Hailee Steinfeld Miu Miu Ad Banned by ASA

There is always plenty of talk about how advertisements in the fashion industry influence their viewers, and it usually revolves around the same things: the ads are too sexual, the models are too skinny, or the ad is just all around too offensive. So I was a little surprised, and albeit slightly amused when I first saw this over Thanksgiving break about young Hailee Steifeld’s Miu Miu ad being banned in the UK by their Advertising Standards Authority, who claimed that the photograph is “irresponsible” because she is a (14 year-old) ‘child’ sitting on some railroad tracks dressed in a very expensive, high-fashion wardrobe.

Some ads elicit an immediate shock or awe for various reasons. As stated in a few previous posts, some are just guilty of terrible Photoshoping or using disturbingly skinny models. Others push the envelope when it comes to promiscuity and sexuality, ala American Apparel or Tom Ford. When I saw the headline for the article and then saw the photo it wasn’t immediately clear to me exactly what the problem was with the ad. I mean, I guess I get it: she’s sitting on the tracks (though unrestrained) and she may or may not be wiping away a single tear. Does she want a train to come and run over her because her life is in shambles? Because for a fourteen year-old who’s pondering suicide, a fashion magazine running this ad would probably be their last source for information on how to do so.

Fashionista.com had a funny response to the ban, showing different campaigns that could also be deemed “unsafe” on the same grounds as Miu Miu:

Karlie Kloss for Oscar de la Renta: I mean, a car could come out of that garage at any moment.

Marion Cotillard for Dior: While impressive, climbing the Eiffel Tower in heels while carrying a handbag is probably not a great idea.

Daphne Groeneveld and Anaïs Pouiliot for Louis Vuitton: Ever heard of a seatbelt?

Sisley: Doesn’t this make you want to do drugs?

The funny thing is that while some brands go out of their way to walk the fine line between edgy and offensive for the sake of stirring up some controversy, I think Miu Miu was merely just aiming for a campaign with beautiful photos portraying a mundane story. At the end of the day, however, there’s no such thing as bad press. How many people would have taken the time to observe and scrutinize this fairly plain ad? Because of all the press this has been getting, thousands of people across the globe who would have never even picked up a fashion magazine in the first place suddenly are acquainted with this image, but more importantly with Miu Miu.

Photos & captions from fashionista.com

The Body as a Source of Power

I was fascinated this week by Alexander Edmonds article about plastica in Brazil. In my opinion the most telling part of the article was at the very end when Edmonds makes the statement, “When access to education is limited, the body- relative to the mind- becomes a more important basis for identity as well as a source of power”. Is it any wonder, then, that some of the most beautiful and striking models arise out of some of the World’s poorest nations?

 

I was reminded of the tragic story of Ana Carolina Reston, a Brazilian model who died of anorexia in November of 2006 at the age of twenty-one. In her case, as Edmonds puts it, her beauty was her “source of power”. When she was a child, her family’s savings were stolen, and suddenly she felt that she was responsible for helping her family out. After winning a small beauty contest in her hometown of Jundai she began to model and her career took off.  Some could argue that there is nothing she wouldn’t do for her career to be successful, and many speculate this is how her weight loss spiraled out of control. For Reston, looking thin and achieving an ideal body type was a small price to pay to be successful. She died November 15, 2006 after kidney failure due to anorexia. She was 5’8” and weighed 88 lbs.

 

Natalia Vodianova is another example of a model raised in extremely poor conditions (in her case in Russia), but her story is one with a happy ending. She enrolled in modeling school and learned English when she was fifteen, and by the time she was seventeen she moved to Paris to pursue her modeling career. In her case her mother knew that this would be her path to a better life for her and her family, and she urged Natalia to go. At the time it was a sacrifice, but twelve years later, she has walked in over 175 runway shows around the world for the industry’s biggest names and has graced the cover of Vogue, twice.

