Since I heard Cintra Wilson’s talk on FIT’s Fashion & Music symposium, I really did started to notice that many fashion designers and stylist today consider being a dead super model to be the essence of cool. Raising your eyebrows? I did too, but here, I collected some very convincing images to illustrate that indeed fashion magazines today are conveying the message that being literally a fashion victim (and when I say victim, I mean rape and murder victim) is what you want to be.
At first I wanted to use this idea for a Then & Now post, but really, I couldn’t think of a time when being dead was so fashionable, can you?
He wants us all dead! Marc Jacobs is one of the biggest offenders, here model Lara Stone is dumped by the road, but she’s happy because she still has her Louis Vuitton bag. An ad for Louis Vuitton. Model: Lara Stone
Prada is another big offender, her models are almost always drop dead.
Prada also likes them to die in pairs, it’s sexier this way. An ad for the Fairy Handbags from 2010.
Editorial in Dazed and Confused August 2011. photographer: Kacper Kasprzyk, stylist: Karen Langley.
This one just dropped dead while on vacation in Italy, maybe she regretted eating too much pasta and decided to fashionably end it all. Tar Magazine, The Road To Palermo. source: trendland.com
Do you believe Cintra now?? These fashion victims drop dead all over, even in the office, on the scanner! They don’t care though, they have their beautiful “tribal” jewelry, and that’s all they need. Photographer Henry Hargreaves’ Scanner Photoshoot. Source: Trendland.com
And even brides love to be dead! Bride Under Black Water. Styling: Li Agmon and Lital Cohen. Source: Walla.com
I have many more questions than answers about this phenomenon in advertising which has been gaining popularity since the 80s. Are these ads intended just to shock? Are they some kind of critique or comment on the consumers? Is this another form of objectification running rampant in the fashion industry? Why is the fashion industry so obsessed with hurting or killing women, their very consumers? Do the people who work in fashion have a higher interest than a normal person with death? And then my mind works back around to the question, is this all just for the shock and to grab our attention?
Good questions, and yes, lot less answers. It will be interesting to read Cintra’s book when it comes out, I am sure she has some theories.
I can’t wait to read her book. I think it’s so interesting that we just flip through magazines with these ads without a second glance – without reacting to them or questioning them. It’s never talked about.
Another campaign that comes to mind is the spread from Vogue Italia a few years ago that was inspired by an oil spill – with lots of dead women!
Some time during the 19th century tuberculosis was all the rage. Fragility and a deadly white complexion were the attributes, women took stuff like arsenic to make themselves pale.
Regarding the last photograph – bride under black water – there are more assiciations for me than Ophelia alone. This strange, slightly nauseating link between death and beauty is by no means new: I could send you some very interesting photographs it’s just that I dare not – it is forbidden to take photos in that church some 10 km from my place and the dead saints are exposed only for a few days around Augutst 15th. Mercifully, their coffins are closed for the rest of the year.
Imagine perfectly white and complete skeletons, allegedly three men and three women, two of them visibly children by the size of their heads. While the models in the pictures are alive and pose as dead, these are dead and pose as living people. They are wonderfully (and rather incongruently for saints!) dressed in that kind of military gear in which baroque painters used to depict Roman soldiers, full of gold and steel and velvet and gems and stitchery, with a two-handed sword, the women in velvet robes. The waists of these robes are impossibly narrow, possible only for a skeleton. Their faces are covered with just that kind of tight, gauzy material like in “bride under black water”.
The combination of beauty/glamour and death is quite shocking and exactly the same as in your photos. The convent to which the church belongs did not have any estates besides a guest house – as early as the 17th century they made their living by displaying these “saints”. I wonder where they got them from – never did complete and white skeletons come from the Roman catacombs. They must have been fabricated to earn money. Their pictures would blend seamlessly into this post.
I love your work, good luck for you and your blog!
Perhaps these are the modern day vanitas still lifes, as were common in 17th century Dutch and Flemish art… the paintings were intended to remind the viewer of his/her undeniable mortality and the inconstancy of earthly possessions, and often included dead things- rabbits, pigeons, seafood, human skulls. Here’s a good example: http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/vanitas-still-life-33611
Oh, I should also say that the vanitas paintings were also, paradoxically, filled with gorgeous luxury items- fabrics, china, glassware, flowers- that only very wealthy patrons of the arts could afford.
The difference between the these modern depictions and the vanitas is that they are advertisements designed to SELL something.
Yes, and they convey the idea that extreme suffering in women is beautiful and to be cherished. There are also fashion advertisements that show quite undisguised rape scenes.
I like the reference to the vantias, although I think they reminded wealthy patrons that although they own beautiful, luxury goods they are still mortal. Whereas the examples shown here seem to convey the message that you want to die holding your goods. Maybe it goes to an even earlier period in time when in ancient Egypt the wealthy were berried with their possessions.
Claudia, you have a good point. It should also be noted that such imagery is only used to promote goods intended for women’s consumption. You don’t see ads or editorials with men raped and dumped by the road side.