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Fashion’s Fascination With The Homeless: 9 Offensive Examples

Fashion’s Fascination With The Homeless: 9 Offensive Examples

Posted in Fashion By
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    Last week, a financial report from late 2012 hit the Internet, and people took issue with a very specific comment made by Richard Hayne, the CEO of Urban Outfitters. "The Urban customer, we always talk about, is the upscale homeless person, who has a slight degree of angst and is probably in the life stage of 18 to 26 ... The Anthropologie customer is a bit more polished, a bit more older and she has much less angst ... She tends to be a homeowner and she tends to be in a relationship and more likely than not, married with children," he stated. The "upscale homeless" portion of his speech definitely ruffled some feathers, but it certainly isn't the first time the homeless have been referenced in the fashion world.

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    For the October 2012 issue of Vogue Germany, model Magdalena Langrova posed as a bag lady, wearing ensembles from designers like Rick Owens, Louis Vuitton, and Gareth Pugh. Despite the use of high-fashion labels, many thought this was mocking the homeless.

    Photo: Stylecaster Pictures / Vogue Germany
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    W Magazine's September 2009 editorial "Paper Bag Princess" featured top model Sasha Pivovarova as a high-end bag lady (she was quite literally a bag lady, wearing shopping bags from top labels like Prada and Ferragamo).

    Photo: Stylecaster Pictures / W Magazine
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    For her Fall 2012 menswear show, British designer Vivienne Westwood went for a "homeless chic" concept that many fashion critics felt was tasteless—and also unoriginal.

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    Model Erin Wasson caused controversy when she was interviewed by Cory Kennedy back in 2008 about her personal style. She stated, "The people with the best style for me are the people that are the poorest. Like, when I go down to Venice Beach and I see the homeless, like, I'm like, 'Oh my God, they're pulling out, like, crazy looks and they, like, pulled shit out of like garbage cans.'" Needless to say, people weren't thrilled.

    Photo: Getty Images / Larry Busacca
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    During cycle 10 of "Ameria's Next Top Model" back in 2008, the aspiring catwalkers caused controversy when they had to pose for a shoot where they portrayed homeless women being surrounded by high fashion models.

    Photo: Stylecaster Pictures / America's Next Top Model
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    Back in 2010, a book called Homeless People Don't Get Fat! caused a stir in Britain. The cheeky-yet-tacky book commented on the fashion industry's obsession with vagrants and their ability to "burn off calories through a healthy outdoors lifestyle." Also, the homeless stay thin thanks to "class A drug addictions," which are celebrated by the fashion industry. Apparently, the industry needs to reevaluate its priorities.

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    One of John Galliano's most famous collections was the Christian Dior Spring 2000 show, which was inspired by the homeless people living along the Seine in Paris. While on one hand it was wildly controversial, many praised his cutting edge technique.

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    Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen started to make headlines for their style which many referred to as "homeless chic." It was characterized by lots of layering, baggy garments, but always an expensive designer bag. When asked why they dressed like this, Mary-Kate stated, "For me, it was so cold, like the wind chill. How could you not put on 20 things when you're going from Los Angeles to walking through the snow? ... I think it was probably that. And laziness."

    Photo: Stylecaster Pictures / SIPA USA

Last week, a 2012 Urban Outfitters financial report surfaced online that included comments made by the company’s CEO Richard Hayne that essentially explained his marketing philosophy to Wall Street folks. To specifically describe the target Urban Outfitters shopper—the company also owns Anthropologie and Free People—Hayne said this: “The Urban customer, we always talk about, is the upscale homeless person, who has a slight degree of angst and is probably in the life stage of 18 to 26.”

Now, we’re pretty sure his remark was meant merely to evoke a specific image, but it was only a matter of time before angry Internet commenters started to take him to task over the use of the word “homeless.”

This got us thinking about that fact that the fashion industry has been referencing (even fetishizing, some might say) the homeless for years now, in everything from editorials, runway collections, and comments to the media—and often creating mini-controversies because of it. While there’s nothing wrong with being influenced by certain subcultures, choosing to continually seek inspiration from people who are, in fact, homeless is tricky business. The fashion industry exists to seek profit, so creating high-gloss depictions of people who look the way do they because they’re struggling can easily come off as tasteless or highly condescending.

To show that fashion’s strange fascination with the homeless is nothing new, we’ve put together nine particularly offensive examples that have made headlines.

Click through the slideshow above for some of fashion’s most blatant objectifications of the homeless and let us know: Do you think it’s harmless or tacky? 

MORE: The 10 Most Controversial Celebrity Outfits Ever

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