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May 1, 2010

The Usual Suspects

Fashion models have been called “walking clothes hangers,” a label that suits this depiction of  Louis Vuitton’s latest “collection” of women. The bare, blank stares, haphazard variations on a uniform, and minimalist hairstyles position the models as vacant objects—things that substitute for Vuitton’s signature bags. The rectangular photos also connote mug shots in which the fashion industry’s usual suspects are captive to the consumer’s gaze. The soullessness of the photos’ subjects is underscored by a contrast introduced in the last shot. Supermodel Elle Macpherson’s engaged smile suggests that she, alone, has the clout to look us in the eye.

  • Books Alive

    Appropriate for May Day, International Workers Day!

  • Malika

    There is a definite 1930s European vibe to this line-up…objectification aesthetic? Maybe it’s the clothing and washed out nature of their faces. MacPherson definitely looks out of place…

  • thebewilderness

    I thought them to be mug shots of convicted prostitutes.

  • Janis

    So you are tacking towards the visual? Welcome aboard!

  • Gregzão

    Similar to ‘thebewilderness,’ I thought the anti-meth campaign joined forces with heroin-chic. Love your perspective on this, Kari.

  • emilysueonetwoonetwo

    After looking at a closeup of each of the girls, I noticed that none of them are wearing any makeup as well, contributing to the “blank”ness of the aesthetic. Without hair done, makeup on, and the dramatic lighting of the catwalk, these models really do recede into the background and fulfill the “walking hangers” description!

    Is this an advertisement for the line? Or something available on the website? If I had to guess, I would say that these are the polaroids taken during the fitting phase of preparing for a runway show in which girls are matched to “looks.” However, it would be quite interesting indeed if this is an actual ad from a magazine–I would definitely have to agree with your assessment that these girls are merely a “collection” akin to a collection of handbags!

  • Coffee at Night

    Is anyone else concerned with the lack of diversity? All the light faces blend right into the white background.

    Also – it looks like some these images were distorted. The enlarged forehead and bugging eyes on mostly all the women except Elle Macpherson is intriguing.

    Thank you for this, Kari.

  • futurebird

    There are three possibly 4 non-white models, but they do not stand out and i thought it was all white women at first. The visual cue I get from this is “our products are not for you” — I don’t bother to read deeper they aren’t event talking to me.

  • Nichola Gutgold

    Interesting insights as always, Kari. The idea that most women are inter-changeable springs to mind and the “mug shot” posed women look uncomfortable almost making me think of women who are trafficked. A bit creepy. Enjoyed your take on it. Thank you!

  • Hamster

    I find it interesting that Elle McPherson, who is certainly the oldest woman in this “collection,” looks more vibrant and alive than the rest.

  • Jennifer Bone

    The impression of the mug shot coupled with a few women wearing sunglasses creates an added layer of possible violence against these women.

  • acm

    yeah, I get something between a drug-rehab series of entry shots and the looks you might see at a battered women’s shelter. what on earth does that mean that Vuitton is selling?!?!?

  • Eric A

    Nicely compact analysis, Karrin. I’m also intrigued by the FLAG like design of the fashion stripes. Interesting that 50 of the (women’s) STATES are depressed ones and the 51st is the one smiling. Hmmmm . . . 50 depressed states? Recession/Criminal Chic is scarying me in new ways. And, women’s identities to attach to the depressed states is all too familiar. And, of course, from Louis.

  • Tinwoman

    If you are a woman, the phots are a threat and a promise. Battered, undernourished, traumatized women are marketed as sexy. Men like us that way. Women are to be defeated, through this kind of psychological warfare and, when that fails, through the direct violence which the propaganda suggests.

    I hate to say something so strident, but Andrea Dworkin was right: men are our enemies. Into my fifth decade of life I have seen that over and over and over again. Advertising only reflects the status quo. This is what men like.

    Women that are broken down with that vacant stare are sought after as girlfriends. Once you stand on your own two feet and start smiling and having a life, no man will talk to you any more. You “don’t need anybody”. You’re “not available enough”. You’re “not caring enough–you don’t take care of me”. You’re “a stuck up queen bee bitch”.

    You figure it out.

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