Is the Latest Vogue 'Diversity Issue' Trolling Us?

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G Schmidt, Location - Sarah G Schmidt's home

The fashion industry has made strides in inclusivity and showcasing diversity over the past few years. There has been a big push from inside and outside the industry to do better. To show more of a spectrum of the beautiful types – all types – of people that can showcase clothes.

As we shift from New York to London Fall 2017 Fashion Weeks, the runway is showing us more. More types of bodies, more types of backgrounds, and giving voice that it’s not okay to have racist-fuelled travel bans. Brands at New York cast models who didn’t have to take off their hijab or be a light skin tone. There were vivacious and slight body types alike. Yay! Shout outs to team Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Christian Siriano, and Gucci for their casting. Sure, there’s a long way to go yet but I’ll take the progress as a good sign.

Or so I thought. There’s that saying that you’ve got to take the good with the bad. Boy, do we ever when it comes to our American neighbours.

When I heard about the latest American Vogue issue dedicated to the theme of diversity I was pumped. I heard that there was going to be a bunch of different models – all sizes, background, and profile - on the cover. I was excited. But when I saw the cover and the inside diversity themed editorial I, like many, was taken aback.

Showcasing 7 models of a similar skin tone (thanks photoshop?), wearing a similar outfit, all smushed together on a beach is not exactly what I thought celebrating diversity. Why are we trying to make people look all the same when the theme is diversity? Why are the models turned to the side to appear slim instead of a more realistic or at least jubilant pose? That’s an obvious missed opportunity, cha?

When I got inside and saw the spread with Karlie Kloss featured as a Japanese Geisha, I was aghast. I said to myself, "This cannot be for real? Why would you cast a Caucasian American to portray a Japanese cultural icon? Surely there are more suitable – ahem, Japanese – models for a traditional Japanese cultural themed photoshoot." What a huge – and more disappointingly - deliberate miss.

That "nah-ah-nahhhhha" voice I acquired from working in advertising agencies that I thought was buried deep down inside me came back up and screamed, “There is no way this passed through all of the rumoured hoops of the Anna Wintour editorial approval process? This would have touched at least 100 people (set people, photographer team, wardrobe stylists, makeup artists, hair stylists, editorial team, creative team, location folks, agents, publishers, art department, and ANNA WINTOUR) in some way or another and they all thought, ‘Yep, this is so diverse. So 2017. Aren’t we progressive?’ and went ahead with it?"

<Imagine me face palming my head with both hands and squishing my face while simultaneously shaking my head “no” in utter disbelief.>

I couldn’t logically rationalize the whole thing so I pushed the topic to the back of my mind for a couple days. Bluuuugh.

Ready to try again, I reviewed the editorial. Although I was still disappointed I had a new dark, cynical thought: is Anna just fucking with us? Has she stooped to the lows of prioritizing click bait editorial decisions? Is she sabotaging the respected reputation of the magazine for the dreaded PR cutthroat strategy of all-press-is-good-press? Sadly, that, to me, makes more sense than trying to figure out how this could have happened in good faith.

Full disclosure: I do not claim to be a diversity expert. I have much to learn and aspire to one day live a woke existence. That said my gut instinct on this is that it is not rocket science; it’s quite simple. Should a brand, designer, editor, or whomever want to feature a specific culture, ethnicity, or background, let’s be sure to feature person from that exact community, shall we?

For a publication that prides itself on being so ahead of the curve in so many ways, this is a strong indication that it is not in vogue at all.