By now you must have heard of the backlash over a Vogue.it feature which appeared on the on 5 August and was deemed racist and offensive. For those not aware of the controversy, it all started with a feature on hoop earrings, referring to them as “slave earrings” and speaking of them as a “classic always in evolution.” To add insult to injury, the origins of these hoops were blithely explained as such:
If the name brings to the mind the decorative traditions of the women of color who were brought to the southern Unites States during the slave trade, the latest interpretation is pure freedom.”
Although the piece was live for more than two weeks, it was only the beginning of this week fashion blogs and social media sites erupted with charges that Vogue Italia was glamorising – or at the very least trivialising – slavery. The feature itself attracted over hundred of comments from irate readers offended by Vogue Italia’s not so subtle reminiscence of a dark period for humanity for style inspiration (We highly doubt the hundreds of slaves aboard Amistad, chained to each other below deck and left to their devices on the terrifying journey across the Atlantic to a dubious future were too fussed about fashion statements.)
Today Vogue Italia editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani made a public apology with the statement, “We apologise for the inconvenience. It is a matter of really bad translation from Italian into English. The Italian word, which defines those kind of earrings, should instead be translated into ‘ethnical style earrings.'” And following the backlash, Vogue Italia has now changed the title of the feature from “Slave Earrings” to “Ethnic Earrings” and removed the article “to prove our good faith and to show it wasn’t our intention to insult anyone.”
Considering the juxtaposition of the words “slave” in the title repeated once again in the article and “pure freedom” which leads one to believe they were carefully counterbalanced and comments from many Italian speakers on social media networks challenging Sozzani’s defense of the title (What about the rest of the piece, Franca?), this apology doesn’t quite cut it for us.
What’s more, for many, it seems, “ethnic” doesn’t quite cut it either, with one commenter slamming Vogue Italia as such:
Lost in translation or not, you people are seriously thoughtless and ignorant. Even to call them “ethnic”……..what ethnicity do you refer to? There is an entire world of different ethnicities here on Earth. I can’t say I know what planet you people are from though. I’ll just have to suggest you go back……and take your magazine with you as well.”
Another commenter, Lex, says:
It’s always the standard cover up from marketing and advertisement that it wasn’t the “intent” to convey racism. At what point in the printing process, the review process, the final cut process did someone over look the fact that this title of “slave earrings” could possibly be misinterpreted or offensive? How with all the employees couldn’t this be stopped if it was never the “intent?” So no one has common sense? Ever one there is racist? I find that hard to believe. I find it extremely hard to believe this wasn’t the “intent.” Slavery isn’t a light issue… it’s deeply rooted in the identification of a entire population of people… it should always be the “intent” to remember the suffering of others when deciding the name of a product!!!!
Is it really too much to expect predominantly Caucasian upper-middle class, ABC1 magazines to be a little bit more sensitive in their linguistic and editorial choices when it comes to issue which may be offensive to those who may not fit into the aforementioned racial and social class, or perhaps for a brand who has deemed black models worthy of gracing the covers of just one issue dedicated to them and packaged it as the Black Vogue (despite black models appearing in only 25% of the whole issue) and only last year blacked up Lara Stone in a fashion story frighteningly reminiscent of 19th century minstrel shows (French Vogue), is this just another bout of Vogueism (ie. Louboutin-ed foot-in-mouth disease)?