Vogue Magazine Uses India’s Poor to Model Luxury Fashion

Vogue India August 2008A recent NY Times article titled “Vogue’s Fashion Photos Spark Debate in India”, examines the rise of India’s wealthy class and emerging middle class and the mad rush to market luxury brand fashion to them as seen through the editorial spread in Vogue India. The magazine’s August issue featured luxury goods (check out the Fendi bib on the little boy in the photo at left) modeled by average Indians – most of whom live on less than $1.25 a day.

Needless to say, many are up in arms about the photo shoot. Given my recent Black Star Rising blog post about the disparity between the photographer and the documented, this Vogue India editorial photo spread raises many questions for me:

– Were the Indian models able to keep the goods (as is typical payoff for traditional high fashion models)?

– Were model releases signed?

– What was the criteria for finding these models?

– What were the working conditions afforded to the Indian models for the photo shoot; for example, was there a buffet table, makeup, etc?

Vogue India editor Priya Tanna’s response was somewhat aloof stating that “fashion is no longer a rich man’s privilege. Anyone can carry it off and make it look beautiful,” and that “we weren’t trying to make a political statement or save the world.”

This is certainly NOT the first time non-models were used in fashion shoots but what infuriates me most is something mentioned at the end of the NY Times article. The photos’ captions do not mention the Indian models’ names but they (of course) credit the luxury items featured. Seems to be a perpetuation of India’s caste-based discrimination.

PLEASE COMMENT – What do you think?
Would this Vogue India fashion magazine spread have been more insulting if American Vogue had published it? Is it OK to use poor people as high fashion models?

PHOTO: Vogue India August 2008, Copyright NY Times – In Vogue India magazine, a child from a poor family modeled a Fendi bib, which costs about $100.

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