Vogue India is for the (Poor) People?

You know how every year at least one major fashion magazine goes to an “exotic” or “third world” destination and photographs thousands of dollars worth of clothes modeled by an obviously foreign (okay, white) model among a backdrop of beautiful, yet very poor people in their surroundings? But you can’t hate because the pictures are often gorgeous. It’s the Vogue version of anthropology and just about every single mag is guilty of it.

So when Vogue India, whom we have discussed before, attempted to do the same thing in their August issue…the reaction was, to say the least, mixed. India is home to about 456 million very poor people, and their spread, in which they showcased Burberry umbrellas and Hermès Birkin bags, are modeled by the country’s less-than-elite. The spread has been denounced by some, called an “example of vulgarity” and praised by others for it’s “creative juxtaposition”. India is home to a fast-growing and wealthy upper-class, but the reality is that most of the country’s population will never be able to afford just about anything that is shown in the spread, or probably in the magazine as a whole.
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Now what does this say about US Vogue, Elle, GQ or any other major mag that does the same thing? While most rags had the good sense not to produce a shoot in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco (where I once politely asked a man not to shoot-up while leaning on the hood of my car), what makes it acceptable to do the same thing in Nigeria? The one point of difference in this case is that most spreads of this nature keep the clothes on the model, not the “natives”, while Vogue India made it’s poor population the focal point. Here is where fashion meet commerce and society…and it’s muddy water.

Needles to say, it’s shot beautifully, but putting a Fendi bib on a poor or rich toddler…that’s just bad taste.

Vogue’s Fashion Photos Spark Debate in India [NYTimes]
Above: A man modeled a Burberry umbrella in Vogue that costs about $200 and a child from a poor family modeled a Fendi bib, which costs about $100.