Karlie Kloss Poses as a Geisha in Vogue’s Diversity Issue
Culture is NOT a costume.
There’s no question that the fashion world needs to up its diversity. Vogue’s “Diversity”-themed March issue seemed like a huge step in the right direction—until it didn’t.
Behind the pages of the already controversial cover, readers found further problems. In a multi-page editorial spread titled “Spirited Away,” photographer Mikael Jansson shoots supermodel Karlie Kloss in a series of stunning Japan-set images. The problem? Kloss, who we’re pretty sure isn’t Japanese, is dressed in a traditional geisha getup, complete with oshiroi makeup, formal kimonos, and a Shimada-styled nihongami wig. Twitter users didn’t hold back in expressing their disappointment.
I was gonna ask why vogue decided to put karlie kloss in geisha makeup & clothing when there are amazing japanese models but i know why
— ㅤ (@honobonoIog) February 14, 2017
so so so disappointed in @voguemagazine with this karlie kloss/geisha issue! The insensitivity & lack of diversity is atrocious. Disgusted
— black venus (@Purple_Pastry) February 15, 2017
They put Karlie Kloss in a Geisha in a Vogue DIVERSITY Issue… No one at Vogue thought this was a bad idea? Lol ok
— Philipp Raheem (@PhilippRaheem) February 15, 2017
This isn’t the first time a famous female has come under heat for trying to look Asian, (cc: Tilda Swinton and Scarlett Johansson). And it’s not the first time Karlie has been accused of participating in cultural appropriation…
In 2012, the Victoria Secret model walked the runway in a Native American-inspired headdress and coordinating lingerie set. The public’s immediate reaction of “WTF?!” led Victoria Secret to issue a formal apology and pull the look. Karlie tweeted her own regretful statement: “I am deeply sorry if what I wore during the VS Show offended anyone. I support VS’s decision to remove the outfit from the broadcast.”
Again, Karlie has posted an open apology to her Twitter, where she recognizes the Vogue shoot’s blatant cultural appropriation.
To be fair, the photographs are breathtaking, and there is nothing malicious or intentionally derogatory in Vogue’s presentation of Japanese culture. But that doesn’t make it OK—especially for an issue claiming to focus on diversity.