As usual, Victoria’s Secret’s annual fashion show brings supermodels, super-wings, and little to no underwear that you can actually, you know… wear under things. Please note, as ever, that while no one herein is really showing anything SCANDALOUS, if your office would side-eye you looking at photos of ladies in their bras… there are a lot of ladies in their bras forthcoming.
The show also, in its usual attempts to go big, may have overstepped in the eyes of observers like Cosmo’s Helin Jung, who took issue with the mish-mash of cultural influences that she considered condescending, hollow cherry-picking. [NOTE: That piece has since been removed from Cosmo’s website, suggesting to me that perhaps the magazine did not want to upset an advertiser; I hope Helin can get it republished elsewhere.]
[D]on’t let yourself be hoodwinked by Victoria’s Secret’s brazen attempt to re-label what is clearly cultural appropriation by turning it into a celebration of “culture.” The brand and its creative leads shamelessly cherry-picked imagery, breaking apart aesthetic references from wherever they wanted and stitching them back together again. They’re telling us it’s worldliness. It’s not, it’s a hack job.
Collection creative director Sophia Neophitou described the hand-painted fabrics used in this segment by saying, “It’s meant to be this naive, homespun … but this is so luxurious.” It doesn’t get much more patronizing than that, does it? The original version is made by simple people (“naive”) who make crafts (“homespun”), and it’s Victoria’s Secret that can elevate the primitive to something more “luxurious.” […] The brand is leading with the notion that we’re all members of the human race, therefore everything belongs to everyone. But this is exceptional disingenuousness coming from a brand that once put Karlie Kloss in a Native American war bonnet and leopard print underwear.”
It’s a thought-provoking interpretation, one which also ties back to some of the discussions we had on GFY in good faith after the 2015 Met Gala, whose theme centering on China led to a lot of debate about where homage or inspiration cross into appropriation — and how easy it might be to aim for the former and hit the latter instead. It’s tricky territory, but one that you’d hope a major global corporation like Victoria’s Secret could walk a bit more deftly than it does or has. We’d love to hear your comments.
[Photos: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images for Victoria’s Secret]