02 October 2008

Sleeping in Ethiopia

The background: In Ethiopa the average household income is US$180 a year (source: UNICEF). The foreground: In Addis Ababa, the cheapest available rooms at the Hilton and the Sheraton cost US$275 and US300 a night.

From the Hilton: Welcome to this spacious 33m²/355sq.ft room with a balcony offering a mountain, garden or city view. The bright and airy room, decorated with original artwork, has 1 king bed and a desk. Special touches may include daily newspaper, mineral water, chocolates, flowers and fruit.
From the Sheraton: Discover what luxury really means. We offer 293 deluxe guest rooms. For added convenience, each room features a private safe and 24-hour room service.
  • Fax Machine
  • Air-Conditioned Room
  • In-Room Safe
  • Private Balcony
  • 24-Hour Room Service
  • Hairdryer
  • DVD/CD Player
  • Maid Service
  • Data Port
  • Room with Sitting Area
  • Butler Service
  • Desk
  • Room Service
  • Wake-up Service
  • Back to the background: Elsewhere in Addis Ababa ...

    01 October 2008

    Is this the most tasteless fashion shoot ever?

    That's the question a Guardian journalist asked recently following Vogue India's not so hip and trendy use of the poorest of the global poor for a not so funky photo shoot for luxury fashion accessories. It's a story which has, thankfully, been taken up pretty widely in the blogosphere and the traditional print media (as with this NYT article). In the picture above, for example, the baby's wearing a $100 Fendi bib.

    Here's how the NYT reports Vogue India editor Priya Tanna’s response to the widespread criticism she has received for this shameless/shameful move:

    “Lighten up,” she said in a telephone interview. Vogue is about realizing the “power of fashion” she said, and the shoot was saying that “fashion is no longer a rich man’s privilege. Anyone can carry it off and make it look beautiful,” she said. “You have to remember with fashion, you can’t take it that seriously,” Ms. Tanna said. “We weren’t trying to make a political statement or save the world,” she said.
    She got that right. Mostly. The magazine's quite apparently doing absolutely nothing to save anybody. It's decision to promote luxury goods this way is, however, a major political statement about things (and people) falling apart. A world in which it's the brand that's more valuable, more important than the people. Herm├Ęs not humans.