It’s bewitching, it’s dark, it’s…not exactly diverse.
Steven Meisel lensed the July cover of Vogue Italia, a macabre mix of raw concrete, inky sheer Gucci gowns, and all-too-pervasive pallor. There is a whole lot to love about the image, from the set’s twisted trappings of a childhood playground to the oil slick hair courtesy of Guido Palau, so it pains us somewhat that we must take issue with the casting choice. But take it we must — after all, how many covers do we see nowadays that warrant any comment whatsoever?
The photo was released yesterday, just days after editor in chief Franca Sozzani spoke at the United Nations about her efforts towards supporting international development in the fashion industry, particularly in Africa. In light of this, we think it’s a shame that the girls cast for the blue chip cover hail solely from the same old model breeding grounds of Eastern Europe, Australia, and the U.S of A.
Our thinking is this: Sozzani is clearly conscious of the significant lack of diversity in Vogue Italia and fashion magazines in general, given her vocal stance on eating disorders, embroilment in the recent ‘slave earring‘ and ‘Haute Mess‘ controversies, decision to put together an all-black issue back in 2008, and of course the sheer fact that after said issue Vogue Italia didn’t put another black model on their cover for four whole years. Once in possession of this kind of awareness, whether through force or gradual realization, doesn’t it tend to, well, *color* the way you see things? And at that point, isn’t it a little hard to justify an all-white group cover as a purely aesthetic choice?
Vogue is hardly the only culprit here. Vanity Fair tends to find themselves plagued with accusations of racism every time their ‘Young Hollywood’ group cover rolls around, perhaps because the images reliably depict a sea of white faces with the occasional actor of color cast off to one of the fold-out pages.
In the case of Vogue Italia’s July cover in particular, skin color seems to be used as a kind of accessory. It’s a little like when glossies choose a group of black models for a brightly-colored swimwear shoot for contrast effect alone. Pale girls in black dresses? Similar visual outcome, similarly grating concept. Most of the models cast are also newbies to the industry, which means they lend a certain anonymity to the image. Cadavers in evening gowns, if you will. Thanks to the ever-reliable Fashion Spot commentariat, however, the cover stars have been identified as Mackenzie Drazan, Vanessa Axente, Erjona Ala, Lida Fox and Julia Nobis, all of whom are above the age of 16 (we checked!) so at least no one can accuse Sozzani of flouting the Health Initiative guidelines.
Baby steps, we suppose…if babies wore Balenciaga stilettos.
So what do you think: does the visual impact of the photo justify its lack of diversity? Or would the cover benefit from a richer cross-section of the modeling industry?