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Deconstructing Tom Ford’s Cadeaux editorial in Vogue Paris

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The images of Tom Ford’s controversial, probably-had-something-to-do-with-Carine-Roitfeld’s-resignation fashion editorial in the December-January edition of Vogue Paris, featuring tiny children in heavy makeup and a truckload of couture, are out.

Some have expressed outrage, while some have expressed delight over the creativity and styling of the spreads. We deconstruct the possible reasons that this is being generally thought of as a bad thing, and imagine a rebuttal of every negative assertion pertaining to the fashion editorial.

“And you can witness their innocence fading away right before your eyes,” say conservatives.

Vogue Paris seems to be broadening its target audience to include middle-aged pedophiles. Why else would they use kids to attract readers?

Because it’s fun and a nice change of scenery from all the skinny models who are similarly underage like these little kids. Why is it okay to have a 15-year-old (Dutch model Daphne Groeneveld on the cover) pose provocatively but not acceptable to have a six-year-old dress up and act playfully (not including that one photo with the girl in a red ruffled dress)? They’re both minors, right? So why just attack this editorial?

What would children think of themselves when they see girls in outrageous makeup? This would send them the message that their natural beauty isn’t good enough for society, even as six-year-olds. Then they’d throw tantrums at the beauty counter to coerce their mothers into getting them some blue eyeshadow.

A normal girl would initially say, that looks like fun! And then she’ll try putting on her mother’s makeup and realize how silly it looks on her. And then she’ll get over the whole makeup is beauty thing. You know how short kids’ attention spans are these days.

These images will corrupt their innocence and encourage them to worry about shallow things, like dresses and accessories and nail polish.

Innocence is all about obsessing with mundane, shallow things, like little dresses, little macaroni necklaces and little pretend tea parties on Mrs. van de Kamp’s lawn. Since when did we expect children to start figuring out the nitty-gritty of global political affairs? And why else would we all want to be oblivious little kids again every now and then?

Making children wear fur makes them think that donning dead animals for fun is as normal as hunting unicorns and leprechauns at the end of the rainbow.

The whole world has been at odds with this issue for so long, but nothing has been resolved. Is it or is it not acceptable to wear fur? Is synthesizing faux fur better for all than farming adorable chinchillas for their shiny coats? It’s all been a barrage of propagandistic arguments from either side of the fence and until some International Fashion Court rules that it’s illegal to wear fur, most moderate consumers will continue siding with yes, fur is fine.

They are sexualizing the children by dressing them up as grown women.

Say what? When did makeup equate to sexuality? And when was being a grown woman ever exclusively about sexuality? Sexual maturity is just one of the many aspects of becoming a responsible grown-up, and the fact that some people still mistake it for adulthood and the many joys, challenges and complexities it entails is a little disturbing to say the least.

Such comment completely undermines what the feminist movement has been working to achieve since the beginning of the 18th century. It’s like saying, “Hey, you were brought into this world so you can spend all those years developing (physically) into an adult female, so you can wear makeup and seduce the heck out of the male species. But right now you’re too young for that.”


  1. Al

    January 7, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    I also wrote something about it in my blog, so I read this post with pleasure and found it very interesting.

    I still think that those pictures are ugly, and that’s without too many moralistic thoughts behind. It’s not for pedophiles (the chance that they would check Vogue Paris every month until they find what they’re searching for is almost zero I think) or for the same old rhetoric about childhood, make up and furs.
    I still think that shots like these in what can be called “the age of pedophilia” is a bit offensive (for the victims and the people who live this problem every day) but it’s not for moralism or because I think that the editorial will attract pedophiles. It’s just bad taste. And it’s not what I expect from Vogue. I expect from Vogue a totally different approach to fashion, society, and beauty and, luckily, there are much better sources for controversy and the analysis of provoking topics.
    Also a lot of contemporary artists are able to do the job very well, Vogue Paris failed. Sad to say but in my opinion that’s what happened.

    I’ll copy here what I wrote in my post (it’s still what I think about this photoshoot)

    “I had the first feeling of disturbance (is this word OK? No because I think you noticed that my english is not exactly spotless…) almost immediately, with the “cadeaux” reportage.
    For pages and pages there are these eleven/twelve year old girls, heavy make-up on, dressed with haute couture clothes, shoes and jewels that play at the “sophisticated lady” game. That can sound original and slightly provocative. But no. There is no trace of amusement in their eyes, they don’t look like they’re playing, there’s no fun, no beauty in these pictures. The shots are dark, the girls look like they’ve been forced to play this game. Shots like these in the hurricane-era of pedophilia? For a Christmas gift guide? I guess they wanted to be provocative. Well, they just managed to show bad taste.”

    But I was really glad to read what people appreciating the shoot thought, so thanks for this post and the analysis about it :-) I always like to read different opinions on the topics that I also like to discuss.


