I DON’T THINK THESE ADS CONDONE RACISM. BUT RATHER THEY PLAY INTO A RACIAL STEREOTYPE WHICH IS AN EASY WAY OF ADVERTISING. Good taste or bad taste? Neither. It is laziness.
Firstly I’d like to point out that for the past few seasons, I’ve made it known repeatedly that I’m not exactly fond of Mr Galliano’s repetition in a lot of his recent collections: haute couture looked like pret-a-porter; autumn winter played like spring summer; year 2009 looked like year 1950, so on and so forth.
I used to be Galliano’s fan, a fervent fan for his ingenious designs, something jaunty and out of the blue which really, really moved the fashion world to the edge of their seats.
So for Galliano to repeatedly disappoint many of his fans, I remember asking, “has he lost it”?
Secondly, I dismissed “lazy designs” as a cause for his design repetitions. I pointed my fingers to a bunch of money-minded people in the boardroom — who wanted to sell as much clothes by doing as little as possible.
When Galliano showed in Shanghai, he said something along the lines that “what’s the point of showing Chinese influence on Chinese territory”, that he wanted to bring Paris to China, bring House of Dior to China.
I originally thought: if Lagerfeld could take the time to incorporate Chinese influence in his Beijing collection and made it a brilliant French show, made the clothes completely modern and still retained that Chanel flair, why couldn’t Galliano do it?
I also remember thinking distinctly that: what could Galliano be so occupied with right now that he couldn’t take time to read a book, walk a street in Shanghai or even watch some old videos of China?
But yeah, I thought at the time: sure, a beatnik, playful, functional and colourful collection that was easy on the eye and the body would sell like a dream, one of the prime concerns for couture houses in the time of an economic downturn.
But I knew better. It was laziness; and the advert is a joke which Galliano or the House of Dior is playing on us. Having spent so much time at university in London, and even though at the time of his study there weren’t that many Chinese students, he knew and still knows the sensitivity between races. Having been in his current post for so long, he knows where is market is.
He knows that Dior sells in China. And in the same mentality like Mr Jacobs for Louis Vuitton, he knows that whatever he puts out, whatever he markets, whatever comes out of the runway of LV and in this case Dior, whether the products are good or bad, beautiful or ugly, people will still buy it. Similarly, an ad, however poor taste, will be swallowed and digested without question.
Galliano knows the symbolism which these photographs represent. At the first glance of this , one immediately acknowledges the presence of the white lady. Then one sees that she is standing amid a crowd of people. A crowd of people — singular. A unity. As a background. The third thing you see is their uniform cut-and-paste faces — they are identical, expressionless and above all — rigid.
We will call this genious marketing — “wear Dior, and you’ll stand out from the mundane crowd”. Only if the marketing department weren’t that lazy and instead put a Shu Pei or Tao in place of the white lady. Then can they escape the accusation of being racist.
But if you think about this: it takes meetings and debates to decide on a fastening on a dress, how can a mistake like this ad escaped any notice?
So the last question is: has our buying habit encouraged the luxury business’ laziness? Do they think that with effortless effort they can still escape the squinty eyes of the fashion world or of the international public, in the name of “keeping the house alive”? Or is Dior sending the Chinese a message?