"Didn't know or didn't care?! "
When the industry's lead magazine is not publishing surreal profiles of dicators' wives extolling their fashion-forward credentials and idyllic lifestyles, dictators' daughters are being given coveted spots on the New York Fashion Week schedule ... It begs the question: Why do these things keep happening on "Planet Fashion"?
Unless your reading habits extend beyond WWD, Vogue.com and Style.com, you may not be aware of the embarrassing kerfuffle during the most recent edition of New York Fashion Week which wrapped up late last week. In a nutshell, IMG (the organizers of NYFW) and Mercedes-Benz (the sponsor of NYFW) were shamed into ousting Gulnara Karimov, daughter of Uzbek president Islam Karimov, from her spot in the fashion line-up by various human rights groups. It turns out that IMG was not "aware" of some of the more brutal aspects of Uzbekistan's regime including forced child labour (to harvest pesticide-encrusted cotton crops), allegedly boiling opponents alive and other tactics that would make Josef Stalin proud. Oops!
Before your sense of fair play kicks in and you're tempted to argue that the "sins of the father should not be visited upon the daughter", please note that according to a series of Wikileaks cables, it would seem that Ms. Karimov is more than just the passive beneficiary of her father's largesse. She has been described variously in embassy dispatches as "a greedy, power-hungry individual who uses her father to crush business people or anyone else who stands in her way" and "the single most hated person in the country". Yet, despite the evidence of her unsavoury business practices, she has (until recently) been publicly embraced by not only the fashion industry but prestigious luxury brands such as Chopard for whom she designed a collection of jewelry. To its credit, Chopard eventually backed out of the deal after human rights activists urged the brand to reconsider.
To me, incidents like these leave me baffled not to mention a tad incredulous. In an industry where brands dedicate untold ressources to the management of their brand image down to the most minute detail, there is little excuse for not conducting a thorough due diligence of business associates. Were it not for the existence of the Web, I might be more inclined to forgive IMG, or Mercedes-Benz or Chopard for their gaffes. Given the sheer number of news and information outlets available via desktop, laptop, smartphone and tablet however, I'm not inclined to be all that forgiving. In this case, a simple Google search would have yielded more than enough information about Ms. Karimov's activities to dissuade a responsible brand from pursuing a business relationship with her. I can only surmise that these brands didn't care enough to dig or simply didn't care full stop.
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