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Dictator Chic
February 27, 2011 3:01 PM   Subscribe

February 25, 2011: Vogue calls her "a rose in the desert": "Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic—the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies." (Wikipedia about her husband: "He has been criticized for his disregard for human rights, economic lapses, sponsorship of terrorism, and corruption.")

November 2010 in Italian Vogue: "Mihriban Aliyev, First Lady of Azerbaijan, tall and slim, a minimal style, H.R.H. Lalla Selma, wife of Mohammed VI King of Morocco, who wears the best designer clothes with a preference for a sober and elegant look. Sheikha Mozah, Queen of Qatar, who has own personal style with her magnificent turbans and miss-match of colors. The wife of the Syrian President, Alma Al Assad.

It's nice to see that each one of them with their beauty, class and sophistication, has her own way of interpreting fashion. (...)

Any criticism? They get some because they are so exposed, the media never let down a detail or a mistake. It's part of their role and they keep on smiling and looking beautiful, charming and convincing."

The Guardian rudely calls some of these chic fashion leaders "Ice Queens".

How and why did Vogue get access to the First Lady of Syria? Has Syria learned something from the way Libya courted Western press and people of influence? After all, back in 2007, Professor Lord Anthony Giddens wrote, after meeting Muammar Gadafy:
"If Gadafy is sincere about reform, as I think he is, Libya could end up as the Norway of North Africa. (...) As one-party states go, Libya is not especially repressive. Gadafy seems genuinely popular. (...) Will real progress be possible only when Gadafy leaves the scene? I tend to think the opposite."
posted by iviken (25 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Before it gets too far GRAR in here, I'll say that having met a few fashion magazine editors, I find it entirely plausible that a roomful of them might have entirely missed the news out of Egypt and Tunisia or else failed completely to connect those events to the optics around puff-piecing the First Lady of Syria, unless some extraordinarily assertive (i.e. former) intern mentioned it explicitly.
posted by gompa at 3:19 PM on February 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Not sure it has to be intentional on the part of the Syrian government. These are the same places that will go on at length about how much Lindsey Lohan cares about the plight of the underprivileged and how Britney Spears is totally a hard-working mom trying to put her life back together and Paris Hilton is an entrepreneur. Their interest in showing pictures of pretty people generally outweighs a lot of things, including whether the "First Lady" in question is actually the wife of the democratically-elected executive or some chick who married into a dynasty of dictators with no respect for human rights.
posted by gracedissolved at 3:42 PM on February 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I need political news, I don't head to Vogue but even so this does seem particularly clueless.
posted by tommasz at 3:51 PM on February 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


According to Vogue, Ms al-Assad wears "Chanel agates around her neck". Why are famous fashion houses selling their products to dictator's wives? They could reject them as customers, at least to protect their own brands from negative publicity. Maybe the fashion people just don't care. After all, the Chanel brand survived WW2 Nazi connections:

"Chanel once went to Berlin to plot with Walter Schellenberg, who wore his Waffen SS logo as Hitler's chief of foreign intelligence.

Perhaps Chanel-lovers also have no idea that she tried to wrest control of her perfume manufacturing from a Jewish family, taking advantage of pro-Aryan laws. Or that she was arrested for war crimes - and then mysteriously released."
posted by iviken at 3:58 PM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is what I expect from people who work at Vogue when interacting with powerful people. And Al-Assad is a former hedge funder. The folks at Vogue are more than happy to suck the feet of anyone they suspect has a large bank account.
posted by anniecat at 3:58 PM on February 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's the official Facebook page for Asma al-Assad.
posted by iviken at 4:14 PM on February 27, 2011


roomful of them might have entirely missed the news out of Egypt and Tunisia

Vogue's book closes something like 3 months in advance, so I doubt that Anna Wintour, with all her amazing talents, is prescient to that degree.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:21 PM on February 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Wow, that Giddens quote is pretty appalling. Why on earth would they let those two meet anyway?
posted by spitbull at 4:43 PM on February 27, 2011


Fashion magazines only talk about fashion. How bizarre.
posted by mnemonic at 4:45 PM on February 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


After all, the Chanel brand survived WW2 Nazi connections:
The craziest thing I have ever read in a fashion magazine was a 2001 Harper's Bazaar piece by Vanessa Von Bismarck celebrating her super-glamorous grandmother. I can't find the whole thing online, but you can read the start of it here. I distinctly remember being taken aback by this bit:
As the story goes, the young prince--grandson of Germany's Iron Chancellor Prince Otto von Bismarck--fell in love and launched a whirlwind courtship that culminated in a lavish wedding at the Berlin Cathedral in 1928. My grandmother's romance with fashion developed not long afterward. Between 1937 and 1943, when her husband was installed at the embassy in Rome, she befriended the designer Emilio Pucci.
Right. He was installed in the German embassy in Rome from 1937 to 1943? So this woman, whose glamor and sophistication I am supposed to admire, was married to a Nazi. But that's not nearly as significant as the fact that she hung out with Emilio Pucci!
Fashion magazines only talk about fashion.
Well, except that the article isn't really about fashion. (I'm also not sure that it's meant to be entirely positive, but maybe I'm injecting my bias.)
posted by craichead at 5:07 PM on February 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wow, that Giddens quote is pretty appalling. Why on earth would they let those two meet anyway?

