Donna Karan’s spring/summer 2012 advertising campaign featuring local Haitians has been met with disapproval.
Donna Karan’s Spring 2012 collection is heavily influenced by her charity work in Haiti. The designer spent time there following the tragic earthquake last year, focusing upon initiatives dedicated to exporting Haitian craftsmanship and artistry, and rebuilding communities. But her new advertising campaigns, which were shot in Haiti, have provoked some controversy.
Photographed by Russell James, the shoot was inspired by the work of Haitian artist Philippe Dodard and shot on location in Jacmel in the south of the country. Model, Adriana Lima poses amongst local residents in graphic dresses and earth-toned hues, from the spring/summer 2012 collection.
Lima is a Brazilian model, most famous for her Victoria’s Secret Angel body. “I have never used her before, and I am totally in love with her” said Karan to WWD . “She shows the heart and soul of Haiti.”
In one of the images, however, the local children appear to blend into the shadowed background behind the model. A commenter labelled as Circe on Fashion Gone Rogue refers to them as “minorities in the background.” A commenter, identified as StrawHat on the Huffington Post , notes that “using the downtrodden as props for high-fashion shoots smacks of completely insensitive imperialistic attitudes.”
For a designer intent on drawing attention to the plight of the Haitians, it is a contrast between the poverty-stricken locals, and the successful high-end brand, that is perhaps most unwelcome.
The campaign can be found in fashion and lifestyle books from March.
Karan shot the campaign in
Haiti, she explained in a release, because the country was her “creative inspiration, bringing my two worlds together… [the campaign] infuses the vibrant spirit of Haiti into a sexy New York sophistication.” She’s founded a charity to bring support to the ravaged country called Hope Help & Rebuild Haiti and said that bringing awareness to Haiti has become a “personal passion” of hers. She’s definitely done that here–but it has been the opinion of some blog commenters that the result is misguided and racist.
Several commenters on this Huffington Post piece, which asks readers if the campaign is “misguided,” were outraged: “The only thing that bothers me about it is a supermodel wearing uber expensive clothing in the middle of a country that has been devastated by unimaginable poverty.” –thejadedentrepreneur. “[T]he juxtaposition of luxury clothing — Donna Karan sells $2,000 dresses — and the poorest country in the Western hemisphere is troubling, and perhaps undercuts the message Karan thinks she’s sending,” wrote Jezebel’s Jenna Sauers.
It’s a disquieting scenario to say the least, so a spokesperson from Donna Karan has just issued the following statement to fashionista.com to explain the designer’s intent:
It is well known that Donna has been deeply involved in supporting and bringing awareness to Haiti since the earthquake. Through her personal experiences there, Haiti was a natural inspiration for the Spring 2012 collection. The intent of the ad campaign is to celebrate the culture and creativity of the people of Haiti
Karan has dedicated a lot of time and effort in recent years to raising money for, bringing awareness to and helping to rebuild Haiti. In June, Veuve Cliquot chose her charity, Hope Help & Rebuild Haiti, as the beneficiary of its annual Polo Classic. At the event, she showcased the work of Haitian artists, as her focus has been to help Haitians help themselves through creative business development–something she has been working on with the Clinton foundation.
This report uses material by Lauren Kelly-Jones at http://fashion.telegraph.co.uk/news-features/TMG8961221/Donna-Karan-courts-controversy-with-new-campaign-shot-in-Haiti.html and Dhani Mau at http://fashionista.com/2011/12/exclusive-donna-karan-responds-to-controversy-surrounding-haiti-campaign/