Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: They're more damned than beautiful

There aren't enough trees to make the paper we would need to write on all the other evils and scandals that fester in fashion

Share
Related Topics

As a teenager, I was obsessed with Nahida, a schoolfriend – so fair, so smooth, with high cheekbones, sensuous lips and light brown eyes. I wanted her to fall down and scar her face forever. Oh the malevolence of youth, and those yearnings to be the loveliest in the schoolyard. The tailor who made her dresses was sought after; though she was fairly stupid, teachers patiently spent hours trying to get her grades up, and she was everywhere in the school magazine. Those born with dazzling looks are natural aristocrats in all societies. But then, and there, they were still human.

After the war the media and powerful business turned the gorgeous into products to sell products. Now models, designers, stylists and other manufacturers of false dreams make up a pantheon in the skies. But part the bright white clouds and you see scenes of existential misery, debauchery, cruelty, self-loathing, exploitation, prejudice and extravagant self-regard. Some stars break in that thin air, or poison or hang themselves. Suicidal gods. What a thought. Most float on and come to believe in their own (skin-deep) perfections, immortality and infallibility. Eighteenth-century cartoonists like Gillray and Rowlandson would have exposed these elevated lightweights. Today, when they act grossly or express vile thoughts they are excused and adulated.

Last week Kate Moss deigned to get out of bed to walk a few yards on fashion turf in some weird black gear. She looked more bored than the most practised, bored model. She lit up and puffed away, her nostrils exuding smoke like an old car exhaust. And it was No Smoking Day! What daring, what panache, gushed not only jobsworth fashion writers but ladies in other sober broadsheets. She was "strutting self-confidence". A profile writer in a left-wing paper declared Moss a "feminist icon". Just what our daughters need, a young woman wearing pricey gear who wastes herself with style. That brave ciggie will get women into top jobs and stop men beating and raping their wives. What a gal.

More sick was the idolatry, the wisps of sweet-scented incense which swirled around John Galliano after he was filmed allegedly expressing repellent anti-Semitic and racist views. From the rants we can reasonably infer that he thought gassing Jews rather a good wheeze. He was sacked by Dior – an unusually harsh punishment, say insiders. The fashion house had no choice – people remember how it loved chic Nazis during the French occupation. His lawyer, Stephane Zerbib, claims Galliano was "very vulnerable" when he let off because of alcohol and medication. The style goddess Rachel Zoe says: "It's a little insane and super-sad." And then Dior showed his stuff and how they applauded.

Meanwhile, Sarah Brown dreamt up her perfect dinner-party guests: Aung San Suu Kyi, Graca Machel and, among others, Naomi Campbell, the alleged recipient of uncut diamonds from deposed Liberian president Charles Taylor, whose war crime trial has just ended. The Browns promote virtuous people and projects worldwide. How do they reconcile that with indulging a spoilt woman known for a good body and temper tantrums, some quite violent?

In America, Dov Charney, the colourful boss of American Apparel, is accused by one of his young female workers of sexual exploitation. The case has brought out the usual apologists. She, they say, went into that business of her own volition. How dare she now bite the hand that apparently stroked her? There aren't enough trees to make the paper we would need to write on all the other evils and scandals that fester in fashion. A recent YouGov poll found 43 per cent of interviewees believe the industry is "dysfunctional and immoral". Only 43 per cent.

It isn't only the beautiful who are the damned. More so are their supplicants, genuflecting before the fiends of fashion. Richard Dawkins should turn his fiery attention to this form of mindless worship, more destructive, it seems to me, than quietly praying in church or temple.



y.alibhai-brown@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Network Engineer - CCNP, Hedge Fund, London

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer - CCNP, Hedge Fu...

Senior Network Engineer-CCIE, Multicast, Low Latency

£60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-CCIE, Mul...

Network Infrastructure Engineer

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Infrastructure Engineer (...

Network Engineer (CCNP, BGP, Multicast)

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, BGP, Mult...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: The West flounders in the Middle East morass

Independent Voices
David Tennant as Hamlet  

To vote no or not to vote no, that is the question... Although do celebrities really have the answer?

David Lister
All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition