New Years Eve Controversy

"Simply Horrific"
January 3, 2008, 1:53 am

demiCouture.ca wrote:

I decided to check out The Commodified (a Vancouver hipster street style blog), and found an image that truly stood out and absolutely horrified me (posted below).

I won’t even go into what is wrong with this girls’ outfit (because that is too painfully obvious to bother discussing), but jump straight to the hideous display of disrespect from this little blond twat for the man pictured.

The look on his face while he holds that plate of pizza juxtaposed with her disgusting Paris Hilton-esque kissy face and pink pepto 80s mini dress makes me ill. Seeing this photo on a blog that gets a fair bit of exposure and has a high readership is silly and embarrassing.

Come on guys, you should really know better.


Victoria, the blog author, has encouraged me to post the response i left her:

I appreciate the discussion you’ve brought up! When I took this picture I was really hesitant because I didn’t want to be perceived as exploiting the man. I took the risk, though, because I thought it was important too portray a less glamorous image of street style. Her outfit epitomizes the excesses of fashion. Whoever designed this 1980s prom dress was clearly inspired by Christian Lacroix, whose extravagant dresses parodied the materiality of 1980s wealth. So perhaps it is appropriate that the girl pictured is posing beside a downtown eastside resident?

I've since raked through some of my texts for some interesting literature on this subject. Pictured below is one of Lacrox's famous 1987 Pouf dresses:

"Fashion cannot be separated from conspicuous consumption... in eras of inequality, conspicuous consumption has to be understood as a social norm... [and] as a necessary imperative for the insistent representation of social distance and social hierarchy." - Gilles Lipovetsky

"During the 1980s throughout the industrialized world, people in the top economic strata enjoyed significant increases in disposable income, and responded by flaunting their wealth in the purchase of consumer goods, including clothing." Valerie Steele, in Fifty Years of Fashion

"Conspicuous consumption... during the Reagan years was regarded as a badge of personal achievement. The heroes of the eighties... outfitted their wives in dresses by Christian Lacroix" - Holly Burbach in The New Yorker

"His clothes were not simply opulent and luxurious. . . Lacroix was a witty iconoclast, who was not afraid to go over the top." Valerie Steele, in Fifty Years of Fashion

"Lacroix makes clothes of such extravagant, gorgeous excess as to divide the classes once and for all." - Julie Baumgold, in Dancing on the Lip of the Volcano

Some interesting trivia about Lacroix: he revealed his first collection under his own name in 1987; the same night the stock market crashed. Many fashion journalists joked that his dresses were excessive to the point of being "crash chic".


sean orr said...

As a defender of the homeless and marginalised I have no problem with this photo. The man is a human being, why should we ignore him? Why should we be so pedantic to assume he is put off by an attractive young women hanging off his shoulder? If anything, we need to interact with the downtrodden, not ignore them. I'll bet the person that wrote this in one of those people who looks away when a crazy person gets on the bus and sits down next to them.

Anonymous said...

Fashion is subjective. That person doesn't understand the fact that just because you don't like it personally it doesn't mean that it doesn't have merit for others. You can be critical in a way that is constructive but i found him/her to personally judging it and when they say that it shouldn't be on the site... well thats just bullshit. Even if you hate it it gives you a counter viewpoint when talking about things that you do like.
That guy is probably eating the whole thing up - shes cute!

Victoria said...

So you have no problem with the homeless being parodied? That's how I saw it.
Nobody is suggesting we ignore the homeless, or not interact with them.

My opinion is that you don't hang on them for amusement or photos that could be seen as degrading.

You're quick to attack me, yet you say nothing about the girl who obviously has a complete lack of respect for the man.

Anonymous said...

One thing I admire about fashion these past couple decades is the way it often pokes fun at itself as an inherently ridiculous trade. I can see both sides of this argument though.
Portraying fashion/conspicuous consumption as a clean, innocent interest with no gray areas is ridiculous; I like this photo better than the sartorialist way of making it all seem so perfect and happy. In this way, this photo is really honest; in the juxtaposition of a consumerist "twat" with someone who's suffering is beyond any consideration of this girl...especially if the photographer comprehends what she is communicating with the pose, the lacroix-like dress and all its connotations...then this photo actually kind of witty and admirable in that fashion is begging to justify itself here, and refusing to paint itself as simply an innocent pursuit.
But on the other hand, glamorizing or normalizing something that just should not exist is shameful and should not be done lightly. There is no reason for people like this to be suffering on our streets. Parading the man for his shock value is dehumanizing to our street community. I can't make up my mind about this photo and I don't think I know enough about either poverty or fashion to make a decision; I think its great that it is brought up in a forum that allows discussion, and that the blog authors are willing to discuss it (though discussing it at length does take away a bit from the blog concept to focus on such an issue, doesn't it)?

