Why Won’t Fashion Ditch the Problematic?

Tell me this and tell me no more, why does the fashion industry refuse to ditch problematic individuals?

From designers to photographers to models, we have a plethora of individuals facing allegations and charges of racism, sexism, sexual assault, physical assault … it goes on. But, season after season, there they are on the front rows, gazing out from magazine covers and being credited with a seemingly endless stream of work.

And why? Is there not enough decent creatives in the world? Do we really even need to think about separating the artist from their art? Is it not time we demand more as consumers?

Dior’s love affair with Johnny Depp seems in no danger of lagging. Dolce and Gabbana (the men) are unmitigated PR disasters. Roman Polanski was on the front row at Miu Miu. Valentino decked out Nas and ASAP Bari was spotted at the latest Dior show. Not to mention John Galliano’s kinda, sorta, but not real shunning to the house of Margiela or Grace Coddington’s ongoing friendship with Bruce Weber. Each one has accusations of wrong-doing laid against them. Ah the comfort of the fashion fave…

Why should we care, I hear you ask? I’ll remind you of that Meryl Street monologue from Devil Wears Prada, you remember the one …

Exaggerated? Obviously. But there’s a nugget of truth here. Even if you’re not buying Dior or Louis Vuitton or original photography, this very much involves you as a consumer.

There’s been some chat about the democratisation of fashion in recent years. That trends are coming from the streets now. But fashion isn’t becoming democratised; high fashion is reacting to the times and becoming more wearable.

Women are working, being hand-on child-rearers, demand more versatility. Hence the looks at Wang et al. have become incredibly easy to directly duplicate by the designers at Zara or H&M. You’ll be seeing knock-offs of those chained holdalls on Rowme.com any day now. The Gucci vs Forever 21 case is a perfect example of just how much ‘inspiration’ fast-fashion stores take from the catwalk.

By shopping in any high street store, we’re feeding into the fashion animal. The choices they make reflects what they think we, as consumers, want to see. So let’s take a look at some of fashion’s most desirable, shall we?

Ian Connor

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Ian Connor is a model. He’s worked with Drake, Virgl, Kanye and sat FROW at Raf. Vogue entitled him ‘Kanye West’s New Style Muse’ … whatever the fuck that means and sister publication Vogue Italia did a story on his style in 2017. Oh and he’s only 25.

Ian Connor has also been accused of rape 21 times. His first accuser spoke out in 2016, a case that did not progress due to lack of physical evidence. The day after this first accusation became public, five more women came forward with their own stories.

It has since come to light that model-turned-activist Amber Rose has spoken with 21 women who accuse Connor of sexual assault. Despite the publicity surrounding the case, his alleged targeting of young, poor, black women made it very difficult to come forward. It is a him-against-us mentality.

Fashion's Problematic Characters, Rape Statistics, sexual assault in fashion

Connor has not been charged and continues to work consistently in the fashion industry. He was front row at Virgl Abloh’s debut Louis Vuitton show.

Ian Connor

Roman Polanski, Muccia Prada, Miu Miu, Fashion's Problematic Characters

Where do I begin here? The man is a fugitive on the run because he pled guilty to having sex with a 13 year old in 1977. He’s had at least two other women come forward about his sexual misconduct. The absolute gall to have him front row and have Uma Thurman, who’s been vocal about her treatment by directors in the last year, walking in the show.

But coverage of his completely inappropriate presence cause little to no comment in the fashion media. W Magazine literally closed their article on the show with a single line on Polanski. Vogue coverage mentioned him in relation to his movie ‘Rosemary’s Baby’. WWD list him as an attendant.

Tell me Muccia, were you drunk at the guestlist meeting? Were you coming down from something? Was this an unpaid intern’s incredibly huge cock-up? THIS IS NOT SOMEONE YOU WANT TO ENDORSE BY HAVING THEM AT YOUR SHOW.  NEXT!!

Johnny Depp for Dior, Johnny Depp abuse accusations, Fashion's Problematic Characters, Johnny Depp allegations

Ah the tortured artist ideal. It’s all very French. There’s a whiff of HS Thompson about Depp that he encourages no end. You can see why brands would want him.

But, hang on, didn’t his assistants go on the record saying they witnessed him being violent towards Amber Heard ? That he kicked her during an argument? Yes, yes they did. In fact, there was photos, text messages, a restraining order too. Heard repeatedly said that she feared Depp when he was drinking or on drugs. She was trying to protect herself.

In depressingly expected form, she was labelled a gold-digger and Depp received more attention for his joke about assassinating Trump. Depp continues to have a strong career. Dior even cast him in a advert asking, ironically, ‘What would you do for love?’. It’s estimated he makes between $3-$5million per annual contract with the brand.

Johnny Depp hasn’t been charged – are we sensing a theme here? But you’d wonder, out of all the good-looking male celebrities who can pull off a bit of eyeliner – couldn’t Dior find one who wasn’t strongly linked to being an abuser? Shouldn’t they expect more for their millions? Why would we buy something with his face on it? Do better, Dior.

Dolce and Gabbana racist, Dolce and Gabbana homophobic, D&G, Dolce and Gabbana

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This pair are so problematic it’s borderline a joke at this point. Do we begin with the 2007 ad campaign that depicts a gang-bang? Or the fact that they didn’t want Chinese customers taking selfies with the window display of their Chinese flagship? Oh, oh oor when they called children of homosexual marriages ‘synthetic‘? That was a rightful shitshow for a minute.

I mean, what more do we expect from the lads who literally released a shoe called ‘Slave Sandal’? It’s beyond time to call ‘enough’ on their time in the spotlight. But why, oh why, does the fashion crowd flock to them still? Naomi and Monica continue to walk for them. They even got IG-celebrity Mariano Di Vaio in on the gig. It seems the blindspot to these two is eternal … because where else would we get over-wrought party dresses, not to mention crowns?!

Nas abuse claims, Kelis abuse, Nas, Nast at Valentino, Valentino

Nas, Nas album, Nas abuse claims, Nas abuse, Kelis abuse, Nas in Valentino, Valentino

He’s got a new album, produced by Kanye. There he is all decked in Valentino, as a guest at their show. Life is pretty good for Nas right now.

I mean, if we’re overlooking the fact that his ex-wife Kelis has recently come forward with abuse claims from their five-year marriage. And this wasn’t the first accusation of it’s kind. Another ex of the rapper recalls him punching her in the face. Ignorance seems to be the tact the fashion, and most media outlets, have taken in fact because the man’s yet to comment on the allegations.

Imagine all the publicity going along with a new record and nobody could get a comment out of him? Does a black woman’s voice still not carry weight? Are we desensitised after so many similar tales – we can’t bloody seem to get rid of Chris Brown? Are brands like Valentino hoping to cash-in with the ‘cool kids’ now that Nas is tied to Kanye, hoping we’ll forget the past?

 

A line that refers to every individual mentioned above… Please don’t forget. Women need you to remember.

Fashion is such a patriarchal sphere, where conservative mindset rules. It’s slow to evolve yet keeps assuring us that it’s ‘modern’, season after season. Because it’s never been held to higher standards, it still thinks it can get away with this nonsense.

Like any industry, fashion responds to demand. So make decisions consciously. Don’t separate the artist from the art. Give your applause considerately. Demand more from those who are trying to sell you things. Because these decisions help form the social structure we live in. And I don’t want to live in a culture that further normalises rape, physical and emotional abuse, do you?

 

 

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