Blog: Leonie BarrieFashion on the frontline

Leonie Barrie | 5 March 2004

An Israeli fashion company’s decision to launch its summer catalogue with a procession beside Israel's controversial West Bank barrier has been courting an equal amount of controversy of its own. Should the barrier which, with its network of walls, wire and ditches, has become a life and death issue for both sides, be used as a publicity stunt for something as ultimately frivolous as fashion – or is there a genuine message to convey?

As models paraded Comme-il-faut’s colourful summer clothes in front of the eight-metre high concrete slabs that separate parts of Jerusalem from the West Bank, the company said the event contrasted beauty, femininity and fashion with a "concrete wall of insult, ugliness and humiliation.” And in an age when we’re all bombarded by thousands of images a day, shock tactics such as this really do seem to work.

Of course it’s not the first time a fashion brand has tried to provoke a response or raise awareness of other issues. Just think back to Benetton’s controversial advertising campaigns that included pictures of a man dying of Aids, dead Mafia victims and a new-born baby trailing an uncut umbilical cord. Upsetting and offensive as some of these images may be, they keep an issue in the public domain, and perhaps most importantly, encourage people to think and talk about issues that they might otherwise be able to ignore.


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