Fashion is nothing if not ripe grounds for controversy. Case in point: the backlash brewing over the recently published photos of Claudia Schiffer shot by Karl Lagerfeld two years ago for a Dom Perignon ad campaign. In case you’ve been off somewhere fabulous, the series of photos envision the typically blond-hair-blue-eyed Schiffer as, among other things, Marie Antoinette, a secretary and most questionably…an asian woman and a black woman.
Well, now Claudia’s rep has come out in defense of the pictures, saying that they were not intended to be offensive, and were taken out of context.
“The images were designed to reflect different men’s fantasies. They were done very creatively and they are some of Karl Lagerfeld’s favourite images of Claudia. People should not jump to conclusions.”
Creative license and Karl’s genius aside, this explanation does little to amend, particularly in consideration of the sexualized history of African American woman in the white tradition. In fact, it only hammers home what critics are saying in copping to deliberately painting Claudia black for the purpose of constructing her as an object of sexual fantasy. Reading too much into it? Maybe. But then again, the days of existing in a cultural vacuum have long past — anyone with a Twitter account can make their opinions public, so things like this just don’t fly.
As Shevelle Rhule, fashion editor at black lifestyle magazine Pride, notes. “I don’t believe they deliberately set out to offend, but clearly no thought has been given to the history behind what they have done and the comparisons it draws with minstrel shows.”