Sunday, March 30, 2008

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But magazine analyst Samir Husni believes the photo was deliberately provocative, adding that it "screams King Kong." Considering Vogue's influential history, he said, covers are not something that the magazine does in a rush.

"So when you have a cover that reminds people of King Kong and brings those stereotypes to the front, black man wanting white woman, it's not innocent," he said.

O'Connell, the Vogue spokesman, declined further comment.

In a column at, Jemele Hill called the cover "memorable for all the wrong reasons." But she said in an interview that the image is not unusual — white athletes are generally portrayed smiling or laughing, while black sports figures are given a "beastly sort of vibe."

For example, former NBA star Charles Barkley was depicted breaking free of neck and wrist shackles on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Dennis Rodman graced the cover of Rolling Stone with horns poking out of his forehead and his red tongue hanging out.

Images of black male athletes as aggressive and threatening "reinforce the criminalization of black men," said Damion Thomas, assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at University of Maryland.

But others say the image show James' game face — nothing more. And they note that Bundchen hardly looks frightened.

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But the image is stirring up controversy, with some commentators decrying the photo as perpetuating racial stereotypes. James strikes what some see as a gorilla-like pose, baring his teeth, with one hand dribbling a ball and the other around Bundchen's tiny waist.

It's an image some have likened to "King Kong" and Fay Wray.

"It conjures up this idea of a dangerous black man," said Tamara Walker, 29, of Philadelphia.

Photographer Annie Leibovitz shot the 6-foot-9 NBA star and the 5-foot-11 Brazilian model for the cover and an inside spread. Vogue spokesman Patrick O'Connell said the magazine "sought to celebrate two superstars at the top of their game" for the magazine's annual issue devoted to size and shape.

"We think Lebron James and Gisele Bundchen look beautiful together and we are honored to have them on the cover," he said.

James told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer he was pleased with the cover, saying he was "just showing a little emotion."

"Everything my name is on is going to be criticized in a good way or bad way," James told the paper. "Who cares what anyone says?"

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Girlfriend of billionaire and Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich, Daria Zhukova, did not come to the week, although she was invited. Her designs, under the label Kova and T, have recently been spotted on Hollywood stars.

Denis Simachev, who creates clean-cut sailor outfits and has his head office in Luxembourg, also declined his invite, his spokesman Vadim Chernyshev said.

"The best way to sell a collection is in Milan. Good clothes should be known on a quality stage," said Chernyshev. Simachev was the first Russian designer to debut on the coveted Milan catwalk seven years ago.

Moscow Fashion Week, though it attracts little international interest, had around 120,000 attendees this year.

(Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman, editing by Paul Casciato)

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"People now like to dress from another time, like the time of (Empress) Catherine the Great," said Mikhalkova, who counts future first lady and public Russian fashion supporter Svetlana Medvedeva in her close circle of friends.


Russian fashion, like other facets of the country's art, is gaining popularity and spreading in interest as Russia undergoes its longest economic boom in more than a generation, fuelled by high oil prices.

But Moscow Fashion Week, which was set up 15 years ago to compete with other fashion footholds Milan and Paris, fell short of the international glamour such cities receive.

Almost all shows were held in the same hall, few Russian and no foreign celebrities made an appearance.

Two Russian designers who have gained popularity in the West were markedly absent from the shows.

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Deep blue flowers on black backgrounds similar to traditional Russian lacquered boxes dominated at Slava Zaitsev's show, a 69-year old designer who used to dress the Soviet elite.

Male models had their faces covered by flowing fox stretching from large Russian winter hats and wore embroidered gold overcoats with green fur collars.

"We're scared of taking our fashion abroad, that it will be unpleasant, but we're a huge country with a long history of beauty," Zaitsev told Reuters after the show, which also showed headscarved women and men with trousers tucked into boots, conjuring up the look of Cossacks, or tsarist cavalrymen.

Ballerinas, an idyllic Russian winter setting and an ode to French queen Marie-Antoinette also featured at the week.

"We were isolated from the world (during Soviet times)," said Tatyana Mikhalkova, the wife of Oscar-winning film director Nikita Mikhalkov and president of Russian Silhouette, a charity she set up to give funding to young Russian designers.

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Old world luxury reminiscent of the tsars opened the city's first fashion week of the year, held in Gostiny Dvor, a revamped 19th century exhibit hall near the Kremlin.

Pale-faced models displayed flowing cream and black dresses from the turn of the century under high-collared fur coats to an audience of hundreds of people, which included few members of the international press or foreign buyers.

"Russian fashion has been given back to us, it's arrived," said designer Valentin Yudashkin after his show.

Moscow mayor of 15 years Yuri Luzhkov took his place on the first row and enthusiastically applauded the celebrated designer, who has shops in western Europe and was recently commissioned by generals to dress the Russian military.

"We are a rich country, and that's why we have rich fashion," Luzhkov told Reuters TV after giving Yudashkin a large bouquet of flowers.

Other designers went beyond tsarist fashion to evoke the feeling of pre-Bolshevik Russia.

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Previewing the collection at New York's Soho House on Tuesday, March 25, Garrigue said in designing the new collection, she opted for smaller, more elegant bags, most in square, rather than round, shapes. Illustrating her point, Garrigue pointed to a chic vintage-inspired square satchel bag with a long over-the-body strap.

"I say this is the bag I designed for myself," she said. "I'm so tired of the oversized hobos."

The collection echoes the more refined, subdued mood for fall – no oversized patent leather bags or shapeless hobo bags in loud colors here. Instead, Garrigue emphasized handcrafted details, like pleated or woven leather and soft folds, supple calf and goat skins and subtle hardware – leather covered rivets, for example, as a reference to the denim for which the brand is well-known.

The line features three different price tiers, with pieces like wallets starting at $75 all the way up to $1200 for their more elaborately detailed handbags in leather. For more casual everyday use, the range also includes bags in nylon or canvas