Andrea said...

I agree this girl appears to be an ass. Yes, most likely she's a disrespectful little dipshit that probably flailed all over the dance floor, taking out drinks and eyeballs, then afterwards went out and engaged in some random destruction for fun. And I mean, I would feel invincible in that dress- unfortunately, it seems to have fallen into the hands of someone who has not used its powers for good.
All the same, the photo is pretty amazing, for the reasons posted by 'anonymous' directly above. How could you not post this photo? The style itself is interesting. And hell, this could be a very forgiving political cartoon, where our pink-clad moron is lady fashion herself (I say forgiving, because if it weren't, she'd be wearing spike heels and kicking the guy in the nuts).

Anyhow, it's not the Commodified's job to place moral judgement on little fashionistards, but just to show you the kick-ass dresses they're wearing. And then we can comment and rip them to shreds!

Anonymous said...

The way this girl looks is not worth defending. I have a hard time believing you were so socially conscious upon taking this picture, i think if you had been you could have presented it in a context to support your defense.
I highly doubt this girl has any insight on Lacroix. As for the dress itself, they sell these at any Sirens outlet in mall. There is nothing extravagant or gorgeous about it. The photo is not something new and shocking, it's just disappointing to think it's worth being in a blog about street fashion. This is mall fashion. It's neither interesting, nor is it making any other statement other than the fact that this girl thinks she's hot.

Anonymous said...

This is just a portrait of the types of people living side-by-side in Gastown. That's all.

James said...

One thing you all may want to take into consideration is this man may not even be homeless.
When I look at him, I don't see "homeless".
I don't understand the controversy here.

Anonymous said...

I have to say I am stunned by this image and by your subsequent response. You focus all your commentary on the Christian Lacroix inspired dress! This man is homeless and should not be exploited for esthetics and then ignored and glossed over in favor of fashion commentary when someone complains about the image.

It is not a matter of ignoring or not ignoring this person because they are homeless. It is a matter of using him to create contrast and interest in an otherwise completely innane image that I protest.

I agree with Victoria and Anonymous above. You are parodying this man and using his image to add shock value to the photo. That is just mean spirited and, frankly, lazy photography. Seriously, shame on you!!!!!

I can't figure out the identity stuff for this blog, but I am Jeanne Strole, a political activist and artist from New York City.

Anonymous said...

This is the 'anonymous' posted below 'victoria' above (too lazy to create a profile/name).
I'm tempted to ask a question of Jeanne: what about this makes it lazy photography? Lets guess that the photographer had no hand in orchestrating the picture. The girl provided an opportunity with her behavior and the photographer caught it and posted it. All sorts of attention and discussion ensued (possibly rousing people from their apathy??).
I personally don't see the man exploited for esthetics, but for concept. I agree that this is not entirely right, but neither is the real situation it reflects: the excessive living and party atmosphere that dominates gastown which has a historical context (vancouver's history of mis-handling street community is long and sordid). I think its wrong to make such obvious attacks on the photographer. Although I have to admit, I find the history of the dress interesting (and who cares where it came from) I would have wanted a little more of a discussion about the area where the photo was taken; and why this is not a constructed photo (?), but a pretty accurate representation of what is going on in gastown.

The Commodified said...

Both parties consented to the photo.

Anonymous said...

Okay. Okay.
Settle down here people.

The point is I would sleep with both of them.
And I have.
It was great - with lots of bodily fluids pleasurably shivered and slathered back and forth.
I preferred banging one over the other.

Well that brings up the "oh so controversial" scoring mechanism...

Anonymous said...

Let us not take ourselves to seriously people. All points made are valid, however… I don’t think fashion is meant to be taken so literally, or as some sort of moral compass. This is very similar to blaming eating disorders on the fashion industry. Fashion does not determine the fate of our society. The people wearing the clothing do!!!
I would also like to reference Jean-Paul Gaultier's fascination with street style (street kids, squeegees…) Are we going to start saying that J-P is mocking them? I think we should spend less time verbally masturbating or pointing fingers, and put things into prospective. Quel horreur!

Anonymous said...

looks like something Jeff Wall would have done.

I enjoy it more than his work because it doesn't seem set up. They both seem genuine, whether they now it or not.

Anonymous said...

