Racism or "Poetry"? You decide.



Does This Fashion Editorial Reinforce Asian Stereotypes?

This Interview Magazine fashion editorial shot by Billy Kidd is being criticized for perpetuating racist stereotypes towards Asian immigrants. The editorial, styled by Andrew Mukamal, has been called out by designer Phillip Lim and photographer Mark Gong, alongside many others within and outside of the fashion industry for its insensitivity towards the problematic clichés that have historically been assigned to Asian communities and propagated throughout media.

The photographs feature Asian model, Xiaoyin, in a traditional conical straw hat that is used throughout Asia to protect day laborers from the sun and rain when farming. The hat, in questionable taste, is branded with the Chanel logo and paired with Chanel sandals as the model carries an entire selection of what seem to be counterfeit Chanel handbags throughout Chinatown. Hmm, fucked up? You decide…

The editorial is named, “Coco Served Hot,” arguably reinforcing its mocking of immigrants’ struggle of selling imitation goods to make it in America. The title, an apparent play on words, explicitly connects “Coco” to the Chanel handbags and “served hot,” to “hot goods,” which are illegal products manufactured in violation of fair labor and wage requirements (typically faux designer goods). Further, the photographs were shot in Chinatown, a New York City district known for its market of counterfeit products sold largely by Asian immigrants along Canal street. In a heated discussion within the comments of Kidd’s Instagram, Phillip Lim asserts that:

These images reinforce several stereotypes that Asian immigrants/communities work so hard to break from—

  1. Hawking counterfeit goods
  2. It mocks the actual everyday struggle of immigrants trying to do what they can to survive in a country foreign to them
  3. Mainland Chinese workers (unless they are rural farmers in fields, or objectified in type cast films) actually don’t live like this

—this is just to start—please have a moment to reflect—it’s the equivalent of casating hispanics in field dresses in Dior.

Continuing his disapproval for the images, Lim created a post on Instagram reprimanding the matter and putting Interview Magazine on blast “for commissioning such poor judgment and taste.” He puts forward a set of questions: “What does this say about Asian culture? What stereotype are you perpetuating!?” The designer, in passionate fury, goes on to criticize Chanel for baring such a huge influence within Asian markets, but remaining silent regarding the editorial controversy. Clearly, Chanel bears a significant presence in it.

The photographer, in defense of the editorial’s criticisms, justifies his images by calling them “poetry.” He disclosed in a quote to Refinery 29 that, “It’s kind of like poetry when you look at an image, you’re going to put your own feelings into it and imply what you think you see in it… He [Lim] saw it as counterfeit bags whereas I saw it as an Asian women wearing a conical hat and carrying, you know, Chanel handbags to wherever she’s got to get to.” Unfortunately, the very clear symbols present throughout the photos have many thinking otherwise. How’s this for a poem, Kidd? Roses are red, violets are blue, we’re having a hard time believing you.

Source: Refinery 29

Images courtesy of The Fashion Law.

Stay tuned to Milk for on fashionable controversies. 

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