Vogue Paris August 2004: China Charm
By Jessica Eritou
The childlike, delicate elements to "China Charm" in Vogue Paris provide a tranquil motif throughout the editorial. Shot by Craig McDean and styled by Carine Roitfeld herself, this 2004 editorial features Gemma Ward, one of fashion's most missed models till this day. This was a smart move for Vogue Paris to cast Ward as the model because of her soft, delicate features which complement the shoot effortlessly.
However, the shoot tends to fall flat. There is a fine line between cultural appropriation where instead the art becomes a stereotype but the editorial seems to be quite distant from the title itself. Most of the clothes featured Italian designers like Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana. The poses are somewhat predictable and short-lived, yet the reader gets a sense of what Carine Roitfeld was trying to embellish with this shoot. Each of the selected garments were beautifully crafted clothes, yet too high of contrast to grasp the details of the garment.
The first shot captures Ward in a very delicate, overly feminine position showcasing her figure. Her jacket features an Asian inspired Mandarin collared top with nothing on underneath. This is paired with a dark, lush, restrictive wiggle skirt. Underneath are patterned leggings with something you might see on a teapot.
The second shot looks more like an advertisement for the Sony camera featured throughout “China Charm.” This is a very stunning, powerful shot of Ward, but the composition of the shot and the placement of the camera is all the reader can grasp.
A great and successful shot features Gemma Ward in the black, shiny, sleeveless full-length ball gown. Convincingly, this shot does not showcase any of the themes in this editorial nor the title of it, yet it is so simple and profound. Ward is used as a model without any connotations, just simply for fashion.
Another highlight in this shoot was of Ward looking stunning in all red, paired with a beautiful T-strap sandal. There is a story behind this shot, this work now has the reader intrigued as to what is going on due to her body language and pose. Her lavender hair is in harmony with her, perhaps, painted on socks, or hosiery. This is complementary with the hue of the red fur cropped cape and the body-con silk dress. Although each garment is the same hue, the textures contrast wonderfully for this shot.
Gemma Ward is featured in a gorgeous Alexander McQueen dress which artistically combines in every element from the minimalist background she is shot against, to her lavender streaked hair, to the flowers featured on the dress. The Sony camera appears again but used quietly as an accessory and not in the foreground this time. The reader is able to grasp the simplicity and the delicacy of Gemma Ward and the dress with tranquility.
Perhaps the best shot is a close up of Ward in a textured jacket featured a side zipper, holding on to the camera, while she has a simple hair accessory at the top of her crown of hair. There is such a strong emotional sense the viewer can get from this shot. Finally, there is a story to be said. We wonder what is she thinking, why is she positioned that way.
Perhaps simplicity and purity was the goal to this shoot, but overall could have gone much further with more depth to the storyline behind each photograph. Only a select few images grasp the reader's attention as to what is going on in the model's head or the shot itself. The clothing selected is beautiful, but nonetheless I wish Roitfeld and McDean pushed much harder for this editorial. Instead, it leaves a relatively safe feeling, knowing how much more it could have been with their potential.
Vogue Paris editorial image © 2004 Condé Nast. All Rights Reserved.