This is why it’s not okay that Karlie Kloss was dressed as a geisha in “Vogue”
It may be the most respected fashion magazine on the planet, but Vogue has offended a lot of people with their latest March issue, which featured models Liu Wen, Ashley Graham, Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Imaan Hammam, Adwoa Aboah, and Vittoria Ceretti on the cover. The issue was meant to celebrate diversity, but the magazine received a lot of backlash for how much the women were airbrushed, and how Ashley Graham — the only woman who isn’t very, very thin — had her waist covered up by another model’s arm.
But inside this issue of Vogue, there was a six-page spread of model Karlie Kloss dressed as a geisha — a Japanese woman who serves to entertain crowds through dancing and performing.
Wearing a black wig and traditional Japanese garb, she posed next to a sumo wrestler, a tea house, and a pool. People were angry — and for good reason.
She was basically in “yellow face,” and the shoot was another example of cultural appropriation in the fashion industry.
Vogue is not the only fashion magazine to have published images of cultural appropriation in recent years. For example, Pharrell wore a Native American headdress for Elle in 2014, and Lara Stone was put in blackface for French Vogue.
This hurts, because Vogue wanted to celebrate diversity — a necessary and important goal — but they should have known better than to continue these same problematic practices.
They wanted to celebrate diversity, yet instead of hiring a Japanese model (and we’re sure there are literally thousands of them out there who could do the job), they brought in a white woman to borrow from a rich culture she has nothing to do with.
There’s a huge difference between celebrating someone else’s culture — like wearing a sari and a bindi to an Indian wedding you’ve been invited to participate in — and cherry-picking from another culture for your own benefit or amusement.
It’s an especially complicated issue when a white person, whose ancestors have a long, dark history of colonialism, appropriates a minority culture.
People stepped forward on Twitter to talk about it.
Thankfully, Karlie issued an apology on Twitter shortly after people began speaking out.
“These images appropriate a culture that is not my own and I am truly sorry for participating in a shoot that was not culturally sensitive, she wrote. “My goal is, and will always be, to empower and inspire women. I will ensure my future shoots and projects reflect that mission.
This was very cool of Karlie. She has taken responsibility and expressed how she will do better — and that’s important. But still, we wish it didn’t have to come to this so often in the fashion industry. Apologies mean something — but no matter how many we hear — it will always be hurtful that we frequently see these mistakes repeated in magazines.
Hopefully, everyone will learn from this.