Last year Vice published a fashion story depicting famous female authors committing suicide. Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Parker, Sylvia Plath all featured in the editorial entitled “Last Words”. Feminist website Jezebel took the publication firmly to task for making suicide into a commercial spread. In one ghastly image a model hangs herself with a pair of tights. Hosiery gets a credit. Vice eventually removed the post from the site, issuing a toothless apology “to anyone who was hurt or offended.”
Now respected magazine Interview finds itself in a bit of a Vice quagmire. The November issue has published a fashion editorial called “Pretty Wasted” featuring models Anja Rubik, Lily Donaldson, Edita Vilkeviciute, Andreea Diaconu and Daria Strokous passed out in dark dank alleys. Their slender and unconscious limbs are positioned beside empty bottles of alcohol. Polka dot tights are ripped. Dresses from Marc Jacobs, Prada and Saint Laurent are pushed up past thighs. Metallic smokey eyes are mussed and the hair works that sweaty and dishevellad aesthetic that was such a hit at Fashion Week shows like Simone Rocha last month.
Fashionscanremastered.net posted the images to the internet and the reaction seems to be one of universal double-take. Yahoo Style chatted to Marcia Dawkins, assistant professor at USC Annenberg, about the submissive spread. She said, “The pictures not only take away the women’s consciousness and voices, but also their ability to consent to whatever happens to them next.” While some might defend the photoshoot as something those models chose to participate in, and got paid for, Dr. Norah Campbell, a lecturer in critical marketing in Trinity College Dublin’s School of Business, muses, “the moment someone says women are liberated is the moment that misogyny – women hating – reaches its full maturity. We do not live in an equal society – it is very silly to say that these women are somehow in control and doing this of their own free will. What a naïve idea of free will that would be.”
One would think that fashion, an industry where women are the target demographic, would think twice before even attempting to pitch such subjects as fit for sartorial commentary. Yet, in recent years various magazines have been acting like they didn’t get the memo that some things really aren’t copy. The horrific Delhi gang rape of 2012 inspired one photographer a few months ago – in a spread called ‘The Wrong Turn’ – and Vogue Italia has proven itself to be a chronically dab hand at offending sensibilities. Last Spring their domestic violence issue, dedicated to fighting abuse, had a photo shoot contained wherein one model lay like a corpse draped in a glorious red dress, her legs spread.
Diminishing the notion of consent is never in fashion, but in a world where women are far from equal it seems some people will always try and make a profit while keeping the fairer sex in an underpaid box, or rather, a heroin chic high fashion alley.
Follow Jeanne Sutton on Twitter @jeannedesutun