Vice Pulls Distasteful Suicide Fashion Spread

A recent Vice fashion spread shows a model dressed as Sylvia Plath moments before her suicideVice is brand known for being in-your-face, aggressive, and un-P.C., but its latest fashion shoot, entitled "Last Words," is particularly shameful. In a spread posted last Thursday online, Photographer Annabel Mehan shot seven models made up to look like famous female authors at the scene of their famous suicides. Stylist Annette Lamothe-Ramos dressed one model as Sylvia Plath is pictured kneeling in front of a gas oven. Another is made up to look like Virginia Woolf wading into the water before she drowned herself. A third who resembles Iris Chang (who only died in 2004) has a gun in her mouth. And yet another dressed to look like Sanmao, who hung herself with stockings, holds a noose around her neck. Want to get the look at home? The tights are by Look from London.

Forgive us for not buying into this form of artistic expression, but to us suicide is not something to be glamorized. These literary talents should all be recognized for their talents, and surely their deaths can and should be discussed. But recreating, and glorifying their morbid suicides for the sake of fashion is tasteless and highly offensive. And providing fashion credits for the outfits displayed is yet another level of depravity.

While the post initially received hundreds of likes on Vice's website, there were also scores of heated comments. One angry readers said, "This was a despicable concept, and one that should never have made it past the first pitch. How you let this go to completion is beyond me. I believe whomever is responsible for giving this the go-ahead should be fired. To affiliate something as pointless as fashion with as tragic as the suicides of brilliant and affected people is disgusting. I don't even care if you did it as a piece to illicit reactions. My reaction is that I have lost all respect for the people who created and endorsed this content, let alone your publication. How could you be so cold and unfeeling as to let this appear? You should be ashamed of yourselves." Another added, "What kind of sick minds do you have working there? What utter lack of ethics and morals are you trying to put on display? And ALL WOMEN??? SHAME ON YOU."

While the fashion spread remained on Vice.com last night, it was quietly removed sometime today. The spread does, however, exist in printed copies of their latest Fiction Issue. Vice have since issued the following statement, which appears at the original URL of the photo shoot:

"Last Words" is a fashion spread featuring models reenacting the suicides of female authors who tragically ended their own lives. It is part of our 2013 Fiction Issue (http://www.vice.com/magazine/20/6), one that is entirely dedicated to female writers, photographers, illustrators, painters, and other contributors. The fashion spreads in VICE magazine are always unconventional and approached with an art editorial point-of-view rather than a typical fashion photo-editorial one. Our main goal is to create artful images, with the fashion message following, rather than leading. "Last Words" was created in this tradition and focused on the demise of a set of writers whose lives we very much wish weren't cut tragically short, especially at their own hands. We will no longer display "Last Words" on our website and apologize to anyone who was hurt or offended. -The Editors

So the editors of Vice intended for the fashion to be the focus of the spread. Are we really supposed to make light of the tragic suicides depicted, that were clearly created for shock value, and try to hone in on the dresses and shoes in these images? And if the issue is a tribute to female writers whom they wish had lived longer, why not showcase them in a positive, tasteful way? We know art can be controversial, but we're tired of Vice's pathetic M.O. of being offensive for the sake of being offensive. These photos went too far, and while we're glad the images have been removed from the site (you can see them all on Refinery29 and Jezebel), we're disappointed at Vice's weak apology.