When I first saw the March cover of Vogue Italia a few weeks ago I was a bit thrown off. Although it featured the beautiful Joan Smalls, the glossy’s first black cover girl in nearly four years, it was the styling that got to me. Smalls was done up in garb fit for a (bad) hair show, instead of haute couture. But the full spread shot by legendary fashion photographer Steven Meisel, really made me scratch my head.

The editorial, dubbed “Haute Mess,” is an over the top gaudy parody of “ghetto” culture. Technicolor hairstyles and makeup, loud clothes, too-long, wildly painted acrylic nails, weave tracks hanging from odd places, and gold fronts are just a few of the spread’s staples.

Understandably the spread has caused quite a debate in the fashion world. While many are happy Smalls brought some much-needed color to the cover, they’re excitement is  damped by the fact that she’s apart of an editorial that clearly appropriates from urban culture. On the other hand, many wonder if those critical of the cover will ever be satisfied, especially since models of color rarely grab the mag’s most coveted spot.

What do you think of the editorial? Is it creative or offensive? 

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