Vogue Italia has highlighted gold hoop earrings as a fashion staple. But why did they have to call them 'slave' earrings?
Italian Vogue is at the centre of a small but potent degree of Twitter outrage today, after a recently published article on hoop earrings was shared online. The earrings themselves aren’t the issue, it’s the description that goes with it which caused one tweeter to exclaim: “What the blinding f.ck?”
The post reads: “Jewellery has always flirted with circular shapes, especially for use in making earrings. The most classic models are the slave and creole styles in gold hoops.”
It goes on to say: “If the name brings to the mind the decorative traditions of the women of colour who were brought to the southern Unites States during the slave trade, the latest interpretation is pure freedom. Colored stones, symbolic pendants and multiple spheres. And the evolution goes on.”
Race is a persistent issue in fashion; Jezebel blogged that February’s New York fashion week was the “whitest in years” and French Vogue surprised many by painting a white model black during one fashion shoot.
Last year, Naomi Campbell even claimed one editor-in-chief in Australia was sacked for putting her on the cover of an unnamed fashion magazine.
But it was actually Vogue Italia who earned praise among industry insiders by publishing their “black” issue in 2008, an edition of the mag devoted entirely to a (then) new range of young, black models and designers. “The ‘black issue’ of Italian Vogue has caused such a phenomenal demand at news-stands in Britain and the United States that Condé Nast, the publisher, has rushed to reprint and distribute 40,000 more copies, ” wrote the Guardian’s Sarah Mower at the time.
While the subtleties of language are often lost in translation, it’s still shocking to see the word slave so boldly and shamelessly encouraged as a style focal point (two Italian speakers have confirmed the original text does indeed use the Italian word for slave in just the same way.
Vogue have yet to respond to the outraged comments below the piece (see the blogpost here).