Friday, October 9, 2015

Unhate: Okay, If They Look Like That, Let Them In

Gorgeous model reading Mahound's Paradise

By Colin Freeman at The Telegraph (8 October):
'Migrant chic' fashion photoshoot in Hungary branded as 'sick' 
Images of models posing next to barbed wire fences and struggling with riot police causes outrage 
From the Holocaust and slavery through to "homelessness chic", the world of high fashion has never been afraid to tackle the most sensitive of issues in the least sensitive of ways. 
Now, haute couture is causing fresh outrage by turning its attention to Europe's migrant crisis - and the opportunities it offers to display luxury clothing brands. 
In a move that has ignited a storm of protest on social media, Norbert Baksa, a Hungarian photographer, has published a photoshoot inspired by the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have made their way through his home country in recent months. 
One shows a model in faux-peasant garb taking a "selfie" while stood next to a barbed wire fence. Another shows a woman dressed in a black Islamic headscarf and high-heeled boots, struggling with a riot policeman. In one pose, the model's top comes loose as she tries to free from the policeman's grip, half-exposing her breasts.
German police then drag her away
Predictably, the photo spread - entitled "Der Migrant" - has not gone quite as the creator intended it. "Some dude has actually done a fashion photoshoot on the theme of migrants," wrote one commentator on Twitter, branding it "art gone berserk". Another added: "This is not a parody, just sick". 
Mr Baksa's response, many might argue, has been just as predictable. First he said the controversy was simply to "draw attention" to the issue. And then, in a long and rambling statement, he blamed "the media". 
In a note posted on his website, he wrote: "I do not understand how people can take a clear stand (pro or con) while we are flooded with contradictory information through the media, so no one has extensive knowledge of the situation as a whole. 
"This is exactly what we wanted to picture: you see a suffering woman, who is also beautiful and despite her situation, has some high quality pieces of outfit and a smartphone.”
Some Hungarian guy named "Norbert". Can we drag him away, please? 
In causing upset around the globe, Mr Baksa is following down a long and well-trodden catwalk in which fashionistas have tried to mix politics with style statements, mostly with disastrous results. 
Among those that have backfired spectacularly were a striped shirt produced by Zara, the Spanish clothing retailer, which bore a pointed yellow star reminiscent of those worn by Holocaust prisoners. Another was a trend feature on Vogue Italia's fashion website titled "Slave earrings", which drew allegations of racism. 
The Vatican, meanwhile, was appalled at a Benetton advert showing Pope Benedict XVI kissing Ahmed el Tayyeb, a senior Egyptian imam, which the chain used in a campaign called "Unhate". 
The trend for adverts that deliberately courted controversy was first started by Benetton in 1992, when it used a picture of an Aids sufferer surrounded by his grieving family. Benetton said it was intended to "make people talk about dying of Aids". Cynics said it was intended to make people talk about Benetton. 
The trend was satirised - just - in the Ben Stiller comedy Zoolander, when a fashion mogul announces a new brand, Derelicte, described as "a fashion, a way of life inspired by the homeless, the vagrants, the crack wh****." 
The fashion designer John Galliano used clothing worn by the destitute as an inspiration for a real-life fashion line in 2000.

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