Although the 2013 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue was the latest example of the egregious use of international people and their so-called "traditional ways" as contrasting props and backdrops for the models, Deputy Editor Dodai Stewart pointed out that many examples came before—Free People, British Vogue and J.Crew, to name three examples.
Unfortunately, this does not appear to be going away. A tipster drew our attention to the selection of images below that are appearing in a Spring 2013 campaign by Americana Manhasset, a Long Island luxury shopping outlet with over 60 high-end shops including Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, Dior, Chanel, Hermès, and Cartier.
It features some white ladies running around Vietnam with various national citizens peddling their wares or doing their fieldwork in the background. Which was obviously totally natural, right! Not at all planted there by the fashion shoot team to give it that "authentic feel." (And yes, in some of the shots there is a handsome Vietnamese male model: but that is not a carte blanche that makes the following images okay.)
To parse these ads requires a rehashing of the concept of the "centrality of whiteness" in advertising: the neo-colonial notion of kicking back and luxuriating in the servitude of non-whites—quite frequently the white women are in the literal center of the frame—and the depiction of any non-Western culture unchanged by the passing of centuries. Some parts of Vietnam are obviously rural, but it is no coincidence that these models aren't placed in, say, in Hồ Chí Minh City, which looks like this:
The weirdest part of all is that although the images appear Photoshopped, it seems like they were actually on location if you go by this behind-the-scenes video. In this one, the description explicitly states that it was filmed in a hallway of Vietnam's Imperial Palace.
And now, the ads:
all images via Americana Manhasset