The Internet loves a good game of This Thing Looks Like That Thing. Today's players? Vogue Paris, Vogue Italia, Emmanuelle Alt, Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, and Steven Meisel. The charge is that Alt, the recently-installed editor of Vogue Paris, ripped off her latest cover editorial from a 1989 Linda Evangelista spread shot by Meisel.
Meisel's photos of Linda Evangelista are on the left; the new Vogue Paris spread is on the right. It's pretty obvious that Alt's model, Isabeli Fontana, has been styled and made up to look like Evangelista (or at least, to look as the famously versatile Evangelista appeared in 1989, when she had short, dark hair.) On the one hand, that's what fashion does: it takes inspiration from past imagery, whether we're talking art history, an old film, or another fashion photographer. (Clearly the designers whose wares are featured in the Vogue Paris spread have been supping from the same inspiration buffet, because all these crop-tops and bright colors are themselves a pretty perfect rendering of the late 80s/early 90s.) Not everybody who shoots a model against a white studio background is ripping off Richard Avedon.
On the other hand: Fontana is even copying Evangelista's poses.
And the fact that there's a mattress shot in each spread puts this beyond the realm of coincidence.
Emmanuelle Alt has had a rough time of things since being named Carine Roitfeld's successor at Vogue Paris in February. Roitfeld, who was roundly lionized within the industry for her love of controversial imagery and her willingness to piss off advertisers, is rumored to have been fired. (Supposedly, the feather that broke the camel's back was that sickeningly funny, or funnily sickening, spread with the child models wearing makeup and luxury goods. Prominent luxury brands are said to have balked at advertising in the issue.) Then there were those barely disguised blind items about Alt's alleged affair with one of her superiors at Condé Nast International. (When fashion people feud, they give it everything they've got.) Whatever the circumstances of Roitfeld's departure and her former deputy's appointment, the two women, once friends, are no longer speaking. Because of all this, Alt's been under more scrutiny than most people in her position would be.
However, Roitfeld as an editor also had her blind spots. Need I mention the blackface spread? The persistent rumors that she took massive consulting fees from some of the same luxury brands her magazine covered? And the nature of fashion is that ideas, to a certain extent, get recycled. It's probable that if anyone went through Roitfeld's editorials with the same kind of critical attention that has so far been devoted to Alt's — or if the Internet had been around when Roitfeld stepped in following former editor Joan Juliet Buck's firing — that people would find examples in which Roitfeld's stories looked an awful lot like someone else's. (Because it's just this easy: here's a Roitfeld spread that looks a lot like an earlier Meisel story for Vogue Italia.)
Still, this is the kind of page-by-page repetitiveness that we'd expect of American Vogue; it's disappointing to see it in good old épater les bourgeois Vogue Paris, that supposed bastion of photographic libertinism and $3,000 handbags. The question of "originality" in fashion as a whole is vexed. Designers have little protection for their work in the U.S. (although they do in Europe), photographers have considerably more, in the form of copyright, stylists have almost none. About the best you can hope for is that, when ideas cycle back around, the people who have been made responsible for offering a new spin on them are possessed of enough native creativity and open-mindedness that they can do more than just re-shoot this year's dresses (that look like last year's dresses) in the exact same way as before.
Is Vogue Paris Copying Old Photoshoots? [Fashionising]