Ganni Uses Images Of Marginalised Women As Backdrop For 'Sustainable' Collection

by: Lucy Jones | 1 week ago | News

A look from Ganni's 'Life On Earth' show. Image source

"How were these pictures of poor brown women aligned with the theme of of sustainability?" blogger Anaa Nadim Saber asked after watching Ganni's Copenhagen Fashion Week show. The New York-based writer took to Instagram to express her discomfort over the slideshow that was playing during the brand's Fall 2019 show.

"Today, I attended The Ganni FW19 show "LIFE ON EARTH" during Copenhagen Fashion Week, which was centered on "sustainability" and the "global Ganni girl"," she wrote. "Throughout the show, there was a slideshow of images taken by Ami Vitale in the background, depicting underprivileged women in developing countries, while models gallivanted across the runway."

Saber wasn't the only one who failed to see a link between the show's theme of 'sustainability' and these images. A number of publications have written about Ganni's tone-deaf presentation, which used the photographs of award-winning national Geographic photographer Ami Vitale to promote a message of sustainability. The 'Life On Earth' collection was meant to be Ganni's most sustainable yet, but the show notes didn't touch on sustainable materials or production processes. Instead, they included this vague commitment to becoming more sustainable:

"We've been working really hard to make Ganni more sustainable. I believe we are all capable of changing something, but we need to make it top of mind and create tangible solutions … Vitale has this approach to photography, that instead of depressing people with a cynical outlook, you can inspire them to take action by showing them the beauty of the world."

The clothes themselves — leather gloves and oversized puffer jackets — didn't scream sustainability either.

This presentation is a clear example of greenwashing — Ganni tried to present an environmentally-responsible image without actually providing any information about what it is doing to reduce its impact on the environment. And, it used images of marginalised women to do so.

"The brand fetishised these women and used them as props and marketing tools. This was not a platform for these marginalised women to get representation; they were not treated as humans with agency and with stories of their own to tell," Saber wrote in her Instagram post. "Instead, they are shown through the ‘white’ gaze, reduced only to their aesthetic value. It looked “cool” in the background, right? It “gelled well” with the aesthetic of depicting the “human spirit”, right? Wrong. My people are not your aesthetic."

These images become even more problematic once you consider that many women living in third world countries are exploited by the fashion industry.

"It is exactly women like the ones in these pictures that are worst affected by our industry: poor wages and terrible working conditions in sweatshops that manufacture clothing for many western brands," Saber explained.

If you are going to use images of women to promote your products, you need to ensure that women are not being exploited in your supply chain at the very least. This is something that Ganni failed to do. Fair labour wasn't mentioned anywhere in the show notes and there isn't any information about the factories that Ganni works with on its website.

After Saber's post sparked widespread backlash, Ganni apologised for using the images.“At Ganni it is always our mission to celebrate women around the world," the brand said in a statement. "For the GANNI FW19 show, we drew inspiration from the beauty of life on earth and wanted to portray the diversity and connectivity we share on this planet.”

Recognising the beauty of life on Earth does not automatically make you a sustainable brand. As consumers, we expect brands to do more than just pay lip service to issues like sustainability.

"This is why building diverse teams is critical," Saber argued. "The fashion industry likes to throw around buzzwords like “diversity, inclusivity, and sustainability”, without introspecting on how exactly they are promoting these causes. It is unlikely that the women in these photographs received any compensation for “participating” in this show, while the brand profits."

"This is not just meant to call out Ganni for being problematic," she continued. "This is a larger pattern of exploitation in the fashion industry."

The women in these photographs and the women who buy Ganni's clothes deserve better.

View this post on Instagram

I need to take a break from all this fashion week hype to talk about something that has made me feel extremely uncomfortable. Today, I attended The Ganni FW 19 show “LIFE ON EARTH” during Copenhagen Fashion Week, which was centered on “sustainability” and the “global Ganni girl”. Throughout the show, there was a slideshow of images taken by Ami Vitale in the background, depicting underprivileged women in developing countries, while models gallivanted across the runway. How were these pictures of poor brown women aligned with the theme of of sustainability? How did this show benefit these women? The brand fetishized these women and used them as props and marketing tools. This was not a platform for these marginalized women to get representation; they were not treated as humans with agency and with stories of their own to tell. Instead, they are shown through the ‘white’ gaze, reduced only to their aesthetic value. It looked “cool” in the background, right? It “gelled well” with the aesthetic of depicting the “human spirit”, right? Wrong. My people are not your aesthetic. It’s worrying how this got approved. From the photography to the set design, did this pass before any people of color? Did nobody in management realize how this would be perceived by non-white audience members? This is why building diverse teams is critical. The fashion industry likes to throw around buzzwords like “diversity, inclusivity, and sustainability”, without introspecting on how exactly they are promoting these causes. It is unlikely that the women in these photographs received any compensation for “participating” in this show, while the brand  profits. This is not just meant to call out Ganni for being problematic. This is a larger pattern of exploitation in the fashion industry. It is exactly women like the ones in these pictures that are worst affected by our industry: poor wages and terrible working conditions in sweatshops that manufacture clothing for many western brands. This treatment of women of color is particularly painful given how “progressive” the fashion industry claims to be. Stop being tone deaf and blind to your own internalized colonial mentality. Do better.

A post shared by ANAA NADIM SABER (@oursecondskin) on Jan 31, 2019 at 6:54pm PST

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