Vogue Goes To India: $2,290 Dresses, Marigolds, & Fashion

Vogue books a passage to India this month. And, for once, it brings an Indian model — the divine Lakshmi Menon.

It’s nice to see, for one, an editorial that doesn’t treat a foreign country as just an exotic background for a white model to pose against. I’m not sure if these photos, by the Swedish photographer Mikael Jansson, exactly represent an authentic engagement with Indian culture, but I do know that Laksmi Menon really lives in Goa. Like, not just has-a-house-there lives, but lives lives. Last week Menon told Vogue‘s Sally Singer that she doesn’t buy the notion “that the First World has a better life to offer.”

Menon is 27, and, very unusually, her career had something of a late start (she was already 25 when she began working in India). Now she does runway work for everyone from Alexander Wang to Givenchy. Her success offers a singular rebuttal to the idea that all models have to be underfed Eastern European teenagers. There’s something grown-up about this woman who won’t move to New York that I like.

Of course we already knew Menon looks hot in a swimsuit.

This white dress is by Yves Saint Laurent, which probably means it would cover the cost of a return flight to Goa, which just happens to be the location of this shoot. Where you could visit the Menezes Braganza house — “one of Goa’s grandest mansions” — and ponder colonialism and its fall out at Literati, a bookstore which Menon particularly recommends.

“What’s that, you say? This Alexander McQueen dress costs $1,695? I’ll take one of your saris instead, thanks.”

This photo, again, could look really ridiculous — Oh, spontaneous dance party! Yay, fashion! — but instead I’m intrigued by the coloration. The setting sun off the coast casts a perfect light, but what is that red dye that seems to cover everyone and everything?

“Proof that simplicity (tank, skirt) and comfort (flat sandals) are often the most liberating luxuries.” Question: is it better or worse for Vogue to offer eminently wearable ensembles that nonetheless cost more than anyone’s rent? This tank top and skirt run $1165; the shoes are price-on-application at Chloé. Is this, for not being a head-to-toe runway look replete with 6″ stilettos, a nod to the ways in which women actually dress as functional human beings with jobs to do and feet that get sore, or is it base and unoriginal pandering to the small subset of the extraordinarily wealthy who lack for white tank tops, white skirts, and the imagination to put them together?

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