 

These two stories get back to Edmond’s idea that these women take part in plastica because it could be what they need to have their big break, and at the very least, to be the breadwinner for their family. In most cases it isn’t out of vain, but out of a yearning and longing for a better life, no matter what the cost.

Counterfeits vs Knock-Offs

I really enjoyed the reading “Bag Man” this week, and I also am very interested in this topic of counterfeit goods in, especially in the fashion and apparel industries. Surrounding the industry in New York especially there are a few arbitrary terms that get thrown around quite a bit- fakes, knock-offs, and counterfeits. Some people will throw these terms around interchangeably when they are not in fact the same thing. I guess a “fake” and a “counterfeit” could in fact be considered the same thing, but this is a different phenomenon then a knock-off.

Everyone knows why counterfeits are bad, and the article touched on a lot of these issues. Anyone can go to Canal Street and buy a counterfeit Louis Vuitton behind a sketchy unmarked door and pay no more than forty bucks for it. But as the consumer for that $40 bag, you become responsible for endorsing the harsh labor conditions in which it was made. You are also putting (too much) cash into the pocket of the person who sold it to you, which will more likely than not be used to fund organized crime or drug trafficking. By purchasing that $40 bag you become the evil sidekick to the most ominous villain to the fashion industry- the counterfeit.

Looking at the other end of the spectrum, I think the idea of “knock-offs” act as a stimulus for the fashion and apparel industry; they push the fashion cycle onward while providing the continuous need for creativity and innovation by influential design houses all over the world. Stores and brands that specialize in knock-offs like H&M, Forever21, and Steve Madden, help move trends not only across the country, but also around the globe. They allow the average consumer to purchase runway inspired looks for less at a time when price matters more than ever. With the way the economy has been over past few years (and the way it will inevitably continue to be for some time) knock-offs are ironically the fashion industry’s saving grace.

Do I think it is okay to blatantly copy someone else’s design or idea? No. Do I think it is okay to be inspired by someone else’s design or idea? Absolutely. There is a fine line between the two and I think that is where the bulk of controversy surrounding this issue starts. It took me a while before I fully understand the implications of my actions concerning the apparel industry. I know that by supporting knock-offs in the fashion industry I am in no way condoning legitimate piracy or the manufacturing and selling of counterfeit goods, nor the harsh proceedings that are associated with them, like sweatshops or slave labor, in some cases. Instead, I remember that knock-offs are imperative to the industry to keep fashion alive and running as we know it, and that is something I support 100%.

 

Lululemon Athetica

I love the feeling I get every time I walk into the fitness wear store Lululemon Athetica- a fine mix of power and grace at the same time. After all, nothing can make you feel more powerful than a fantastic, kick-ass workout, which is exactly the kind of workout you get when you wear their brand. But their clothes still manage to elicit feelings of femininity with a wonderful array of top-of-the-line fabrics and cuts that come in beautiful and unique colors. Though relatively small in space, the store manages to have an open and airy feeling; space conducive to moving freely. In other words, it was not overwhelming or crammed. I felt like I had control over the store to browse as I please. The staff greeted me with enthusiasm yet still were not overbearing, and I felt like the represented the brand well. They carried themselves confidently but were still empathetic with the needs of their customers. It is no doubt the brand is desired because of this power and confidence that comes with wearing their clothes.

“Model off duty”

Maybe there is a better term for it? This look is sort of paradox between being lazy and being a badass. It is comfortable, yet confident; cozy, yet cold. Within the past few years I would say this look has become popular by Alexander Wang. It basically consists of articles of clothing made of jersey knit that run the full spectrum of the grayscale, but heavy knits or leather jackets have the potential to pop up every now and then. It’s “beautiful”, yet still raw, with an organic feeling of ease and comfort. At times it runs along the lines of ambiguity and androgyny, but can still be sexy in the most understated of ways. Hair is left unstyled, and make-up is left to a minimum. Is it beautiful without really trying, or is it the product of actively trying not to be beautiful at all?