Victoria's Secret has quickly pulled an Asian-themed lingerie collection called "Go East" that traded in sexualized, generic pan-Asian ethnic stereotypes. The item people found most offensive? The $98 "Sexy Little Geisha" teddy. The teddy was part of the lingerie giant's "Sexy Little Things" product category — making it sort of like the "Sexy Little Sergeant" outfit or the "Sexy Little Showgirl" get-up VS also offers, only with overtones of Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's.
The "Sexy Little Geisha" teddy boasted an obi-style belt and was accessorized with chopsticks for your hair and a paper fan. "Your ticket to an exotic adventure: a sexy mesh teddy with flirty cutouts and Eastern-inspired florals," read the VS Web copy. "Sexy little fantasies, there's one for every sexy you." Jeff Yang at the Wall Street Journal interviewed one of the most insightful voices on the topic of fashion's construction of race, Mimi Nguyen from Threadbared, about the "Go East" collection:
Mimi Nguyen, associate professor of women's and Asian American studies at the University of Illinois–Urbana Champaign and cofounder with Minh-Ha Pham of the Threadbared fashion blog, flags the collection as a set of "stereotypical images that use racist transgression to create an exotic edge," pointing out that all of the models wearing the Go East lingerie are non-Asian. "Asians can't wear things like the ‘sexy little geisha' outfit without looking ridiculous," she says. "But it's a way for white women to borrow a racially exotic edge for a moment's play." Or, as, Phil Yu, the inimitable voice behind the AngryAsianMan.com blog, puts it even more simply: "Hooray for exotic orientalist bullshit."
Following this uproar, Victoria's Secret promptly yanked the Sexy Little Geisha outfit, and then obscured access to the whole Go East collection, with publicists now saying that the line has "sold out," an assertion belied by the fact that the items have been purged from the website's very database: Searches for "Geisha" or "Go East" now come up as errors. (Though no longer accessible directly, the line can still be seen, sans sexy geisha outfit, at this link.)
- Here is why Karl Lagerfeld does not wear hats:
"I love hats, in a way, but when I was a child, I'd wear Tyrolean hats, and my mother — I was something like eight — said to me, ‘You shouldn't wear hats. You look like an old dyke.' Do you say such things to children? She was quite funny, no?"
Also: "If you're accustomed to a handmade shirt by Hilditch, a ready-bought shirt is like wearing some torture stuff." [Fashionista]
- Women's Wear Daily reports that the women's ready-to-wear runway debuts of Hedi Slimane at Yves Saint Laurent and Raf Simons at Christian Dior this week in Paris are making other designers lift their game. "I love competition because it moves me forward," says Lanvin's Alber Elbaz. "I think it will be an exciting season in Paris. It is needed!" says Karl Lagerfeld.
And competition for models is described as intense, with some designers blocking top walkers for four to five hours before their shows. "No designer wants to be told they can't have the girls they want," said one source. Slimane is also said to have lined up a pack of new faces who will walk exclusively for Saint Laurent Paris.
- Meanwhile, Scarlett Johansson went shopping at the YSL boutique in Paris. [DM]
- Model Jessica White, fresh from her assault rap, says she's excited to release the album she wrote and produced herself. Her first single, not yet released, is called "White Magic Power of a Woman." [Fashionista]
- Rebecca Minkoff C.E.O. Uri Minkoff says that the company's Instagram account — which currently boasts 100,530 followers — has helped its shoe sales double year-on-year between spring 2011 and spring 2012. This is the same company that was recently caught appearing to inflate its Twitter follower count with fake accounts, so perhaps take that with a grain of salt. [WWD]
- Joan Rivers explains fashion week:
"Trying to make sense of New York Fashion Week is like trying to make sense of a party at Charlie Sheen's house: tons of beautiful women, lasts for days, and it's a miracle that no one died."
- Baldwin spouse Hilaria Thomas' Emmys dress was lost by UPS. When it was finally located at a distribution center in Van Nuys, Thomas drove to pick it up, hugged the UPS employee who had helped her, and asked for everyone to give the woman a round of applause. P6]
- Chanel has acquired the small French glovemaker Causse, which employs around 40 people making 25,000 pairs of gloves per year. Causse happens to make the black fingerless gloves that Karl Lagerfeld is rarely without. [WWD]
- A model, on modeling: "[T]he reality is that it is a pretty unfulfilling job with a definite expiration date, in which you gain very few transferrable skills." [HuffPo]
- Stuart Weitzman is the latest U.S. brand to ink a deal with Indian-based Reliance Brands as a retail franchisee. Brooks Brothers and Steve Madden have already agreed to enter the Indian market with Reliance as their retail partner, and Weitzman plans for its first stores with Reliance to open in Delhi and Mumbai early next year. [WWD]
- Estée Lauder spent the past four years working on a top-secret new brand for the Asian market: Osiao. They shredded documents related to the project to avoid detection by competitors and the press. Osiao is a luxury brand — serums will cost $211 — developed by a team based in China. [NYTimes]
- Don't hold your breath for Tom Ford to go back to a major luxury house:
"Been there, done that. I learned a tremendous amount from my time at Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, but I was always designing within an existing framework. In launching my own line, I am allowed to only create products that I believe in. Everything at Tom Ford is steeped in my DNA — it would be a step backwards for me now to go and design for another fashion house."
- WSJ. editor Deborah Needleman is said to be deciding between keeping her job at the helm of the recently launched Journal-owned luxury magazine and leaving to take the analogous position at the New York Times' T. A potential spanner in the works is Hearst, which is reportedly also trying to recruit Needleman, though a spokesperson denied it. [WWD]
- Miss J. Alexander has a boyfriend who lives in Paris. "Nobody knows who he is. He hates all of this stuff," said J at a Paris fashion week show. "He's just a simple, blond-haired, blue-eyed Frenchman." [The Cut]
- And now, a moment with Giorgio Armani. Giorgio, how did you get your start in fashion?
"Up until I was about 30 to 32-years-old, I used to potter around doing a small job at a department store. I used to coordinate what went into the window or other store tasks. And I didn't have to work very hard — because, well, I was quite good looking. The female managers in the shop used to favour me, making things really easy for me."