Update: This morning Karlie Kloss issued a short statement on Twitter apologizing for taking part in a geisha-themed Vogue shoot that was criticized for its cultural appropriation. "These images appropriate a culture that is not my own and I am truly sorry for participating in a shoot that was not culturally sensitive," the supermodel tweeted to her followers. "My goal is, and always will be, to empower and inspire women. I will ensure my future shoots and projects reflect that mission."
This story was originally published on February 14. A set of images of Karlie Kloss in what appears to be a Japan-themed editorial, reportedly in Vogue's March 2017 issue, are going viral — and probably not in the way the model or magazine would hope for. The shoot features Kloss dressed like a geisha: her face appears to be whitened, and her hair is done in the traditional Shimada hairstyle. We reiterate: This shoot is apparently published in a magazine in 2017. The images began circulating on Twitter after a Kloss fan account posted what it alleges are scans of the editorial. We've reached out to Vogue to confirm whether this editorial is indeed part of the magazine's celebratory 125th issue. In a cringe-y, ironic twist, the issue is actually intended to celebrate diversity and individuality, as heralded on its seven-model ensemble cover. Naturally, as soon as the editorial was leaked, lots of concerns were voiced in the Twittersphere.
Kloss was previously criticized for cultural appropriation when she wore a Native American-inspired headdress as one of her looks in the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show back in 2012. (Due to backlash prior to the air date, the offending outfit was cut from the broadcast.) She was also part of the lineup of Marc Jacobs' spring '17 catwalk, which featured, quite infamously, a bunch of white models wearing rainbow dreadlocks.
This most recent gaffe is all the more distressing when we remember that Asian women constitute only 7% of the models cast during New York Fashion Week, according to The Fashion Spot's diversity report for spring '17 — which is actually less than it was the season prior. So, for Vogue to seemingly have shot a Japan-themed fashion editorial on location, but with a white model? It's hard to think of a scenario where, at some point during the planning and execution of this project, no one thought this maybe wasn't the best idea. Additionally, the shoot is part of an issue that's notable for its representation of Asian models, no less: Liu Wen is the first Chinese model to be featured on the glossy's cover, ever (as well as the first Asian model to do so since the 1930s), per Mashable. Unfortunately, it seems like a commitment to inclusivity stopped short of the centerfolds.