It's only been four months since the international versions of Vogue came together to agree not to use models under the age of 16 but already, Vogue Japan has gone against its word. The magazine shot 14 year-old Brazilian model Thairine Garcia for its December issue and ironically, the shoot was shot by Sharif Hamza, the photographer behind that controversial Vogue Paris shoot with the young girls dressed up as older women.
But its not the only one violating the agreement because Vogue China recently shot 15 year-old Ondria Hardin, despite the controversy that ensued after she walked in the Marc Jacobs show despite her age. In my opinion the frequent violations are indicative of a bigger issue. While the Vogue Initiative was a welcomed move into the right direction, the agreement clearly isn't worth the paper that it's printed on. And to some extent, one could go as far as saying that by having it in place without a proper enforcement mechanism actually sweeps the issue under the carpet and serves merely as a way to subdue the critics.
I just saw [that they photoshopped out my leg.] Maybe it’s two legs together? Maybe it’s the pose? I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ I think Photoshopping is OK until something like that happens. You don’t want to lose one of your limbs.
Recently all of the international editions of Vogue agreed to dedicate their June issues to health and aside from Vogue Germany, the results have been really good. Now all of the issues are out, one of the most interesting things that instantly stands out is the choice of models. Rather than opting for the ultra thin girls that are dominating at the moment, Vogue Paris chose Gisele for the cover and big editorial, Vogue Spain shot Hilary Rhoda and Vogue China booked Doutzen Kroes. While the girls are far from being representative of the average woman, their bodies are undoubtedly healthy and a better option from the types of girls these magazines typically shoot. Ironically, Kroes' editorial was aptly named, 'A Big Splash' too.
The majority of the editorials showcase summer swimwear, which instantly makes you think. Was the choice of models simply the result of trying to showcase the pieces in the best light or should we see it as a step in the right direction as far as the representation of a healthier body image goes. Even if is a positive step, there will be many that will argue that the commitment to health in the June issue is a one-off, rather than reflecting what we can expect to see in future. Since the July issues haven't all dropped on newsstands, I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
'I have to sit down at a desk to flip through it,' [Vogue China editor Angelica Cheung] says. 'It is going to get very difficult to read. It's too heavy. Maybe it will have to be two magazines in future.'
If you ask Kwok Chan, Marilyn Agency's director of international scouting, the increasing popularity of Asian models isn't just a fad. Chan, whose agency represents the model Liu Wen, also discusses in Vogue's December issue why none of the most hotly demanded faces are Asian-American, saying: “The only way I can explain why there are no big Asian-American names is, Why are photo shoots done in some exotic locale and it looks like you’ve shot in someone’s backyard? Fashion is fantasy; it’s about perception.”
Shiseido Creative Director Dick Page believes the increase in popularity is due to economics, since in the global market, China, Taiwan and South Korea have made strong gains in recent years. And seeing more Asian models, according to Vogue China Editor Angelica Cheung, has encouraged Asian consumers to shift their standard of beauty. She explained: “Traditionally the Chinese favored a classic kind of beauty — big, round eyes, cute small mouth, a high nose, and very fair skin. The Chinese models who have made it internationally are not beauties in the traditional sense, so they are modernizing the concept of beauty in China. When I was growing up in the seventies, everyone wore a blue, gray, or green Mao suit—there was no chance for women to be glamorous or different. Now you see young Chinese trying to be radical by dyeing their hair blonde or blue, sporting tattoos. It is a combination of copying what they see is popular in the Western world and trying to stand out in a nation where almost all of the 1.3 billion population have straight black hair and brown eyes."
Today I write this post saddened by the news that Conde Nast has rejected the idea of launching Vogue Africa. As expected, the news has caused differing views. While many were left disappointed and saw this as evidence that the West are still not willing to accept Africa and its creativity, it has been equally argued that Africa should build on it's own magazines as opposed to trying to align itself with a powerful brand like Vogue.
That said, the idea was the brainchild of Cameroonian make-up artist and photographer, Mario Epanya who has boldly expressed his dissatisfaction with the current situation. "I read my first Vogue in 1979 and have been buying it ever since," he said. "I always felt that African creativity was not represented."
Not content with the current state, Epanya contacted the director of Conde Nast directly but was dismissed. ".....About a month ago I sent the director of Conde Nast France a message via my friend, asking how I would go about getting a licence for Vogue Africa. He replied that no, it would not be possible to do the project."
Without using the racial card, having looked at the cover prototypes and read Epanya's ideas for the magazine it's hard to understand what grounds the concept was dismissed. Vogue is already published in 18 different countries including India and China so why not Vogue Africa? In an article written more than 25 years ago, it was predicted that black women will be responsible for over 50& of the health and beauty industry so why Africa continues to be ignored as a fashion and beauty hub is questionable.