Thursday, June 13, 2013

Cavalli Photoshopping Beyoncé: Who's to Blame?

I don't often read the news but I saw this in the news recently. "Cavalli announced via email that Bey wore a special Roberto Cavalli "created exclusively for her 'The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour'" at her recent concert, a multicolored silk gown with gold embellishments and cutouts."

And with this they attached the image above.

Oh no they didn't!

On Facebook Cavalli tweeted:

“Dear Fans, We would like to clarify that the image of the gown created by Roberto Cavalli for Beyoncé is a sketch and not a photo, and therefore it is only meant to be a stylized and artistic vision. Roberto Cavalli loves women and more than anyone else has always exalted and highlighted the female shape with his creations, building his signature style on the glorification of sensuality and femininity.”

Okay, first some "adjustments".

The image above is not a sketch. I've seen designers' sketches. That's not one of them. That's an image either photographed or computer-generated or most likely both. Perhaps Cavalli was referencing another image but this is the only one I could find.

But the backlash, oh the backlash! After all isn't that the significance? That people feel like designers, magazines, companies, [fill in the blank with other industry professionals] are perpetuating an unrealistic idea(l) of the female form? Which then either directly or indirectly (but certainly allegedly) produces eating disorders?

So let me ask you a simple question. How far do you want to go with this?

Fine. Let's get rid of Barbies or at least force Mattel to conform to more "realistic" body measurements. But first let's set up a governing body (funded by tax-payer dollars of course) to oversee the doll-making industry to ensure we don't get any more 32"-16"-29" measurements. While we're at it, let's set up a separate arm of the same oversight committee to ensure that no images with "non-conforming" body images appear in any media including but not limited to print, web, outdoor (billboards). That arm of the oversight committee will also ensure that designers don't sketch to unrealistic proportions and that clothing manufacturers conform to a consistent sizing system and that ALL sizes must be produced up to XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXL.

We will structure the committee under the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) because then the US could really make a concerted effort in cleaning up body image issues particularly with the diet drugs and diet programs on the market. Consistent with the committee's responsibilities, all weight-loss drugs will be banned along with any non-conforming (to be determined by nutritional arm of the governing body but on the same level as the body-image oversight committee) eating programs. All over-the-counter meal replacement programs will be reviewed and Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers will be scrutinized extensively, particularly for clients that have lost too much weight (an acceptable weight-loss percentage will be determined by the committee). Consistent with the committee's goal, the committee will oversee abuse of meal replacement and other nutritional products as it pertains to body-building. All magazines promoting body-building (Flex, Muscle & Fitness) will be banned. All gyms will require documentation of each individual's activities to ensure that each gym users comply with the agency's health and activity mandates.

Like I said, how far do you want to go with this? Because I can take it up a notch or two more if you'd like.

Wherein lies the blame? Do you blame the designers for sketching to unrealistic proportions? Do you blame nutrition product companies for providing weight-loss pills? Do you blame models themselves for perpetuating an unrealistic image of the average woman?

I suppose the question then becomes, "How far up the food chain do you want to go?"

And perhaps the most important question, "Can you handle the truth?"

Because as you go up the food-chain you find the Anna Wintours, the Vogues, the Condé Nasts. Higher up you'll find the production companies behind it all. The conglomerates that own the companies that make the stuff that you buy. The Compagnie Financière Richemonts, the LVMHs, etc. The higher up you go the more you'll find that it's just a bunch of people trying to make money. And the one thing all these people have in common is that they're exceptionally good at providing a product or a service that sells. So the question becomes, "Well, who's buying this shit?"

And therein lies the pickle. To put it bluntly,

Umm, you are.

And you might argue, "Well, I don't read Vogue" but you're missing the point. Even if you don't, it's obvious that many do. You are merely the exception to the rule. Because capitalism is democracy in its purest form. People vote with their money. If people like it, they will buy it. And perhaps not you individually but we as a society are more than vested in LVMHs and Condé Nasts. It's our culture. It's our lifestyle.

