Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Paris Couture’s Indian Summer: Model Lakshmi Menon Breaks Down Fashion’s Proverbial Color Barrier and the Industry Takes Note

Clockwise Center: Menon walked exclusively for Givenchy during the Haute Couture Fall 2008 season, it was her first appearance at a Paris couture show; Lakshmi in a look from Tisci’s Fall 2008 ready-to-wear collection for Givenchy. The designer, known for his dark gothic esthetic was inspired by religious iconography of South America; Images from Givenchy’s new Fall 2008-09 ad campaign shot by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, featuring Menon, as well as models Kristen Owen, Lara Stone, Natasha Poly and Maria Carla Boscono. For the ad Tisci wanted to create a “family style” portrait of strong women.

On a hot July day last week on Paris’ Left Bank, at 15 Rue de L'ecole de Medecine, passers by were greeted with the unusual site of leggy models wrapped in heavy woolens; their heads topped by quasi-Peruvian wide brimmed hats woven with alpaca stripes in shades of stained tobacco, coffee bean, and cream. Such attire could hardly be considered weather appropriate for the current heat wave hitting Paris. But this being the Fall 2008 couture season, climate concerns were brushed aside for the sake of Ricardo Tisci’s latest vision for the House of Givenchy.

Photographers buzzed around, as the models were herded out of a makeshift tent into the back entrance of the Couvent des Cordeliers. Inside the 13th century convent, seated amongst a forest of carved wood columns and a floor strewn with fragrant cedar wood chips; editors, journalists and a smattering of rarified couture clients were treated to yet another unusual site, Color, and not the kind necessarily found on clothes.

Instead, the first model to emerge from the darkness was the Indian catwalk stunner Lakshmi Menon, followed soon after by models Jourdan Dunn and Sessilee Lopez. It was not lost on anyone present at the show that Tisci was making a statement about fashion’s current lack of diversity; especially with the later two models, who appeared in the recent “all black” July issue of Italian Vogue, shot by Steven Meisel. That particular Vogue issue is only the latest in a series of efforts by the fashion world to address the dearth of ethnicities in the modeling industry, as well as the way it chooses to define beauty. American Vogue similarly printed an article titled “Is Fashion Racist?” while a series of articles in the New York Times have tackled the “whitening of the runways.”

In Tisci’s case, this isn’t the first time the designer has used the catwalk to make such a statement. For Givenchy’s Fall 2006 ready-to-wear collection, he sent out a succession of black models that included Liya Kebede, Kinée Diouf, Thais Dos Santos and Naomi Campbell. But his choice of Indian model Lakshmi Menon to open his latest couture show is significant, because it soon followed news that she would be fronting the Fall 2008-09 ad campaign for the house as well. A rarity for a South East Asian model, the campaign, shot by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, also features models Kristen Owen, Lara Stone, Natasha Poly and Maria Carla Boscono.

But as fresh faced as she may appear, Menon is hardly a newcomer to the fashion world; so much as a face the industry has finally begun to take serious notice of. For as dubious as the practice may be, there is a reason most models enter the industry in their teens, as it takes several years before they eventually hit their stride. Case in point is Kristen McMenamy, a favorite of the runways and fashion photographers for the better part of the 90’s, whose career didn’t explode until her mid-20’s.

Menon, who is 25, wasn’t exactly plucked from relative obscurity when she walked exclusively for the Givenchy show. Instead she has been building up a stellar career gradually over the last few years. Today she is undoubtedly experiencing her break through moment.
© THE POLYGLOT (all rights reserved) CHICAGO-PARIS


Asian Models Blogger said...

Just finished reading the article of Lakshmi Menon. It's one of the best written article that I've read on Lakshmi and fashion, in general.

copenhagen runway fan said...

I enjoy this post a lot, but please let us have some more updates! July is too long in the past, do not make us wait any longer - thanks!

-h of candid cool said...

she's beautiful. i think it's great when designers recognize models of darker ethnicities, tom ford did it too

Anonymous said...

Wonderful posts, Polyglot, very enlightening, but please can we have more frequent updates! There is nothing else like this one the web.
Margherita Missoni