In the August 2008 edition of Indian vogue, the magazine featured 16 pages of photographs of India’s poorest peasants - many of whom live on 65 pence a day according to figures released last week by the World Bank - sporting high-end items by Alexander McQueen, Fendi and Burberry as if it were part of their daily lives.

An old woman missing her upper front teeth holds a child in rumpled clothes — who is wearing a Fendi bib (retail price, about $100).

A barefoot man stands in front of his mud hut holding onto a $200 Burberry umbrella as his, presumably, wife laughs beside him.

A family of three squeezes onto a motorbike for their daily commute, the mother riding without a helmet and sidesaddle in the traditional Indian way — except that she has a Herm├Ęs Birkin bag (usually more than $10,000, if you can find one) prominently displayed on her wrist.

These spreads are the reason why Indian Vogues is getting a lot of attention right now, correct me if I'm wrong but it's bad publicity.

A lot of leading commentators denounced the magazine (via The Independent,Telegraph, and New York Times) for exploiting the poor and trivialising their plight by using them as props in a fashion shoot for British designers Alexander McQueen and Burberry.

Vogue India editor Priya Tanna’s message to critics of the August shoot: “Lighten up,” she said in a telephone interview. Vogue is about realizing the “power of fashion” she said, and the shoot was saying that “fashion is no longer a rich man’s privilege. Anyone can carry it off and make it look beautiful,” she said.

“You have to remember with fashion, you can’t take it that seriously,” Ms. Tanna said. “We weren’t trying to make a political statement or save the world,” she said.

Leading Indian fashion designer David Abraham defended the magazine with the following statement:

"This kind of juxtaposition is always there in India - the servant who serves a glass of wine which costs more than his monthly salary," he said.

"When I saw these pictures, I thought the people looked sweet. I'm not convinced it's offensive. In fact I think the high moral tone is a bit patronising. Wealth next to poverty is just a reality in India. Both have always existed. As long as you don't humiliate or ill-treat poor people it's OK. Lots of models can't afford to buy Fendi handbags either."

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