To the Ends of the Earth: Fashion and Ethnicity in the Vogue Fashion Shoot
This essay examines how particular concepts of fashion, and fashion’s Other – ethnic dress – have been reproduced in British Vogue since the mid 2000s, a period of renewed attention to issues of race within the fashion media. It builds on recent scholarly redefinitions of ‘fashion’ that include the non-Western, and has played an integral formative role in Cheang’s current project of critically positioning fashion studies within current global history debates.
In this essay, Cheang explores the implicit and explicit ways in which constructions of ‘fashion’ and the ‘ethnic’ are played out in the work of fashion photographers Mario Testino, Patrick Demarchelier and Tim Walker. Cheang undertook comprehensive analysis of Vogue Magazine content from a five-year period and conducted interviews with key protagonists. The research was first conducted to present a provocative position paper for the opening session of the international conference ‘Fashion Media: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow’ (London College of Fashion, 2010), which brought together leading voices in fashion research to debate key issues in fashion imagery and communication. It challenges and interrogates the use of racial and ethnic stereotypes in current fashion photography, to stimulate new critiques of Western fashion’s visual and conceptual regimes of racial difference.
While fashion has become a central field of enquiry in social and cultural studies, the fashion media that form a crucial part of contemporary visual culture remain largely under-researched. This chapter appears in a groundbreaking collection of essays that bring a new critical awareness to the circulation of fashion’s digital, print and film cultures. Like the work of other authors at the forefront of the field, such as Professor Reina Lewis, Professor Simona Segre Reinach and Dr Djurdja Barlett, Cheang’s chapter is integral to an exploration of the complex multi-layered processes that bind design, technology, society and identity together.