Italian Vogue's "Haute Mess" editorial has proven to be one of the most controversial in the glossy's history--and that's saying something. The spread, published in the magazine's March issue, features Jessica Stam, Joan Smalls, Coco Rocha and other top models wearing over-the-top, flashy clothes with crazy colorful weaves, heavily painted on makeup and impractically long nails while parading through a grocery store and a diner.
Many of the looks appear to depict American cultural stereotypes and resembled images from American sites like Nowaygirl.com, which post anonymous photographs of people in places like Wal Mart and McDonald’s with the intent of poking fun at them.
This lead many blogs and commenters to sound off on whether or not the spread was racist.
The Cut's Hilary Moss chatted with Sozzani about the editorial and the not-so-positive response it's gotten and while Sozzani seems willing to answer the questions, it doesn't seem like she always understands them. Either that or she's giving intentionally vague answers. For example...
She says that the point of the editorial was to be "creative and extravagant" and to "push people." Her response to people who felt the spread was racist:
A racist image, I really do not understand. I went through the pages so many times. Like when we did the Black Issue, everybody said that we did that on purpose because Obama was the person chosen to go to the White House, and if you just think one second, not more than one second, you can see that to make a magazine like what we did for the Black Issue, it takes six months [to do]. … People wanted to see an economical and a financial [decision], just to get more money, because we talk about Black Issue, it’s probably because the president is black. What do you answer? They don't know what it means to work at a magazine. That's it.
As for those who saw the spread as classist, she says those people are sick...or something:
[NYMag:]I’ve also seen the word classist being used, and comments about the opening model being pregnant, and the picture inside of another model changing a baby. [Franca Sozzani:]There are so many sick people around the world that you cannot — I don't care about them. I care about normal people. They want to read and see the normal way as we did. If they are sick, it's not my problem. I am not a psychologist. They should find somebody who could help them.
Here's what happened when she was asked about the looks and their similarity to photos found online of real people with identical hairdos:
[NYMag:]Another thing posted online were photos from a gallery of "Ghetto-Fabulous, Edible Hairdos," which looked a lot like the hairstyles from "Haute Mess." Did you see those? [Franca Sozzani:]I don't get the question, sorry. What's the question? [NYMag:]They were pictures of real women, taken a few years ago, with Skittles packages in their hair or basket-weave hairdos. They were probably the source photos, but they were also pretty close to the final styles. I wanted to know what you thought of those. [Franca Sozzani:]I don't know, I don't know what to answer. No.
So, overall, she doesn't really give much of a straight answer as to why the spread isn't racist or classist and it's hard to determine whether she's being intentionally vague, just didn't understand the questions, couldn't find the right (English) words to answer them fully, or, being an Italian fashion editor, just has a different perspective on race in American culture than we do. Most likely, it's all of those things put together.
What do you think of Sozzani's "defense"?