Design Friday. Italian Vogue’s Oil Spill Disaster.

Oh that always trend forward world of Vogue fashion, how it always grasps the latest thing and runs with it. Today for the Design Friday post, I thought I would talk about the August photo spread for Italian Vogue. Glomming onto the recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the editors at Italian Vogue enlisted photographer Steven Meisel to do a shoot where the models are draped and covered in fake oil, and are wearing clothing inspired by the oil spill itself. In one sense it is high fashion satire, in another it might be viewed as a shameless stunt that exploits the situation.

Regardless of how you feel about what Vogue has done here you have to admit the photographs that Steven Meisel took are really well done, especially when you consider the art direction that was given, and the theme Vogue chose to run with.

I’m not exactly sure where the magazine was going with the BP oil spill as their theme, but it certainly has sold some magazines for them. In one way they crossed the line, by treating the environmental and economic disaster as fluff to stage a fashion shoot against. At the same time they have in a way managed to keep the disaster in front of their audience, and possibly raise some level of awareness about it. Although with the amount of world-wide news coverage it got it would be hard to find anyone that hasn’t heard about what happened.

I think what bothers me the most here, is the fact that Vogue set this as a fashion shoot. That they intended it to be edgy a provocative, but in the end this is a photo spread about fashion, in a fashion magazine, with very little editorial context about the realities of how life is forever changed along the Gulf Coast. I’m sure the editors and publishers of Italian Vogue were well-intentioned here, but I keep thinking the target audience might respond to this with “Oh gross. Look at that, they went to the oil spill site for this months fashion spread. BP sucks, hey look at that skirt.”

The shoot took place in Los Angeles, and was made possible by draping rocks in black fabric, and using water-soluble paint to create the look. For the most part I think the spreads are awful. The layouts are week and the choice of the font being used is questionable. The best spread out of all of them is number 3, where the image of a gloved hand is contrasted against a stark white background, and that’s not saying much.

In addition to the photos a behind the scenes video is embedded below. The video is scored with some bubbly clubby track and really puts all the rock draping and feather chewing in context. Here we have money spent on pretend disaster and money being made from a real tragedy. But hey, the photos look great and it is edgy.

Italian Vogue here is an idea. Next year baby Harp Seal hunt in Canada…

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