current affairs

A cold and controversial new fashion trend

Written by Linzasaur

Everyone knows that the fashion industry loves to be controversial, so it’s hardly surprising that Miley Cyrus was welcomed into it with open arms.

Everyone knows that the fashion industry loves to be controversial, so it’s hardly surprising that Miley Cyrus was welcomed into it with open arms. However, the new Marc Jacobs 2014 ad campaign doesn’t depict her as the half-naked, tongue out, sexually inappropriate woman-child we’ve all come to tolerate. Instead, she’s swapped the peroxide for a moody brown and she appears to be fully clothed with an unfamiliar brooding expression on her face.

This may all seem like a foreign concept, but Miley’s outfit isn’t what has had everyone talking (for once). The true controversy of the photograph lies in the sand next to her—it’s a dead woman.

Okay, maybe she isn’t supposed to be dead exactly, but there’s something incredibly creepy about the whole set up. There’s another female figure in the distance that appears to be supporting a headscarf and a zombie-esque stance, while the girl on the floor has hair spread across her chalk-white face. Meanwhile, Miley looks on into the distance.

This wouldn’t be the first time that female corpses have been used in fashion shoots or marketing campaigns. There are countless examples in media of women being seen as lifeless dolls, no more than realistic mannequins for achingly fashionable brands.

Last year, Vice magazine decided to honour Women in Fiction by tastelessly shooting re-enactments of how exactly some of them committed suicide. Sylvia Plath was pictured kneeling in front of an oven and Taiwanese author Sanmao was hanging herself with a pair of tights.

Don’t fret, fashion credit for the tights was provided, just in-case any young female readers out there were desperate to try the same thing at home.

Jimmy Choo in 2006 released an ad showing a woman apparently passed out in a car boot with an ominous looking man in dark glasses sitting beside her. It may have been safe to assume she was sleeping, except that her friend was brandishing a spade.

If that doesn’t make you want to buy shoes, then I don’t know what will!

‘Objects to be dominated’

That same year, America’s Next Top Model illustrated just how far the fetish for female corpses wants to go. The contestants had to pose as if newly dead, most of which in fairly violent ways. Some contestants were accused of not looking ‘dead enough,’ whereas others were applauded for their convincing performances.

A 2010 edition of Lula provided readers with a “fake dead” shoot, in which a young girl is spread-eagled on the pavement as if fallen from a building. But at least her clothes are undamaged. Calvin Klein and Dolce & Gabbana are shamelessly guilty of depicting more-or-less scenes of gang rape in their ads, while the sexual domination of women is incessantly pictured in fashion shoots and magazine covers, be that with a threatening male shadow or ropes and ties around the girl’s neck.

The odd bruised eye is also a hit. I’m talking about you, Tyler Shields.

It’s not really that much of a shock to see women being portrayed as the helpless victim in fashion, and why should it be? Men constantly see women as objects to be dominated, and they have no reason not to. With so much of the media obsessed with the models being perfect, and photo-shopped to death, they don’t realise that that’s exactly what they’re looking for – a lifeless corpse to hang clothes on. Whatever men choose to do with this corpse is their prerogative.

Sleeping Beauty, a film released in 2011, was the story of a young girl who was drawn to a world where she’s paid to get put to sleep so men could act out their fantasies upon her. Some of the scenes were ones of intimacy, but the film became really quite disturbing throughout, with the violent tendencies of some of the clients.

Attention and controversy

These same fantasies are apparent in the fashion world, with girls having no say in what is going on around them. For the most part, the models in the photos may as well be dead or unconscious, as the males keep them in their place, usually with violence or aggression. Basically, a woman’s silence and agreeability is sexualised and highly profitable.

Whether the Marc Jacobs ad campaign is intended to show the women as dead or not is uncertain, but the implication is very much apparent. It’s been chosen specifically to cause controversy and debate, but what it really shows is nothing new. Desperately thin women that look like they might drop dead from starvation have occupied the catwalk for decades.

While women everywhere are in uproar about the sexualisation of violence, fashion photographers continue to defend themselves, saying that what they are doing is ‘art’, and go straight back to what they know will be ‘shocking’. They have so much freedom in their work that all they want to do is to make something that becomes notorious. It has gotten to a point that women are shoved into more and more degrading positions; because that is the best they can come up with.

Terry Richardson, arguably the creepiest man in history of fashion, had a long career of photographing numerous celebrities in compromising positions. It seems that his sinister ways are coming to an end, however, due to one model’s tale going viral about him waving his genitals in her face (among other things).

The mere fact he got away with these things for so long is exactly what is wrong with the fashion industry.

Whether models are over-sexualised is a totally different argument, but just because a woman isn’t naked, doesn’t mean she isn’t being exploited.

The fashion world has seen that the vulnerable and passive woman is what sells in this industry, and the more vulnerable and passive the better. In other words, there should be nothing more glamorous and alluring than a female corpse.

What do you think about these campaigns? Have your say in the comments section below.