A Chinese photographer has apologized after French luxury fashion brand Dior jettisoned a high-profile photo of an Asian model following complaints that the freckled woman with piercing eyes pandered to Western tastes and stereotypes.
“Dior, as always, respects the sentiments of the Chinese people. ... If any errors happen, [Dior] must be open to receiving feedback and correct them in time,” the fashion house wrote on its Weibo account Wednesday, the BBC reported.
The company statement noted that the image by famous Chinese photographer Chen Man was an artwork displayed at a Lady Dior exhibition in Shanghai, and was not intended for an advertisement. The photo was removed after the uproar, and the exhibit closed Wednesday.
Chen apologized for her work this week on her social media account without mentioning Dior.
“I blame myself for my immaturity and ignorance” in my past works, Chen, 41, wrote on Weibo. “I think that I must ... formally apologize to everyone.”
Critics erupted on social media after the photo appeared in the exhibit early this month, saying the model — who appears in traditional dress holding a black Dior handbag — lacked the fair skin and larger eyes popular with the Chinese.
The Beijing Daily described the model as having a “gloomy face” and small, “sinister eyes.”
“For years, Asian women have always appeared with small eyes and freckles from the Western perspective,” said the editorial. “The photographer is playing up to the brands, or the aesthetic tastes of the western world.”
China Women’s News said that the image of the model with “swollen single eyelids” made people “uncomfortable.” Dior exposed its intention of “uglifying Chinese women,” it claimed.
But others spoke up for the photo, and urged a broader acceptance of diverse Chinese beauty.
One Weibo user asked: “Why can’t a Chinese woman with small eyes also be considered beautiful? I don’t see any problem with this.”
The uproar over the photo re-triggered criticism about Chen’s earlier work, including “Young Pioneers,” a series of photos in 2008 of a young model in different scenes, some with backdrops of major Chinese landmarks.
The state-owned Global Times newspaper reported that critics on social media had called that work “implicit child pornography” that insulted the Young Pioneers, the name of a Communist Party-affiliated youth organization.
Chen noted in her apology: “I was born and raised in China. I deeply love my country. As an artist, I’m totally aware of my responsibility to document Chinese culture and showcase Chinese beauty through my work.”
She added: “I will educate myself on Chinese history, attend more relevant events, and improve my ideologies. ... I will strive to tell China’s story right through my work.”