I think the idea is that when you live in a city where far too many people don't even have the good fortune of a home which most of us take for granted, it's at best a bit unseemly to be taking pictures of the homeless when the subject is something as frivolous as fashion. It's not like the photo is a part of a project to address the problems of the downtown eastside, it's a piece of fashion commentary, which is a fine subject, but not one that I think we should be employing people who don't have the wealth and time to be concerned about fashion to promote. No one is justifiably saying we should ignore this man, or anyone else, but that when we do pay attention to people it should be in a way that reflects their dignity. I don't know about you, but when I look at this photo, dignified is not one of the words that comes to my mind to describe it.

Anonymous said...

I really like his Nike hoodie and CAT hat a very athletic inspired look.

gasp said...

holy crap people, I find your sanctimony painful. He's wasted and it's new year's eve. Homeless, perhaps. Different than about 90% of the people out past midnight on new year's. No. I think the "protect the homeless" attitude is more disrespectful than the cheeky pose. I think the guy in the photo might very well think the same. 80's prom dress, drunken night out, and 2008 here we come. Please, let go of your self-righteousness and go talk to some people who may be living in less than ideal conditions. They'll probably tell you the kid glove approach is more disrespectful than accepting them for where they're at and how they live.

AO said...

I like your blog, but it's a stretch to delve into some long-winded tangent about Lacroix and this picture being some kind of social commentary. If your intentions were to truly make some sort of social critique, then why would you choose the "excess of the 80's" as your talking-point when that's a completely tired and irrelevant topic of discussion in regards to the DTES (unless you just read Bret Easton Ellis for the first time or some shit)? I think you're reaching here, Craig. You took a tasteless picture and posted it, simple as that. You could even chalk it up to being drunk and hungover the next day... I mean we all exercise poor judgment sometimes.

Anonymous said...

I am shocked by those comments that obviously show very little or no understanding of why people find this picture offensive. Its not about whether or not the homeless picture is worse off due to this picture being taken. Because of course he isnt. It is about what this picture SYMBOLIZES.

e. said...

the imaginations on some people... yes the fact that a blond girl is wearing a short pink "fun" party dress must imply that she hit people in the face on the dance floor and spilled drinks on their feet. yes thats the natural conclusion from this photograph. or how about calling her a "twat"? i know i like being referred to as a slang for a sexual organ all the time! oh and of course he must be homeless! he's drunk! ignore those clean clothes he's wearing!

why is their something about fashion writing that makes people think it acceptable to file their claws into a point and scrape out each others eyes? interplaced with moments of sanctimonious intellectual BS? it really takes all the steam out of a persons argument when they throw in constructed slander about real individuals. please remember this is not a jeff wall photograph. these are not actors being paid to pose. these are not celebrities. this is too complex an image to focus on merely the two people concerned.
how about the gentrification of gastown? or about the insanely high rents that this city dishes out that make it impossible for art and young culture to exist anywhere else?

Anonymous said...

demiCouture.ca is a hypocrite for calling that girl a "twat" How can we believe you have respect for the supposedly homeless when you call people things like that? furthermore call down your own vagina using that word!

Thomas said...


Anonymous said...

Are they related? Their mouths look very similar.

Anonymous said...

1) How do we know he's homeless?
2) Why are we able to take it upon ourselves to know that this man is being "exploited"? Because we have money, educations and status? If this guy says he's being exploited, then he is. Without that assertion, his consent to the photograph says the only thing that is offended is some of our overly-liberal sensibilities.

bri said...

Well I will have to say the pretension in this discussion blows my mind and I have been a bit hesitant to defend myself but there are a few uneducated statements that I think should be straightened out
. one this man was not a prop just a man that wanted to be in a photo I wouldn’t call him a homeless man a prop or anything to point fun at he was actually quite a witty kind man enjoying a piece of pizza and a party on new years eve just like the rest of us he was quite enthused to be in the picture and have a conversation while maybe enjoying a pack of cigarettes I gave him later on instead of standing off to the side and being ignored by people like you whose first thought when you see him is homeless and not worthy to be photographed
.Two this is a great 80s prom dress that a friend of mine found in a little vintage store made by Alfred Angelo and I think it was well suited for the occasion nothing about that night was less than excess which brings me to
.Three if we are going to talk about exploitation I'm surprised no one has pointed out the fact that I myself have been a bit exploited I am certainly not a celebrity or anyone who has some title to withhold so where is the just in me being posted in a forum for strangers to manipulate judge and tear me apart I agreed to have my picture taken yes I did not however agree to be in a blog to be picked apart as a human being
.Four this is a fashion website lets stick to that not how drunk I may have been not a blog about how much money this man has in his pocket so I feel a bit embarrassed that I should have to defend my moral values or worthiness of being called a “twat” all that should be defended is as I stated earlier “a great dress” belittled by being labeled as a mass produced corporation “Sirens” dress anyways I could go on to ten about all the wrong comments made but four is already a foolish amount of energy put into defending this photograph that was a spur of the moment thing
P.S he was blinking not out of it

"adhesif clothing" said...

