Models Resemble Dead Birds in Italian Vogue’s Twisted Oil-Spill Fashion Spread

Dead pelicans are so in for fall.

Italian Vogue's September issue features a 24-page fashion spread in which a dirty, grease-streaked Kristen McMenamy flops around on an oily beach wearing black, feathery outfits. The pictures, shot by Steven Meisel, are obviously meant to be provocative. But what kind of a reaction is Vogue really trying to get?

Fashion and fashion magazines are supposed to inspire and provoke, no argument there. These (admittedly gorgeous) images could be interpreted as a call to Gulf Coast action, one whose end goal is to make readers feel so moved and/or disgusted that they start funneling their life's savings into wildlife-relief funds. Or, the editorial could be seen as a slick (no pun intended) and tasteless publicity stunt, in which case, we predict, it'll be far more successful.

One shot in particular shows McMenamy coughing up seawater, the way a dying animal might rasp through its last, oil-choked breath. It's at once beautiful and revolting, eye-catching and alienating. So what is it: ballsy fashion journalism rooted in reality, or just a sick glamorization of a traumatic event?

More to the point, if showcasing the clothing is still the overarching objective in any fashion editorial, shouldn't we be able to, you know, see them? They probably looked pretty cool before they were soaked in gasoline.

PHOTOS: Vogue Italia Runs a Controversial Oil Spill-Inspired Editorial [Refinery29]