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.

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…

Photography by Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage

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.