Wednesday, September 10, 2008

India Vogue: The haves and the have nots

Fashion has long been criticized for its models with "unique" body proportions (read: unhealthy extremes).

However, this time it has started another conversation about the blatant contrast between the ultra rich and extreme poor in this Vogue India Fashion Spread that features the people in extreme poverty holding or wearing high fashion items that cost from several hundred to a thousand dollars. They included Hermes Birkin bag, a Burberry umbrella, and a baby's Fendi bib.

This is in a country where the per capita income just recently hit $950 in 2007, up from $460 in 200 (according to the World Bank).

An editor with Vogue India was quoted in the NY Times as saying "Lighten up,” she said in a telephone interview. Vogue is about realizing the 'power of fashion' she said, and the shoot demonstrated that "fashion is no longer a rich man’s privilege. Anyone can carry it off and make it look beautiful."

While it's benevolent of her to point out that people in poverty can wear high fashion without taking away from the 'beauty' of the item, she says nothing about the beauty of the people themselves. In fact, the issue doesn't even name the models.

To me this contrast between the rich and the poor beautifully illustrates just how absolutely ridiculous high fashion can be, and how ridiculous we are for falling for it. Yes, we all want to look good, or maintain a professional appearance, but when there are people starving in the world - and the fashion magazines putting it right in your face so you can't avoid it - how could you then go out and drop a few hundred on a purse?

How you choose to spend your money aside, do you think it's appropriate for the magazine to show people in poverty carrying the Burberry umbrella? I personally think at the very least it's sparking a conversation about the ultra poor... and that hopefully some good will come of it.

Women on their way to work in Chennai. Note the absence of Hermes Bags.

Related Posts: 10,000 reasons to buy; Concious Gifting; Fish out of Water - My experience in Nicaragua; Olympics in China - Has anything really changed?;
The screenshot of Vogue India is courtesy of the NYT. The photo of the Indian women courtesy of Casey and her trip to Southern India to visit her brother.

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