Consumers Criticize East/West Binary in Fall Marketing

The Victoria’s Secret “Go East” line disappeared from its website last week after negative online comments. The collection included “Sexy Little Geisha” lingerie featuring chopsticks, obi belt and bow, matching fan and chopsticks, and imported nylon/spandex. The description: “Your ticket to an exotic adventure…teddy with flirty cutouts and Eastern-inspired florals. Sexy little fantasies  there’s one for every sexy you.” Who is this “you”? This reeks of orientalism (as described in the Edward Said excerpt) and the casting of “Eastern” women into an exoticized one-dimensional inauthentic stereotype. It appears that fashion seeks to use very antiquated terms to appeal to the American audience.

There was also a recent New York Times article that read, “Beauty in the Orient” (citing East-West inspired American made Asian skin care line by Estee Lauder) and Dolce and Gabbana produced Mammy-looking earrings for their runways show claiming it was inspired by 10th century moors.

However, this all seems like a shameless exploitation of ideas – I am guessing orientalism was supposed to be “in” this season, but has received backlash by consumers including bloggers and runway show attendees. The voice of the “East” is silent due to the construction of the binary, yet some of the “West” is speaking out against this brash branding and implicating themselves to be allies of the so-called distant East. It begs the question: if Asian-American bloggers feel directly offended by Eastern advertising, does this mean Asian-Americans are the East in America or – more likely – that such boundaries are just ways to shut the imagined “other” out. Are the corporate elites trying to push something on consumers that they won’t ideologically buy?

Victoria’s Secret ad: here

Dolce & Gabbana [Americans note the resemblance to Mammy stereotype, Europeans see colonial exploitation of the dark skinned woman]: here

New York Times (the headline was changed for the online edition):  here


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