It seems the meeting was proposed by The Monitor Group, a US consulting firm.
Link to pdf-document: "A Proposal for Expanding the Dialogue around the Ideas of Muammar Qadhafi":
"The project will include further visits of key experts for direct conversations with Muammar Qadhafi. For example:
• Benjamin Barber will return to clarify several questions from previous conversations with Muammar Qadhafi, including the problems with the Western term ‘civil society’ which suggests a separate, autonomous sphere separate from the sovereignty of the people.
• Lord Anthony Giddens will visit to deepen understanding of the merits and problems of direct democracy vs. representative democracy
• Frank Fukuyaa remains very enthusiastic about the project and could be invited for a future visit to talk further about the challenges of direct democracy and Libya’s approach."


Fashion magazines only talk about fashion. How bizarre.


The Vogue article presents current Syria as a kind of tolerant, rather secular and sort of democratic place in a "tough neighbourhood", under the enlightened leadership of Mr and Ms al-Assad:

"The 35-year-old first lady’s central mission is to change the mind-set of six million Syrians under eighteen, encourage them to engage in what she calls “active citizenship.” “It’s about everyone taking shared responsibility in moving this country forward, about empowerment in a civil society. We all have a stake in this country; it will be what we make it.” (...)
The French ambassador to Syria, Eric Chevallier, was there: “She managed to get people to consider the possibilities of a country that’s modernizing itself, that stands for a tolerant secularism in a powder-keg region, with extremists and radicals pushing in from all sides—and the driving force for that rests largely on the shoulders of one couple. I hope they’ll make the right choices for their country and the region. ”

Considering "the moral bankruptcy of France's foreign policy" in the Middle East and North Africa, maybe - just maybe - this analysis (and the source) is slightly tainted.

Vogue should stick to fashion.
posted by iviken at 5:10 PM on February 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


encourage them to engage in what she calls “active citizenship.”
heh
posted by ryanrs at 5:21 PM on February 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


You're not tolerant if you don't allow women to wear headscarves in your universities.

Disgusting article (I only read the top Vogue)
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:41 PM on February 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Giddens should have his action figure revoked.
posted by homunculus at 7:14 PM on February 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Absolutely floored by this article, but not surprised by Chanel's bourgeoise collaboratinisim. Nor am I all that surprised she got away with it.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:00 PM on February 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Vogue's book closes something like 3 months in advance, so I doubt that Anna Wintour, with all her amazing talents, is prescient to that degree.

Thanks to the Atreides scum and their spice rationing. Ever since that sniveling little twerp Paul took the Lion Throne by force we haven't been able to get enough pure melange into Anna's tank.
posted by loquacious at 9:29 PM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


James Nachtwey shoots for Vogue now?
posted by lullaby at 9:43 PM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Having worked for Cosmo once in my heavily pockmarked career, and having also worked at a couple of fashion companies, I have to say: color me unsurprised. These women could walk into a room with the blood of opposition parties literally caked to the soles of their D&G pumps, and the only question from this lot would be "is that the new collection?"
posted by 1adam12 at 10:04 PM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was just thinking about Syria as the least likely place for widespread uprising in the Middle East. The massacre at Hama in 1982 is why-- when the Muslim Brotherhood rose up and took over that city, Assad (pere) sent in troops and coldly massacred the population. I have been thinking that Gaddafi's efforts to murder his opposition are amateurish in comparison.
posted by norm at 10:22 PM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Vogue sucks.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:17 AM on February 28, 2011


James Nachtwey shoots for Vogue now?

My thoughts exactly. Someone who knows exactly what's going on. Not quite as holier than thou as he makes out, eh? In retrospect it's no surprise really, he's such a strong self-publicist that it's the logical next step.
posted by Magnakai at 4:05 AM on February 28, 2011


Eva Peron was immortalised in musical and movie form and her hubby was no angel
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 4:28 AM on February 28, 2011


Why are famous fashion houses selling their products to dictator's wives?

Because they're the ones who can afford them?

Seriously, is it worthwhile to remind us that the fashion and luxury business is as shallow, morally bankrupt, vapid and unethical as they come? That fashion magazines are run by the worst sort of biddable shills and sycophants, and that luxury houses make most of their money selling completely unnecessary stuff to people who've acquired their insane wealth by any means but hard work? Next thing you'll be telling us that most megayacht buyers are sociopathic megalomaniacs...
posted by Skeptic at 6:54 AM on February 28, 2011


The Atlantic - Vogue Defends Profile of Syrian First Lady
posted by lullaby at 7:53 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]




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