North Korea has one of the worst human rights records of any country in the world. There is no free press, citizens have no right to free speech and live constantly under the threat of arbitrary arrest, imprisonment and torture. Over 200,000 North Korean men, women and children live in prison camps where they're consistently denied food and forced into hard labor. The country has been condemned by Amnesty International, the United Nations and Human Rights Watch. But, girl, have you seen the country's military uniforms? So. Cute.
Or at least according to Elle they are. Check out slide 28 of Elle Creative Director Joe Zee's "A to Zee: Joe See Spells Out Fall's 2013 Top Fashion Trends" and you'll find a nice feature on "North Korea Chic" — fashion inspired by North Korea's authoritarian regime — along with this embarrassingly flippant caption:
Some iteration of the military trend stomps the runways every few seasons. This time, it's edgier, even dangerous, with sharp buckles and clasps and take-no-prisoners tailoring.
Take-no-prisoners tailoring...Oh, I get it. Because of the country's history of executing citizens for minor offenses. So, tell me — where can I get a pair of those adorable monk strap heels?
Admiring the fashions of dangerous dictatorships is hardly new. There's a whole culture of "Nazi chic," celebrated fashion designer Hugo Boss famously designed Nazi uniforms and the "Hitler Youth" haircut is almost as big a trend now as it was in the '30s and '40s — but something being common doesn't make it any less despicable and you have to wonder why Elle didn't scrap "North Korea Chic" for in favor of another, less incendiary way of putting a spotlight on the military trend. You know, like straight up calling it "the military trend."
Curiously, Joe Zee's fall fashion trend slideshow actually first ran way back in August and is only now getting any attention. How it managed to fly under the radar and not catch any heat for so long, I don't know, but let's hope Elle straightens their shit out in time to cancel their winter tribute to the fun and flirty hats of Mobutu Sese Seko.
[UPDATE] Elle has issued the following apology:
The edition of Joe Zee's A to Zee column that ran in the September 2013 issue of the magazine stirred some controversy that was addressed in the Letters section of the November issue. Here is the official statement from ELLE regarding the story, with the full text of the initial response below: We regret the reference to North Korea in our post on the season's military trend, and have removed the image. We apologize to those we offended.
[h/t Katie J. M. Baker]
Image via Getty.