In case you were wondering whether Vogue's recent, er, missteps were a one-off, here comes some new shit. This time, the star of the bad drama is Karlie Kloss, who the magazine decided to dress as a Geisha for its latest issue.
In the spread, titled “Spirited Away,” (in case you needed more direct reference to Japanese culture while exotifying it) Kloss appears in Japanese settings, wearing Japanese garb, and long black hair done up into various Japanese-inspired hairstyles. In all but one photo, her skin is much fairer than her actual skin tone.
An unpublished shot shows Kloss in a bathtub with Geisha make up on.
It’s a pretty cut-and-dry example of cultural appropriation and yellowface. Of course, Vogue is no stranger to cribbing other people’s cultures and/or skin tones and applying it on white models and calling it fashion. Take for example, the repeated instances of international issues of Vogue putting white models in blackface. (Vogue Italia's 2014 spread was especially bad.) Of course “Spirited Away” is even more ridiculous because it appears in an issue that has been heralded as a celebration of diversity.
The March issue cover features a plus-sized model and various models of color (though darker-skinned models were excluded from the issue), and it is the first ever issue in which an Asian model has appeared on the cover, something instantly undermined by the Karlie Kloss spread.
If Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson can, then any white person can, I guess!
I reached out to Vogue for comment. I will update this post if I get a reply.
UPDATE: Kloss apologized in a tweet early Wednesday morning.