Sex Sells: Louis Vuitton and Love Accused of Glamorizing Prostitution

French intellectuals are up in arms against Love magazine’s video featuring Louis Vuitton’s fall 2013 collection, claiming it glamorizes sex work. The three-minute video, created by video artist James Lima, with the creative direction of Love magazine’s Katie Grand, following the house’s March 6th show in Paris, features models Cara Delevingne, Edie Campbell, Georgia May Jagger, Isabeli Fontana, and Lily McMenamy cruising Paris’ Rue du Pont Neuf in myriad states of dishabille to a score of moody piano music. The glassy-eyed night creatures stumble around in high heels, loiter on street corners, solicit passing Johns, and writhe around in the backseat of cars at the pleasure of an unseen voyeur.

An open letter, published in the left-wing French paper Libération and signed by many women’s advocacy leaders, accuses the video of “assimilating luxury with the world’s second most profitable criminal activity after drug trafficking.” Prominent women’s issues lawyer Dominique Attias told the Sunday Times of London that the video “portrayed women’s bodies as an object and prostitution as something that is playful and enjoyable…[It’s] an extremely shocking representation of women.”

“Banally objectifying” is more like it. The video reiterates the same “glitter in the gutter” narrative that has been a hallmark of fashion imagery for years. The panoply of possibly sedated, supine, or otherwise dejected-looking models in the pages of any glossy magazine is anecdotal evidence that the sexually available and socially marginalized woman is a boilerplate trope. From Holly Golightly to Helmut Newton, fashion has had a love affair with an idealized image of prostitution (though the zombie-like streetwalkers in the video seem to be having less agency — and less fun — than these precedents). It’s tone-deaf, uninspired, and not particularly surprising that the video would hunt for novelty in an aestheticized vision of society’s fringes, and erroneously conflate the supposed edginess of criminality with the exploitation of women.

Image: Louis Vuitton AW2013 by James Lima/Still image via Youtube