"Art has the ability to retrieve emotions and conjure an array of perspectives both negative and positive"...

Despite my mixed feelings about this image I'm glad it was taken and posted, as it has helped bring to light some very important issues, namely the impoverished and how we percieve them in our society.

Homelessness is more of a social issue then a political one...so let's lighten up and have some compassion for oue fellow man.

I am a local eco-friendly fashion designer. My work space is located by Hastings and my heart goes out to the residents in this area everyday. Everyone has a story to tell...as long as you are willing to hear it.


the iron chic said...

Yeah, what does all that Lacroix bullshit have to do with anything?
Photographer's are supposed to be documenting their world- did you set up this situation? Did it just happen?

Anonymous said...

If both parties consented to the photo and therefore are willing to have their photo taken, what is the problem?

I empathize with the blogger's response, but I wonder if the person is more bothered by the woman's outfit than the juxtaposition of individuals? Would she be upset if she was wearing a black turtleneck and jeans? Or a polyester sweatshirt and nylon trackpants?

If the photographer is capturing the early adaptors of Vancouver's street style, how is this photo offensive? How does she reconcile that this photo maybe capturing the early signs of gentrification of Vancouver's downtown eastside, where the humble local residents are increasingly rubbing shoulders of Vancouver's affluent?

Wai-Ling said...

As art, I think this photo works very well--look at all the discussion that has arisen. The fact that it is posted on a fashion blog whose consumers have money, time, computers, and large vocabularies is problematic from a sociological standpoint, but I agree that the "kid-gloves approach" can be much more damaging; it is certainly disempowering.

This photo is important because it asks us to question our own values. Would you rather a photo of the girl alone so that you can bash her "sirens style" without thinking twice? The Commodified not only critiques (clothing) art, but also exists itself as art (photographs). As an outlet, then, for the contributors' art, it follows logically that they would post a photo that probably captivated their interests as much as it has ours. The photo is interesting--just not in the way we expect from fashion blogs, which are usually more about aesthetics and less about social (justice) issues.

Would you feel the same outrage if this photo was displayed in an exhibit about exploitation and marginalization? I think the photo's placement on a style blog is less than ideal, but I am glad it was posted, because otherwise, I would never get to see it.

Wai-Ling said...

ps. More offensive to me than the photo was the "Happy New Year's from Vancouver's DTES," when the photos less than accurately represented the DTES and sounds kind of trite.

I still like this blog, and I still support a medium that allows such controversey and debate--we all need to be made to think a little more.

amanda said...

typ.ic.al. vancouver.
seriously. i want to vomit a little that I'M even commenting on this.

ps. i love how the "issue" was waved away with the lacroix.

again. typ.ic.al. vancouver.

stop bitching about this photo cuz it aint child porn said...

you totally shoulda just gone with some "in return for posing in our photo, we bought this starving man pizza"

Anonymous said...

yuck. exploitative.

Anonymous said...

This picture digusts me.
It was taken to show what the "twat" was wearing
but instead of her posing alone
she stood with a homeless man.
She may deny that she was mocking
him but look at the carefully at
her expression, clearly she thought
it was funny to stand beside a poor homeless man.

Anonymous said...

I think it's fricken halarious. Come one people, she didn't spit on him or anything. And she didn't look the other direct and jog past him, like i'm sure most of you would. And that girls definately got balls.

Anonymous said...

The photo is not exploitive. The young woman is partying in the DTES and decided to have some fun with the locals. It appears that the man has no problem with the photo.

The truth is that the DTES has become a strange mix of the poor and addicted and the rich and beautiful. It's a horrible contrast that symbolizes the many problems our society is coping with.

The photo in itself is not the problem. There's nothing wrong with two worlds coming together for a photo, and there's nothing wrong with a little fun. If this photo had been taken as the man was injecting drugs or passed out, then it might have been exploitive, but again, he doesn't seem to have a problem with it.

The real problem is, why are young hipsters partying in a drug ghetto?

There are a lot of reasons why hipsters are drawn/been pushed into the DTES. But the fact that they don't have a problem with the bigger social problem is disturbing. Coming into the ghetto and partying amongst such misery without doing something to help the neighbourhood and locals is exploitive and disrespectful.

So, while the photo may have all been in good fun, the two people go back to completely different homes and have completely different nights and lives and nothing is done about any of this.