After the brouhaha over the "all-black" issue of Vogue Italia in July, all eyes were on the autumn/winter campaigns to see whether fashion would put its (advertising) money where its (editorial) mouth is.
The choice of Naomi Campbell as the sole star of the Yves Saint Laurent campaign is inspired. Although she is a celebrity, she is respected as one of the most talented models working in the industry and at 38 remains an international paragon of black beauty. As one of the few brands – alongside Lanvin, CK One and DKNY Jeans – to feature non-white models this season, YSL appears fashionably on-message, asserting its long legacy of supporting black models. The house was, after all, the first to put a black model on the catwalk in the 1960s.
Key to the balance between fashion and politics is the selection of photographers Vinoodh Matadin and Inez van Lamsweerde. This Dutch husband-and-wife partnership is the most sought-after in the industry and they have surpassed even Steven Meisel in shooting the most campaigns this season.
Inez and Vinoodh have long-standing relationships with many of the older models, including Kate Moss, Shalom Harlow and Christy Turlington, and Van Lamsweerde is candid about her preference for models with sexual awareness and life experience. Of which Campbell, of course, has plenty.
Think of how black women are generally depicted in fashion – as tribal goddesses or predatory animals – and then consider the subtlety of this vision of elegance. The jut of the hip in this pin-up shot on the left lengthens the high waist of her trousers – a showpiece from a standout collection. This creates a long, undulating line, connecting with her luxuriant hair that spans the entire height of the YSL showroom on Avenue George V, the location for the shoot.
Like an amazing black Alice in Wonderland, Campbell dwarfs the brand context. Using nothing tricksier than exaggeratedly low or high viewpoints, strong shadows and masterful posing, the shots communicate strength, stature and sensuality without any trace of racial stereotyping.
Verdict: YSL gets politicalReuse content