Politics is politics. And letting politics rule over fashion and beauty can no longer be acceptable.
France, along with Italy, is a country whose history incorporates fashion and the good arts. Over the past centuries, France was not only an important place for literature, but it also gave birth to a good portion of fashion creators who built legendary brands.
Recently, Bernard Arnault was crowned the world’s richest man. The latter is the chief executive officer of LVMH, the most notorious luxury brand in the world. The news was not welcomed by the French population as they fought against a new bill promoted by president Emmanuel Macron which would force the French to work until they are 64. The French authorities failed to handle the Covid crisis, so much so that issues related to work and capitalism were questioned. With these revolts also came the rejection of elitism, wealth and success. Actually, the French were always hypocrites who envy the prosperous and rich while protecting an unfair system of inequality which not only maintains the poor at the bottom but also take advantage of African resources.
Arnault is synonymous with French excellence in terms of business, but the growing protests contributed to a bigger wave of hatred towards him, and so, even though he gives business lessons to Harvard students. The French are not only ungrateful but they also spit at him constantly instead of learning from his knowledge in business.
Yet, if Arnault is a prosperous and an incredible business man who deserves total respect for his master skills, the fashion decisions taken by the new French creators these days are more than questionable. Indeed, their ideas are mostly organized by younger designers who fail to understand the greatness of the older generation. The latter were focusing on excellence, refinement, elegance and timelessness, while the younger ones are obsessed with the idea of performative activism, hence pushing the envelope in the wrong way. Fashion is art which involves creativity, photography and choreography, and this art should not be corrupted by a faux political revolt.
Therefore, for the younger creators, lowering the standards of luxury is perceived as a positive element, when it is disastrous. These disastrous choices are justified by the new fashion directors who want to tackle elitism through the elevation of mediocrity and irrational new models who are not real models.
With her fake blaccent, faux-rebelle attitude and deep voice she uses to mimick a proximity to the French ghetto, Adèle Exarchopouls became, for the French industry, a kind of new Béatrice Dalle. The latter was not only a raw beauty, but her “in your face” attitude was a part of her, not a fraudulent act she put out in order to make it in the industry.
France, when it comes to arts, is one of the most deplorable European countries. There, whether in music or in the movie industry, talent is not the first criterion needed for one to make it. Just like any European institutions, France is built upon networks and nepotism. Unlike the United States where any talented individual can wish to have a career as long as they prove to be magnificent, the underground French movie industry is filled with talented aspiring black African and white North African actors, actresses, singers or composers who are still waiting for “the giants” to give them a chance. Actually, this difficulty is proper to all French actors, depending on their backgrounds, who want to be a part of this industry. Even if the whitest talented aspiring actor is not protected by the right network, they will struggle everyday to be noticed. This reality is even worst for the black French-Africans whom nobody wants to cast for being “too black”. And if these aspiring black actors refuse to be walking stereotypes, they can say goodbye to their career.
When it comes to the music industry in France, the condition is even worst. Controversial biracial rapper Booba, born to a Senegalese father and a French mother originally from the Eastern part of France, has been in the industry since 1995. Now a megastar in Europe who released many classics, the rapper stirred up controversy in 2004 by attacking other rap groups deemed “legendary” by the white French industry. He shouted out the bands I AM, N.T.M. and the rapper MC Solaar and referred to them as a part of “ancient times” in hip-hop.
Booba received many attacks from the rappers mentioned themselves who called Booba “disrespectful”, but the latter answered back criticizing the state of the French music industry. Indeed, Booba, born Elie Yaffa, is still flabbergasted by the fact that the so-called “French music legends”, especially in hip-hop, are “artists” who were allowed to rest on their laurels while not reinventing their music. The band N.T.M which was attacked by Booba in his lyrics has not released any new album since 1998, yet the two men still sell out concert rooms where they perform their old sets. Though a French biracial man, Booba was always drawn to the American system of performance, where no one is safe, where even the most talented people can be ousted if they fail to reinvent themselves. If nepotism exists in the U.S, the French and Western European elite refuse to share their spheres in arts, whether in music or in the movie industry, while being totally reluctant to reinvention as well. French people love to live in the past.
