo by none other than the prolific Helmut Newton.
First, some backstory: The calendar has become a mainstay marketing tool for a company that would otherwise have no real link to the überglam sphere of fashion photography (think: Herb Ritts’ 1991 edit, photographed in the Bahamas with the likes of Cindy Crawford and Kate Moss, or Norman Parkinson’s 1985 datebook with Iman in Edinburgh).
It’s with some irony, then, that Newton’s commission was the first to feature direct Pirelli product placement. Prior to 1986, the only connection to the company’s goods was vague (tire tracks seen in Uwe Ommer’s 1984 calendar, for example). When tasked to feature Pirelli’s wheels front and center, Newton eagerly embraced the challenge. The images are chock-full of horsepower.
Pirelli didn’t stop there. The brand commissioned former Pirelli sharpshooters Peter Lindbergh and Patrick Demarchelier to snap a “celebratory” lineup of such models as Karolina Kurkova and Alek Wek, and organized a retrospective, which will be held in the company’s HangarBicocca venue in Milan. The latter will showcase the work of the thirty-plus photographers who have contributed to the calendar over the years.
Coco Rocha essentially took this season off in terms of the runway, walking exclusively for Zac Posen in New York and Giorgio Armani in Milan. But Rocha was far from out of service during fashion month. She’s been hard at work putting the final touches on her forthcoming documentary Letters to Haiti (making its New York City debut next month at Milk Studios) and crafting a line of jewelry for Senhoa, due out tomorrow on Senhoa.org. The collection ($65 to $995), which benefits victims of human trafficking in Cambodia by giving them job opportunities, is all handcrafted by a survivor of exploitation. “Once I heard the extent of the problem with human trafficking in Cambodia I knew I had to help,” Rocha told Style.com.
To show off her range of gunmetal and Swarovski necklaces, bracelets, and earrings, Rocha enlisted pal Behati Prinsloo to model alongside her in a new cinemagraph campaign by Jamie Beck, debuting exclusively here on Style.com. (For her print campaign, she also brought her friends into the picture—Iman and Caroline Trentini both appear with her in the Nigel Barker-lensed photos.)
“I first met Behati at a Louis Vuitton after-party in 2006 and we were instant friends,” Rocha says. “We feel like we went to model high school together so it’s always like a happy reunion when we get together.”
Karlie Kloss, Jourdan Dunn, Hilary Rhoda, Coco Rocha, Ataui Deng—with all of these top catwalkers in the same room just hours before the shows at Lincoln Center begin, you wouldn’t be off the mark if you thought they were at a last-minute casting call or fitting. But these girls, along with supes Christy Turlington and Doutzen Kroes, were at the Dream Downtown this morning for a reason more altruistic than peddling designer duds. They came out to support Iman, who is raising awareness for the ongoing famine in East Africa.
Iman (originally from Somalia), who was wearing her new Thakoon Masai plaid scarf, told Style.com: “It’s heartbreaking to hear about mothers who have to choose which of their children to save and which to leave behind in their search for food.” The legendary model decided to take action and created a bracelet, benefiting Save the Children, with the help of Modelinia and Noir jewelry.
“The easiest way to make an impact is to use your voice,” explained Turlington (who also supports Africa with her maternal health organization Every Mother Counts). “Making yourself heard is something we have the ability to do in the U.S. that many other women around the world don’t have.” Showing off her new bracelet, Kloss promised Iman (who is a “huge fan of Karlie”), “We’ll all be wearing these backstage this week.”
Modelinia Beautiful Friends Forever bracelets are available at www.noirjewelry.com, $35 each.