A HIGH fashion shoot by Vogue Korea in Burma’s ancient temple complex of Bagan has come under fire when photographs revealed that the models wore shoes on pagoda grounds.
The photographs show the models posing around the temples, by themselves or with young monks.
The models can be seen dressed in vibrant designer clothes, which are meant to complement the intricate pagodas in the backdrop, but irate locals took issue with what was on their feet and accused Vogue Korea of cultural insensitivity.
Sai Nay Nay Win posted an edited version of one of the photos, circling the model’s foot in red, and said: “Sorry Vogue, you cannot wear shoes in the pagoda! This is related to religion and culture! You must understand the local customs before taking these photos. This really can make Burmese people feel angry and it’s just like you don’t have respect for our culture!”
Another netizen, Yee Kyaw, said some of the model’s poses were inappropriate, as they were posing with young monks.
She wrote: “It’s not even about the slippers and shoes alone. Posts of models spreading legs on Pagoda is totally inappropriate! Plus getting photo taken with religious figured while wearing a short skirt on Pagoda? Please show some respect!!”
Facebook user Astra Dea also slammed Vogue Korea for not doing any research into the country’s taboos, and for seemingly thinking that high fashion was above the culture.
She said: “Bagan is a holy place and not a place for unsuitable behaviors. Whenever the model spreads her legs and acts like a drunk at other country’s sacred places, is this called ‘high fashion’?? Have no better ideas? Shame on you.”
Vogue’s photographer, Bosung Kim, responded to the backlash and apologized for not paying enough attention to Burmese customs. He explained that the team was led by a Burmese location guide and that the models were only wearing shoes outside the pagoda.
He commented on the edited photograph, saying: “This is one of the entrances to the pagoda, where everyone put on, took off, and left their shoes on this place. So I thought the model could put on her shoes here like the local people do.
“I think my decision was wrong. However, myself and all the crew were aware of taking shoes off in the pagoda, and we also love and respect Burmese culture.”
Insulting Buddhism can carry serious repercussions in Burma (Myanmar). In March last year a Burmese court sentenced New Zealand bar manager Phil Blackwood to two-and-a-half years in prison for posting a flyer depicting Buddha wearing headphones on Facebook. He was freed in January of this year as part of a prisoner amnesty.