Is it the fashion world that is becoming increasingly offensive or is it the world that has become increasingly precious? Earlier this year renowned Beijing-based photographer Quentin Shih joined forces with Christian Dior to create a photo series entitled “Shanghai Dreamers”, his second for the fashion house after 2008 series, “The Stranger In The Glass Box” that he created for the exhibit: Dior & Contemporary Chinese Artists. The “Shanghai Dreamers” images were made for display in windows of the reopened Shanghai Dior boutique, but have recently been causing a furore amongst fashion bloggers and commentators who have deemed the images racist.
In his Artist Statement Shih said:
My inspiration came from a certain Chinese style of group photography but these ceremonial photographs marks a departure from a certain historical period and herald the future. I created some typical Chinese groupings; they replace themselves, wearing plastic clothes. They stand on display in vast spaces or upon a stage – because they were, and still are dreamers. As China enters a new era, they begin to stand together on a world stage, self-conscious and yet filled with power.
Many media outlets have since come forward with criticism toward the images. UK blog Anorak responded to the images writing, “what we want to know is: where is Mr Kim? These group photos are a mainstay of North Korea under Mr Kim Jong-Il,” and The Guardian’s fashion blogger Jenny Zhang posted a feature entitled: “Chinese people as identical Maoist robots? Thanks for that, Dior. How can the fashion house think it is acceptable to make such a nakedly racist ad campaign?”
Shih responded to the complaints explaining, “I wanted to show the power of Chinese people standing together and a kind of socialism in Chinese history (only in Chinese history not China now). The Chinese models are not people. They are symbols of Chinese history between the 1960s and 1980s.”
Dior isn’t the only fashion house to come under scrutiny for campaign decisions: Rodarte was panned for their range of beauty products they developed in collaboration with M.A.C. called ‘Juarez’, which they named after an impoverished Mexican town best known for the hundreds of young women who have been raped and murdered there with just about no response from police. Rodarte and M.A.C. pulled the line after receiving an overwhelmingly negative response to the concept.
Have a look at Shih’s images via Anorak and Grazia.uk