Gigi Hadid’s out-of-this-world look in the new Moschino campaign gives her the air of an alien flight attendant from a campy B-movie – which sounds right up cartoon-loving designer Jeremy Scott’s alley. The ad has proved controversial, however, because of Jeremy’s clumsy handling of the phrase 'illegal alien'. At a time when the Trump administration is separating migrant children from their parents at the U.S. border – and keeping them in what certainly look like cages, even if Trump assures us they are not, – it’s a contentious phrase that has come under increasing scrutiny.
Sharing the campaign image of Gigi, her skin painted blue and wearing a bright orange wool coat from Moschino’s fall 2018 collection, Jeremy captioned the image: "The only thing illegal about this alien is how good she looks!" Fans of the designer will recognize his fondness for gossip page-like headlines, but many saw his choice of words as trivializing the plight of detained migrants, and as being insensitive to migrant poverty by appropriating the pejorative phrase in order to sell designer products worn here by rich supermodels. Although Gigi Hadid has Dutch, Palestinian, and American heritage, some commenters were angry that the models used all appeared to be white, when migrants crossing the border are predominantly Hispanic and people of color. Hadid, Kaia Gerber (who is white American) and Vittoria Ceretti (white Italian) were the first three models Jeremy posted, though he later added an image of Soo Joo Park, who is a South Korean American.
"What a tone deaf caption. Geezus," wrote one Instagram user, with another adding, "That caption is disgusting. You’re profiting on the suffering of people escaping persecution, poverty and death." Not everyone understood the controversy, with one person commenting, "This is art people! An idea becomes creation. Respect it! Art comes in all kinds of shapes and [forms], [stop] spitting on every talented artist. What’s wrong with u people, she is gorgeous [look] at her."
For the people who were upset, however, Jeremy undoubtedly made things worse by deleting the caption and writing a new one that appeared to be more sensitive to the issue, but without an acknowledgement of the offense the previous caption caused. At the time of publishing, the new caption reads: "Alien Nation! @gigihadid stars in my new @moschino campaign .... What is an 'alien?' The concept of my ad campaign is to bring attention to the US administration’s harsh stance towards 'illegal aliens'. I painted the models in my show and this campaign as a way to open a discussion on what exactly an 'alien' is – are they orange blue yellow green? Does this matter? They are our friends, neighbors, co workers, relatives and people we love."
This edit and elaboration of the concept was not enough for some. "We won’t forget that, and changing the caption doesn’t change the fact this whole campaign just brings you profit" one wrote, adding, "You want to start a discussion? Stop painting the same models blue and calling it revolutionary. Actually change the fashion game by hiring models that need to be represented. Get out in the street and do something worthwhile. Until then, you’re just another white man making money off the suffering of real people." This snafu is another reminder to designers that, if you’re going to include activism in your fashion, you’ve got to do it right.