Slave Earrings: Not Haute!

25 Aug

What trendy woman among us hasn’t at one time or another while shopping seen a beautiful Jewish Tichel and thought, “oh, what a fabulous Holocaust headscarf”, or an intricately beaded pair of Native American buckskin moccasins and said, “I’d simply love to own those Reservation Booties”?  Hopefully, none of us!!  Apparently though, at Italian Vogue cultural insensitivity and racial offensiveness seem par for the course.

In the August edition of the fashion magazine, the culturally crude concept of “Slave Earrings” were introduced, rather casually, to the masses. Alongside the images of the large and decorative hoop earrings (strategically donned by a decidedly European looking model, I imagine) was more descriptive text about the jewelry:

Wow.  The write-up actually reads rather matter-of-factly, and that in and of itself is what proves so problematic.  How the editors at Vogue could think that the inhumane history and long-lasting effects of slavery could be so easily and flippantly relegated to some dated looking earbobs, that if I’m being honest, look more like the pair of door knockers I begged my mother to buy me in 1993 than some high fashion innovation is unfathomable and lost on me.

But of course, amidst some very vocal opinions and complaints from everyone from Vogue readers to social media responders, Italian Vogue’s editor-in-chief eventually spoke up on the matter.

“We apologize for the inconvenience. It is a matter of really bad translation from Italian into English.  The Italian word, which defines those kind of earrings, should instead be translated into ‘ethnic style earrings’. Again, we are sorry about this mistake which we have just amended in the website,” the magazine’s editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani said in a statement to press.

What’s really a shame is the fact that 1) Sozzani couldn’t be bothered with contrition because clearly translation was the real culprit at work here and 2) she’d think that the uproar over the use of the term slave earrings would be nothing more than a mere inconvenience.  The kick in the couture however was that in an effort to assuage the criticisms, the magazine’s English translated website removed the offensive term and replaced it with Ethnic Earrings; you know, because “slave” and “ethnic” are substitutable.

But to prove that I’m not just being uber sensitive about race matters as they relate to the fashion industry, and that Italian Vogue and it’s writers are indeed clueless, you don’t have to take my word, just ask a Supermodel.

“I’m a huge fan of Franca Sozzani and Vogue Italia’s website because they have a whole section on black models,” model Iman said to Fashionista Executive Editor Leah Chernikoff. “Is it controversial? Yes. The naming of it, I don’t get it. I sometimes wonder in this age of reality shows has it become part of the language–the more controversy the more [buzz] it creates. But yeah, I didn’t like it. Slave does not make it ethnic. Mind you, it’s not lost in translation–the word slave, we know what it is. They might as well have called them “n***** earrings.” For somebody like Franca Sozzani, who did that whole black issue for Vogue, somebody should have said something.”



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