By Hiromi Go
Not only in Hollywood, but Asian Americans are targeted to be underrepresented in fashion industry as well. To be fair, mimicking cultural gestures and practice could be accepted at some point, however when it cross the line whatever models or designers are doing become more visibly racist. It doesn’t seem right when Caucasian models are representing Asian culture in Asia with “traditional” wears on. The idea of it is just overused, disrespectful, and most importantly no matter how they grew up, people should know better than this in twenty first century. Chinky eye makeups and distressed kimono is not a right way to express art, and moreover in order to use cultural materials, creators need to acknowledge the point of it and also show some respects to Asian culture. Presenting Asians as vulnerable human being has been the case, and here I suggest some stereotypes in fashion industry from a magazine issue from the US.
When the magazine is issuing to celebrate diversity, people would expect models with different background/ race. There’s a need of precision to respect or show how much the cultural content is correctly used in photographs. However, recent March issue of US Vogue aimed a little differently. Karlie Kloss (a former Victoria’s Secret model) that every teenager admire collaborated with Mikael Jansson and Phyllis Posnick for this photoshoot didn’t seem to be disturbed for posing with kimonos at all. This modeling took a place in Iseshima national park in Japan. The issue was named “Spirited Away” which was influenced by the most known studio Ghibli movie by Hayao Miyazaki. The title itself is already questionable, but the way the model wears kimono or how her hair is styled here is beyond questionable. When you look at all the photographs, the Caucasian model wears a huge black wig that’s partially loosen up and with lots of unnecessary hair accessories on the top. Traditionally hair has to be tied perfectly and also there’s only one or two hair accessories. If this photoshoot was influenced by Geisha, professional Geishas in Japan deserve an apology. The model’s skin is overly revealed and kimonos are not even set right. This way of wearing kimono could be very disrespectful and offensive at the same time. This is exactly what Stuart Hall was talking about in the lecture video. In Representation and The Media, the scholar talked about visual misconceptions of race. This underrepresentation of Japanese culture shows that there’s always a gap between how kimono should be worn and how it’s worn or deceived in Western culture even though it seems way off from the way kimonos are worn in Japan. Another problem here is that the model herself is not even Asian to represent Asian culture. This is not the first time for us to see obvious whitewashing like this, but how was she able to feel comfortable for modeling in this issue? The writer from Angry Asian Man Phil Yu had published a post about this right after the magazine came out. He claims, “did nobody even consider hiring an actual Asian model? So much for that “diversity” nonsense.”. The question is, did it have to be a Caucasian model to represent Japanese culture, and the answer is absolutely not. The number of Asian models are presumably less than Caucasian models, however I assume it was unlikely to not being able to find any Asian models for this photoshoot.
Yu, Phil. “Angry Asian Man.” Angry Asian Man. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2017.
Representation and The Media. Dir. Stuart Hall. Perf. Stuart Hall. N.p., n.d. Web.
Graham, Chris. “Vogue under Fire for ‘racist’ Photoshoot as Karlie Kloss Poses as Geisha in Issue Celebrating ‘diversity’.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 15 Feb. 2017. Web. 12 Mar. 2017.