Yet, if the European elite refuses to widen their sphere for newcomes, they pick and choose the people they deem to be the future of the industry. Most of them are not even talented. If the doors were open to Léa Seydoux, it is surely because her family of French industrials are heavily involved in the movie industry too, owning several Pathé. She is a basic actress, with no particular talent who made her place in the industry for who her family members are. If choosing Seydoux helped secure nepotism and its networks, the industry can also choose random actors/actresses who will make it for the lack of minorities. One needs to understand that, since the 1970s in France, black people in French cinema are either casted to play boofons, gangsters, prostitutes, or drug dealers and aggressive lesbians. There will be no French Idriss Elba or Denzel Washington. And the French industry loves to choose white women who will parody black attitudes. And Adèle Exarchopoulos is one of them.
Adèle was recently chosen as the face for YSL. A French-Greek, she can not act, is vulgar, uninteresting, but she embodies the fraudulent image of a white woman trying to act black. Born to a good middle-class white family, Exarchopoulos never grew up poor or in the French ghetto at all, yet she speaks like one of them. It is this fake “in your face attitude”, this lack of authenticity, the constant mimicking of black aesthetics which is a pale copy of Béatrice Dalle that seduces movie producers and the fashion industry alike. The blaccent and mimicking made her the poster child for the “rebel girl”.
Anthony Vaccarello is a Belgian-Italian fashion creator born in Brussels in 1982. He is the new director of YSL. Vaccarello is a part of a younger generation which broke away from the refinment, beauty, grandeur, art-like heritage which was proper to the older generation. Vaccarello, like any other new fashion house creator is an uninteresting white man who wants to push an envelope by choosing new modern women at the head of haute couture houses.
Haute couture was always tied to French elegance, creativity, beauty and excellence. Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Berger were two problematic and controversial men in the world of fashion, but Saint-Laurent was one of ther first French creators to have elevated black models at a time when European fashion shows turned their backs on them. Saint-Laurent loved black women he judged beautiful and he was fond of them.
Haute couture was supposed to be synonymous with “hard work”. In this reality, models, fashion photographers and designers made efforts to sacrifice their time and creativity in order to materialize their ideas. The greatest supermodels of all time, whether Naomi Sims, Jerry Hall, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, and many more, did not achieve their status in a day. Lingerie models such as Gisele Bundchen also had to endure rejection during their casting, they were forced to be patient in order to let their mark in the fashion industry.
Woke politics and the lack of culture from the younger generation encourages failed fashion directors to choose improbable faces to represent these luxurious brands whose prestige is tied to European excellence.
Before vulgar Exarchopoulos, thus in late 2022, Aya Nakamura became the new face of Lancôme. Nakamura was often attacked by racist trolls on her face and body, for being too muscular. In their quest for inclusivity, the directors of the brand wrongly thought that casting the most listened to French artist on Spotify would be a great fight against racism. This choice is still problematic.
Nakamura may be talented in her music field, but she is far from being a new model. She lacks charisma, is not refined, and does not embody the femininity that black women such as Katoucha Niane, Naomi Campbell, Iman or Naomi Sims exuded in their prime. Nakamura is rough.
With the rise of social media, came the issue related to popularity. So much so that even the most basic-looking actress can become the new face of the most prestigious haute couture or luxurious brand simply for being famous. Kristin Stewart and Emma Watson are some of them, while the real models who are still working hard for their place are treated with disdain, sexually abused, while these women are the only ones to know how to work the camera properly unlike the grotesque new movie stars who lack substance.
Fashion needs to remain fashion, and be synonymous with creativity and refinement, not with popularity.
By Victoria “VKY” Kabeya, All Rights Reserved 2023
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