And what's more American than lifestyle? *big sarcastic smile with a twinkle in my teeth*

Bitching out Robert Cavalli doesn't change anything. Most designers I know, sketch to proportions like those in the image above. It's just that the masses aren't used to seeing those sketches and even less used to seeing those sketches rendered (too) realistically in Photoshop. But getting rid of Robert Cavalli, Anna Wintour, Vogue, or even Condé Nast wouldn't change a damn thing. The problem isn't that the designers are crazy or that the public is being victimized or brainwashed by unrealistic images of women. After all, it's not like the magazines are cramming those pictures down our throats. The problem is that as a society, we ask for these images just as we ask to know what celebrities are doing in their every waking moment (*cough TMZ). So instead of blaming the producers of these images we must instead turn the finger at ourselves and blame the consumers.

Oh snap.

Simply put, by purchasing these types of products and services we are directly or indirectly perpetuating the problem.

Because it is after all a symbiotic relationship. Basic economics (and logic) dictates that without demand there would be no supply. And while the plus-size movement is going strong, for every full-figured girl Anna Wintour puts on the cover of Vogue, there are 11 over-Photoshopped skinny bitches that grace the covers for the rest of the year. It's supply and demand. Vogue would be out of business if it catered to the plus-size niche of fashion. They would lose all the advertising dollars from companies like Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, etc. because companies that advertise in Vogue (generally) don't serve the plus-sized market.

Have you ever seen a plus-sized girl in a Gucci ad?

Try the following experiment: Google "plus-size" + "Gucci"

Nothing but fake t-shirts and empty department store search results.

Plus-sized or not, in a couple of weeks all of this backlash will blow over and people will go back to their old ways. Robert Cavalli will not go out of business. Bet your bottom dollar the sun'll come out tomorrow. And even those that want Cavalli's head on a plate for his crime against feminism, will go back to purchasing the same overpriced luxury goods including the dress you see in the image above. Models, makeup artists, photographers, retouchers, designers, hair stylists, talent agents, creative directors, etc. will all go back to fueling the industry with things it needs to perpetuate more images like the one above.

It is like this because this is how we are. This is our society, our culture, and our lifestyle. If we want things to be different, we must first change our purchasing habits. But in order to change our purchasing habits we must first change the way we see ourselves. And in order to change the way we see ourselves we must first change our ideals.

And that's a tall order.

Until then, two words: Robert Cavalli.


  1. LOL, best post EVER!
    BTW, while we do vote with our dollars, there are some items that we cannot do without and must buy.
    Food and toilet paper come to mind :)

  2. Until someone invents the 3 seashells, toilet paper is a must :)

  3. So true, and incredibly well-put.

  4. Thanks for sharing your expertise on yet another body image uproar. Personally, I love the image! Obviously Beyonce doesn't look like that, and everybody knows that. She's still recognizable as Beyonce though and the fact is that it's a beautiful image that was well done. Personally I do not understand the general ill feeling that the fashion industry has 'unfair' and 'unrealistic' standards. Those standards exist for a reason and the effect they may have on someone's body image has nothing to do with the clothes or the model or the editor, it has to do with that particular individual and their personal insecurities. It's not Matel's responsibility to make sure you like yourself, and even if they came out with shorter chubbier dolls, there will still be plenty that find a way to claim it is promoting bad self-image versus taking personal responsibility. I'm an 'alternative model' because, at 5'3", I don't come close to the meeting the fashion standard. While I'm disappointed that a great market is not available to me, there's plenty of work that is and I'm not mad that those standards exist. It'd be like causing an uproar because some jobs require you to be able to lift 80lbs, or other jobs require a PhD in economics. Nobody does that though. Fashion gets the blunt because the point of it is to be seen, to be public. As far as photoshop goes, I've been made to look like all kinds of things. A robot, a zombie, a catwoman.. no issue there. Why then would it be so different and, apparently, so awful if I were photoshopped to look like this image? You can change my skin tone and even my species, but not my weight..? Looking at this photo and, instead of recognizing it as a fantastic composition, you get angry..?? I don't understand that mentality. Cavalli shouldn't feel any obligation to fabricate excuses for it either. It's a fantastic photo. If you don't like it, don't look. Or, as you pointed out, if you're really that upset about it, don't buy the sh*t! I bet Beyonce isn't trippin', why should anyone else? My two cents.

  5. "You can change my skin tone and even my species, but not my weight..?"

    Love this.