Kolkata-based luxury bag brand comes under fire for possibly racist campaign images
Photo campaigns of high-fashion labels have always most-often have included props, used in a stylish manner helping the models to carry forward the narrative of the brand. Historically, models have posed with Japanese fans to umbrellas and cigarettes to portray a certain mood that goes well with the theme. However, when the props happen to be members of a certain community, loaded with the history of slavery it does pose a problematic situation. Kompanero, a Kolkata-based premium leather accessory brand posted photos from the latest photo shoot featuring two models. The man who features in the photos seems to be of African descent, the way the latter posed with the bags had a lot of their followers commenting that the shoot pictures definitely have racist undertones. “Racist. These men are not servants or props (sic),” said one of them.
The man in the shoot at times is a site for the lady with slightly lighter skin to lean on and at times a surface where the bag can be placed; at most times he does look robbed of their agency. Afraid that we might be reading too much into it, we ask designer and stylist, Preetham Jukalker what he thinks about the pictures.
He says, “Trying to show a certain section down in photo shoots isn’t pleasant for sure! The depiction seems to hark back to historical connotations of slavery.” Unfortunately, it has been a sad trend lately to make use of members of the African community as props. A few months ago, actress Sara Ali Khan’s debut magazine photoshoot also came under the fire from netizens as they said it was in a bad taste to use Masai tribesman as a prop.
Meanwhile, designer Jyoti Reddy who helms label Ereena says, "Responsible fashion connects people, bridges all kinds of divides and paves the way forward for a brighter future. These images appear regressive and insensitive in their portrayal. Artistic licence does not hold good here."
However, footwear designer, Tarun Oblum has a different take on this. He claims, "In a time where everything has to be politically correct, art and creative expression has taken the biggest hit. As someone who is a follower of the work of the photographer (Kolkata-based Arka Patra), I doubt the images were meant to be racist."
Update: When we reached out to the authorities at Kompanero, we were told, they don’t have any comments. The label has now taken down some of the aforementioned images from their social media accounts.
This is a developing story.