Somehow, in 2013, yet another magazine has decided it would be a good idea to put a Caucasian model in literal blackface for a fashion editorial. This time, the culprit is Vogue Netherlands. (In the recent past, Numéro, L’Officiel and Vogue Paris, have all come under for using blackface.)
Model Querelle Jansen stars in the May 2013 issue’s “Heritage Heroes,” sort of a retrospective editorial of some of Marc Jacobs’s work for Louis Vuitton. The styling of each look is, we guess, somehow meant to illustrate the inspiration of a particular collection. Marc Jacobs found inspiration in African-American cultural icons for his Fall 2008 and Spring 2009 collections–Grace Jones and Josephine Baker, respectively. Vogue Netherlands decided that the best way to convey those inspirations would be with some white models, black face paint and wigs of what looks like black hair, worn throughout. A caption from the editorial translates to “This collection is inspired by the style of the Parisian showgirl Josephine Baker, mixed with tribal influences.”
A couple of alternative ideas: use a model who already looks something like Grace Jones or Josephine Baker without face paint. Or just, you know, don’t paint a white person’s face black ever? Why is this even something we have to keep pointing out? European editors and stylists especially, it seems, are really not getting it.
Vogue Netherlands, though it’s a relatively new Vogue (it launched in March of last year), has a particularly bad track record with using non-white models. And lest we forget, the Netherlands is also the birthplace of the controversial “Zwarte Piet” tradition, wherein Dutch people dress up in blackface to celebrate
Christmas Sinterklaas* every year.
We’ve reached out to Vogue Netherlands for comment and will update when we hear back.
You can see the full editorial over at The Fashion Spot.
Update: As many Dutch commenters have pointed out, Zwarte Piet takes place during Sinterklaas, a winter holiday that is similar to Christmas but preceeds it. Those in blackface are depicting a helper of Sinterklaas (essentially Santa Claus) who was either a slave or a white person covered in soot, depending on whom you ask. While some see it as problematic, others see it as harmless.