Alexander Wang Takes Fashion Victimhood to a Terrifying Level in Grisly Instagram Post

An artist adds danger to a fashion label’s ad campaign, but do these gory images of dead women go too far?

An image from Alexander Wang’s Fall 2014 campaign. (Photo: Alexander Wang/Instagram)

Jul 31, 2014· 2 MIN READ
Nicole Pasulka is a writer and reporter who lives in New York City. She has written for Mother Jones, BuzzFeed, The Believer, and the New York Observer.

Fashion designer Alexander Wang—yes, the guy Kanye and other hip-hop big spenders like to sing about—posted the above image on Instagram on Wednesday, a collage homage by artist, designer, and clothing store owner Douglas Abraham.

The original image from Wang’s campaign showed a much less bloody woman on the ground:

(Photo: Alexander Wang Fall 2014/Fashionista)

While some commenters praised Abraham’s adaptation, which is part of a triptych, others were less than thrilled to see the gory version.

“What message does this send? A man standing over a dead girl? How is this high fashion?” one asked.

Representatives for Douglas Abraham and Alexander Wang did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Abraham is popular on Instagram for his remixes of high-fashion ad campaigns. He’s adorned Cathy from the comic strip with a Prada bag and replaced a model’s head with Angela Davis’ photo in a series of Moschino ads.

There’s a reason why Abraham’s images are typically more controversial and provocative than the ads he selects to visually remix. While fashion advertising previously reached a self-selected audience of magazine subscribers who may have been less likely to balk at offensive content, online marketing and social media bring a wider audience of potential fans and critics.

“With so much corporate emphasis on having the right social campaign, Instagram, Twitter feeds, videos, Web sites and the goal of accumulating ‘likes’ on Facebook, not to mention global, cross-cultural sensitivities, the edge that cuts through the advertising clutter has been dulled,” Lisa Lockwood, news director of Women’s Wear Daily, wrote in an op-ed about the growing aversion to controversy in advertising.

Sexist, racist, and violent advertisements have been pulled in response to backlash on social media. In April, commercials for Veet hair-waxing strips that compared a girl with stubbly legs to a bearded man were taken off YouTube after audiences complained about sexism.

One of the best things about social media is its ability to start conversations and elevate voices that would otherwise be ignored. As Lockwood wrote, it has made some people in the industry nervous.

Abraham makes images that seem to rebel against reigning standards of propriety and caution.

“I am using the original ads as vehicles to superimpose my own subjectivity onto,” he told The Last Magazine in May about earlier projects. “I don’t look for it to be overtly in opposition to the original ad, but I do look to make it jarring and maybe say something I feel the ad is already wanting to say or do.”

In other words, the original Alexander Wang ad of a woman lying impassively on the ground may be “wanting” to be an image of a woman with her throat cut.

The difficulty with all this, and part of the reason people get upset at provocative images of violence, is that it seems callously disconnected from the reality it references—women being murdered.

Violence against women is real. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, almost one-third of women who are murdered are killed by an intimate partner, and one-quarter of all women will have some experience of domestic violence during their lifetime. Just this week a husband murdered his wife and their three children in Maine before killing himself.

In light of these events and statistics, this abstract collage paints an all-too-realistic picture. That’s what really makes it so hard to look at.