There’s a debate happening regarding a fashion shoot for the August issue of the Vogue India magazine. It shows ‘poor’ people (and I put the word ‘poor’ in quotes because everyone’s definition of poverty is subjective, and I for one don’t subscribe to the World Bank-issued definitions of the word) toting Burberry umbrellas and Hermès bags. There’s even one picture of an underprivileged kid wearing a Fendi bib.
This New York Times article quotes W+K Delhi Creative Director V.Sunil, who says that for now, the rapidly burgeoning Indian middle class is getting used to, and enjoying, the wealth that they are slowly accumulating. From personal experience, I can say that much is true, having been part of the generation in India that witnessed the change in the fortunes of a large number of people, thanks to globalization. But he also says that ‘no one thinks they need to do something deeper for the public’. That part is not true. In as much as there are luxury brands like Burberry and Louis Vuitton opening shop in India, there are social entrepreneurs who are doing their bit for the less privileged.
As for the cover, did Vogue have poetic, or in this case, fashionable license to shoot a cover like that? Or is Vogue’s editor right when she says people need to ‘lighten up’ and that the shoot was meant to illustrate that ‘fashion is no longer a rich man’s privilege. Anyone can carry it off and make it look beautiful’? This is what I think, given my backgrounds in both nonprofit and corporate India: Fashion IS no longer a rich man’s privilege, but it isn’t true that ANYone can carry it off (or afford it). In the same vein, I also think that anyone can make it look beautiful, and as long as people weren’t harmed during the shoot, which I doubt they were (and I hope they were paid as much as they deserved), then Vogue’s creative take on fashion in India can be compared to something like the Cadbury’s Gorilla ad. It was different. Full stop.
[image via the New York Times]