Victoria Secret launched an oriental lingerie collection this month entitled “Go East”, “Your ticket to an exotic adventure: a sexy mesh teddy with flirty cutouts and Eastern-inspired florals. Sexy little fantasies, there’s one for every sexy you.” This was written on the ad which has now been removed after critiques deemed the collection racist.
The “Sexy Little Geisha” is one example that seems to have raised the most controversy. It featured a Caucasian model (Candice Swanepoel) in an “Asian-inspired” lingerie piece with cutout paneling, floral detailing, a removable obi belt, chopsticks in her hair and an oriental fan in her hand. (Image on the left)
I can’t help but think the eastern inspired line was unfairly targeted for criticism by many bloggers, leaving it no choice but to remove the entire “Go East” collection from the website. Collections such as this cost millions of dollars to create; it’s a shame all of it went to waste due to “racism”. Victoria Secret has designed some sultry lingerie lines, but unfortunately due to misunderstandings the company and the designers must rely on the public for their intake.
Many bloggers complained about Victoria Secret’s use of a Caucasian model to advertise an “Asian inspired” line of lingerie. However, the legitimacy of the racial complaints should not hinge on the fact that the model was Caucasian. These same bloggers would still have had a problem with the line of lingerie even if they used an Asian model to represent the attire. So raising the issue of a Caucasian model wearing Asian inspired clothing as racist is a moot point in and of itself.
A blog that caught my eye was “Victoria’s Secret Does It Again: When Racism Meets Fashion.” by Nina Jacinto. She said, “Indulge in touches of Eastern delight.” Translation: “Buying these clothes can help you experience the Exotic East and all the sexual fantasies that come along with it, without all the messy racial politics”. The denotation of the word “Indulge” by Google is to “ allow ones self to enjoy”. The full sentence meaning allow your self to enjoy, with a touch of eastern pleasure and where did the “ messy racial politics” come from? The Victoria Secret description “Indulge in touches of Eastern delight” can be easily misinterpreted, everyone having their own definition.
Jacinto also said “When someone creates a collection like this, making inauthentic references to ‘Eastern culture’ (whatever that means) …it reinforces a narrative that says that all Asian cultures–and their women–are exotic, far away but easy to access”. She makes it clear that she hates the collection, but could all of this really just be a misunderstanding. I mean there are sexy Halloween “Geisha” costumes, no one ever complained about that? Perhaps it’s the phrases Victoria Secret had chosen that have lead to all the commotion.
Nonetheless the main issue many bloggers had with the lingerie line was from the misconstrued connotations of the word “geisha” who are often misrepresented as escorts, the denotation of the word “geisha” is a“Japanese girl whose profession is to sing and dance to entertain men”according to dictionary.com. Due to everyone having his or her own connotation of the term “geisha” has lead me to wonder what Victoria Secret’s definition is?
Victoria Secrets “Go east” collection is a perfect example of misinterpretation. That unfortunately made the company (that hosts everyone’s favorite fashion show) lose a lot of money.
Xo ~ Karen