Indian ‘Vogue’ Offends With Real-People Spread

A shot from the offending spread. Note the $200 Burberry umbrella. Photo:

Indian Vogue editors probably thought they had a pretty clever idea when they asked real people instead of professional models to pose for its current issue. Average men and women on the street appear in a photo spread flaunting items like a $10,000 Birkin bag, a $100 Fendi bib, and a $200 Burberry umbrella. But the thing is, 456 million people in India — half the country's population — live on less than $1.25 a day. So a lot of people are finding the spread rather sickening. New Delhi newspaper columnist Kanika Gahlaut told the New York Times she found it "not just tacky but downright distasteful," calling it an "example of vulgarity." She added it's not "fun or funny" to put a poor man in a mud hut in Alexander McQueen clothes. How did Indian Vogue editor Priya Tanna respond?

“Lighten up,” she said in a telephone interview. Vogue is about realizing the “power of fashion” she said, and the shoot was saying that “fashion is no longer a rich man’s privilege. Anyone can carry it off and make it look beautiful,” she said.

“You have to remember with fashion, you can’t take it that seriously,” Ms. Tanna said. “We weren’t trying to make a political statement or save the world,” she said.

Right — $10,000 Birkin bags are every man's privilege. Which is why we have seven. Critics are further upset that Tanna didn't even identify the names of the real people in the spread, simply referring to them as a "man" or "woman" and crediting the item. Maybe the fashion assistants were too busy trying to keep the McQueen samples wrapped in plastic when they were done shooting to write down names. Doing two things at once is tricky.

Vogue’s Fashion Photos Spark Debate in India [NYT]