Dior's copy-and-paste Chinese ad campaign being labeled racist

By David Kiefaber on Tue Aug 31 2010

Dior-Shanghai-Dreamers

Dior's "Shanghai Dreamers" ad campaign, featuring row after row of copied-and-pasted Chinese men and women flanking a tall Western model, has struck a chord with people, and not a pleasant one. For one thing, the image of a Westerner standing out among identical Chinese people appears to some observers (like the Guardian's Jenny Zhang and Artinfo's Madeleine O'Dea) as racist Orientalism, and the Cultural Revolution-era clothing was taken as an indelicate callback to a sensitive time in Chinese history. Quentin Shih, the artist behind the campaign, explained that he wanted to "express a dialogue between Chinese fashion ... and Western fashion," and that he intended the Dior model "only to represent the clothes, not herself and not a Western people." Actual Shanghai resident Elaine Chow more or less agreed with this, noting that "China's own fetishistic use of white models in advertising" produces a similar effect. I wouldn't go so far as to call the ad racist, but it is provocative. But I don't think it will hurt Dior much either way—this is small beer in a business where black models are whitened in Photoshop pretty regularly.


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