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Friday, August 6, 2010

Art or exploiltation?

Can I have both please? Do hot models covered in oil and social commentary go together like... oil and water? Steven Meisel apparently doesn’t think so. He shot a series of spreads with Kristen McMenamy for Vogue Italy’s August issue.* While I’m all for bringing attention to environmental causes, this ain’t that. With cleanup operations still ongoing, maybe wait a few months before trivializing environmental disasters. Note the carefully poured oil across her legs as she lay there wearing the latest from Ralph Lauren.** (Well, wool is good for cleaning up oil.)

Forget what happens when you actually get covered by a spill, we’re making art here.

Not that it has to be 100% authentic, but fashion once again shows the world they live in and the one you don’t. That would be the one where tragedy is mined for its broader themes of art, mystery and commerce. Can a magazine take on causes? I’m not saying it can’t, but this doesn’t look like any fund to help the Gulf. Exploitation is nothing new for fashion though. Self-indulgence and images intended to shock are de rigueur. Diesel is about Diesel. Then you have D&G with S&M fantasies exploiting women’s issues.

Sex sells? Shock doesn’t do too poorly either. Latex ftw.

That’s not to say others don’t try and tackle deeper issues. A Benetton or American Apparel will take on causes like the death penalty or immigrant workers’ rights. The broader discourse and awareness, while nice, is still only a means to an end though. At the end of the day, regardless of what cause you’re pushing or issue you’re trying to bring attention to, brands still need to move product.

After all, we’re not making art here people. Or are we.

*A behind the scenes vid can be seen here.

**I’m sure Mr. American Collection will love having to explain why his name is associated with an Amercian tragedy. Donation to the Gulf ftw.

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