Unlayered: Fashion through the Colonial Gaze

In December 2019, the Glassbox Gallery in Paris featured the research exhibition ‘A Fashion Issue: Identities in Translation.’ Looking at four different issues of VogueVogue Spain, Vogue Paris, Vogue Italia and Vogue Arabia, these publications were examined and explored ‘as containers of discourses, ideologies, and stereotypes on a variety of topics: from race to femininity, from class to creativity.’ According to the exhibition catalog, the aim ‘was to re-perform the self-reflexive languages produced by the publishing industry while showing how magazines can become unique springboards for evaluating representational strategies in the fashion industry.’

The section ‘Unlayered: Fashion through the Colonial Gaze’ was curated by Piper and explored the May 1958 issue of Vogue Paris. Particular attention was paid to a travel and fashion editorial photographed by William Klein, with accompanying text by fashion editor, Pat Cunningham. In order to problematize the representations of Morocco and Moroccans through a post-colonial lens, visitors were invited to flip through transparent layers of the selected images. This method was used as a way of deconstructing and unpacking the representations of fashion, place, and identity. The mythical narrativization of Morocco presented in this editorial is meant to foster desire and curiosity in the European reader, and by doing so excludes Moroccan subjects from the pictures, as they fade into the background and become mementos of an exoticized vacation.