The magazine, part of Condé Nast International (poised to become just Condé Nast through a U.S./international combination still getting underway), found itself in some hot social media water last week after Donata Meirelles, its fashion director of seven years, posted to her personal Instagram images from her swanky birthday party. With a mini photo set featuring a wicker throne for Meirelles and guests to be photographed flanked by two black women in matching white dresses and headwraps, critics immediately pointed out some striking similarities with a 19th-century photo trend of colonizers posing with their slaves.
Meirelles resigned over the photos (despite an explanation that the women were in traditional party dresses and the chair was of religious tradition, too) and CNI issued a statement noting its “zero tolerance for racism and images evoking racism.” CNI alluded to a “working group” being set up at Vogue Brazil in an effort to avoid such issues in the future, but didn’t offer specifics.
Now, a CNI spokeswoman tells WWD that effort includes “three major initiatives” covering education of employees, recruiting and diversity efforts and ensuring diversity of content. Each initiative is said to be already underway, to an extent, but the upcoming May issue of Vogue Brazil, it’s 44th anniversary, will include a formalization of the new “editorial project” around diversity. In addition, the Vogue Carnival Ball at the end of March will include an announcement around the project. Brazil’s carnival is a major cultural event and festival held just before Lent in a country that, as of the most recent census, has a majority black population and, similar to the U.S., a long history of slavery.
As for the working group, the spokeswoman declined to release the names of any members “at this stage,” citing ongoing conversations around “roles and responsibilities.” However, the group is expected to be made up of “activists, scholars, artists and fashion professionals.”
“It is all about listening and gaining their input,” the spokeswoman added.
It also seems about time that an active push for diverse views came along. The move by Vogue Brazil comes about two years after Glamour Brazil received backlash after a group of staffers, some pulling their eyes in a slanted shape and others bowing with hands folded, posted a gif to social media to note they were taking a trip to Japan. A little less than a year ago, Vogue Italia was criticized over a cover featuring Gigi Hadid that showed her with much darker skin, prompting comparisons to blackface, which the model claimed occurred in post-shoot editing. American Vogue in September just had its first cover by a black photographer, and more recently has misidentified actors from the cast of “Crazy Rich Asians” and the Libyan-American reporter Noor Tagouri online and in print, respectively.
Fashion media is far from alone in starting to feel the heat from fans and the social media public for coming off publicly as insensitive to racial or cultural stereotypes. Last week, Marco Bizzarri, Gucci’s chief executive, embarked on something of an apology tour after a piece of knit headwear (black with a design featuring a large red mouth) was called out for evoking makeup used in 19th century minstrel shows. Similar to Vogue Brazil, the company says it is taking action to diversify and educate its employees from top to bottom. Only a couple of months ago, Prada, too, pulled a full window display in New York and a monkey accessory that were also called out for evoking racist imagery. It’s just revealed it’s own diversity “council.”
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