    -The Red Dot-

    • Anonymous

      January 7, 2011 at 6:01 pm

      Hey Al,

      Thanks for your thoughts on our article. You do raise a few interesting points that we hadn’t thought of initially. The magazine could probably have trodden the line more sensitively, with respect to those who have somehow experienced or been made familiar with pedophilia on a personal level.

      With regard to people saying this was done bad taste though, I find it mindboggling that to this day there is still no widely-accepted set of rules that says what is or isn’t good taste. There is no clearly defined line that separates good taste from bad, mostly only waiting for some conservative to cry “bad taste!”, and you know how much a conservative’s opinion weighs in a liberal world.

      Also another point that has been raised about this editorial is the fact that they do much worse things to girls in kiddie beauty pageants. So is this somehow tied to that issue? I doubt it, but of course Vogue Paris could have used this editorial to direct attention to what happens behind the innocent smiles and the tiny tiaras.

      • Al

        January 11, 2011 at 2:46 pm

        Thanks for your reply!

        Actually, you’re right. I do share your opinion on the pair “bad taste/conservative opinion”. And maybe my mistake was to assume my sense of bad taste as a common bad taste sense. And maybe this is the whole point of the problem, I don’t know.

        But in the end, I think it’s really nice that someone took the time to analyze this editorial: whether we think it’s good or bad, beautiful or ugly, it’s still something that raised our interest and made us (and a lot of other people, apparently, by looking at google) talk about it and express our (sometimes extreme) opinions. And everything that raises such reaction is important (ina a positive or negative way) to society and costume, in my opinion, and worth the words spent on the topic.

        Thank you again for the discussion ;-)


        -The Red Dot-

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  3. Felicity

    June 23, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Your an idiot

    • Anonymous

      June 23, 2011 at 1:41 pm

      Unfortunately that adds nothing to an intellectual discussion.

      And it’s you’re, not your.

  4. Schmutz

    August 8, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    inappropriate for this age.   Give kids a chance to enjoy childhood.  We all grow up too fast.

  5. Maureen

    August 10, 2011 at 9:54 am

    They are Sexualising the children by dressing them up as grown women!!! in reality the human female attracts the male by what she does,wears and looks, this is human instinct of attraction, now putting that aside and moving on with liberal thinking we can not lose the fact that the male brain is attracted to whatever appeals to his brain and in the pedophiles world it is little children they are attracted to, so with this in mind I think that having children dress up as adults for public pictures and advertisements is giving eye candy to the pedophiles, I think it is totally out of order for any add campaign to use children in this way and shame on the parents!!

  6. Vcfan001

    September 30, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Dear Al,

    You wouldn’t expect anything less from an industry dominated by mysoginistic gay men (i.e., designers) … would you??  They don’t care about women …. evidenced by their demands to have young walking skeletons thrown down the runway to allow the clothes to best “hang”.Why stop at that …. they wouldn’t care less about children either so let’s start abusing them too.  All in the name of art.These children are posed in a highly sexualised manner – consented to by delusional parents – and for what purpose??Imagine the number of issues that have had the pages stuck together – incredibly repulsive – but it would have happened.What planet do people in “fashion” live on??

  7. jv

    October 19, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    It makes me sick that people can try to justify this. I’m 18 years old, I don’t have any children and this disturbs me because I can and still remember the pressures of my surroundings trying to make me grow up faster.  These ads are sending the wrong kind of message and ultimately destroying little girl’s self-esteem.

  8. Tali

    October 27, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Whoever answered these questions is one of the dumbest people I have ever encountered, absolutely every comment they say can be refuted by empirical data. The fashion industry leaves no prisoners, it is stretching out its claws to target young girls who should not be vulnerable to the values depicted in these images. Early childhood is when we begin to develop our sense of self… And little girls are going to incorporate these images into their self-development, consciously or unconsciously. Women spend their lives obsessing about enhancing their image whether we like it or not because of the expectations societies and these destructive magazines inflict upon us. Now this toxic is being imposed on children… CALL ME CRAZY BUT WHAT HAPPENED TO INNER BEAUTY? Thank God I live in Australia because disgusting material would be kicked to the curb which is exactly where it belongs.

  9. Nycgbyrne

    January 14, 2012 at 4:54 am

    I don’t see anything wrong with these pictures. Please can we have more, with even less clothing. Thank you Tom, thank you vogue.
    Pete O’Vile

    • Anon

      August 25, 2012 at 6:59 am

      If this is meant to be a joke then your as sick as your comment is. They are 6-9 years old these girls which would make you a pedophile. Sorry but you wont be seeing anymore sexualised little girls behind bars where you belong.

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  11. Anon

    August 25, 2012 at 7:02 am

    If Jim can see this, can you comment on who made the rebuttle? I would like to use your column for a college assignment :)

    • lamodadubai

      May 25, 2013 at 2:30 am

      The rebuttals are just an alternative opinion – no specific person made all those comments. Perhaps the whole point was to just try and get past the initial outrage and look at it from a less invested point of view. And we’re very sorry for the delayed reply – we had switched to Facebook comments and lost access to Disqus comments for a long time!

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