W Continues Fashion's Tradition of Using 'Exotic' People As PropsCallie Beusman5/16/14 4:45pmFiled to: orientalismfashionw20412EditPromoteShare to KinjaToggle Conversation toolsGo to permalink×W magazine recently sent fashion photographer Tim Walker and supermodel Edie Campbell to Burma, where they shot an editorial that juxtaposed Campbell (so white! so chic!) against the a background of the nation's "exotic" landmarks and citizens. It's gross and poorly conceived-of in every way that one would expect.Advertisement The text accompanying the spread, which is sort of aptly entitled "Gilt Trip," is remarkably orientalist and shockingly ill-informed. Here's a lil' sample:What they found was a land so visually and philosophically far-out—at least from their Western perspective—that it conjured the trippy heroine of this story: Prudence Farrow, Mia's "rather uptight and impossibly perfect Buddhist sister" as Walker describes her, who got lost in deep meditation while in India, thus inspiring the Beatles song "Dear Prudence." Along her mystical tour of the country, Prudence, as played by Campbell, encounters Madame Thair, the wealthy owner of an antiques store in Yangon; members of the Kayan tribe, who are known for their neck-elongating jewelry; and a holy temple shaped like Humpty Dumpty.This reveals a deep insensitivity to and ignorance about the culture of Burma. In their fantasy narrative, Burma and India — two very, very different nations — are interchangeable because both are "trippy," "mystical" and "far-out" to the Western imagination. I don't even have to explain what's wrong with the phrase "a holy temple shaped like Humpty Dumpty." AdvertisementThe text is but four paragraphs, but W manages to squeeze a surprising amount of cultural imperialism in there. To wit: "Amid all the beauty and wonder, the crew also discovered a country that is very much set in its ways..." Let us count these ways: first, "Campbell was required to crouch, lest she be too close to an elevated Buddha. 'It may seem outdated to us, but it's where the country is,' Walker says." Uhhhh. Okay. Well, Burma is a country that predominantly practices Theravada Buddhism; it's just proper etiquette in that religion for all laypeople to keep their heads lower than Buddha statues, as well as the heads of monks and nuns. Crouching by a Buddha statue isn't abiding by some "outdated" practice — it's respecting another culture and religion. (Walker's statement is akin to someone saying, "They made our model put on a shirt in The Duomo! It may seem outdated, but, hey, that's where they are in Italy.")Secondly, we have this fucking sentence:[T]he concept of a fashion shoot is so foreign to the locals that enlisting their help was often an exercise in making lemonade. Walker asked for six nuns in traditional pink robes; one monk in orange turned up.Oh ho! Silly "locals"! So difficult! So bad at following the specific demands you made on them so that they might appear your fashion spread as a complement Burma's trippy and spiritual splendor! If that's not an exercise in making lemonade, I don't know what is.The shoot itself is just as bad, taking all the worst tropes of the offensive fashion spreads we've seen time and time again and combining them.