On Sunday, frockwriter posted a new video shot by Ryan McGinley that stars Abbey Lee Kershaw and advertises a South Korean fashion brand called Lewitt. In the vid, which was uploaded by a South Korean YouTube member, Kershaw climbs a building, pauses while contemplating jumping and then hurls herself into the void - with slomos of various outfit changes. It seemed like a bizarre concept for promoting fashion to young women in a country that boasts the world’s highest female suicide rate. And an even more questionable choice, given that seven models - including high profile South Korean Daul Kim – have committed suicide over the past two years. Four of them by jumping. The post divided opinion. Some slammed the video. Others slammed frockwriter, dismissing it as a non story. The latter might want to take up their beef with the plethora of other outlets that have since picked the story up. Those who linked back to FW include Perez Hilton, Pedestrian, Fashion Copious, Germany's Les Mads and Dutch news site nu.nl. UPDATE 09/08: In spite of the fact that Lewitt removed Kershaw's image from its website last week, with McGinley also having the video pulled from YouTube, the video is now online on the lewitt.kr website, complete with stills. Still no response, however, from either McGinley or Lewitt.
Three days later, we have finally managed to make contact with Lewitt's Seoul-based managing director Dai Hyun Kim and await his response.
Still no word, however, from ALK’s Sydney or New York agents or McGinley himself, who won’t answer our questions but nevertheless appears to have had the video shut down on YouTube:
It’s still online however.
Even McGinley’s still of Kershaw on Lewitt’s website has been removed.
On Sunday, Lewitt's site looked like this:
Today, it looks like this:
So what is going on here? Was this not a bone fide job?
Yes it was, according to Kershaw, who was in town yesterday for the David Jones show (backstage shots below) and who appears to be adopting the Big Brother defense: the problem’s in the editing.
Here is the transcript of a very short iv I managed to grab backstage, after being invited by DJs into the VIP model room specifically to do the interview with Kershaw, which she consented to (but no video permitted).
You in fact used to do the David Jones show, didn’t you?
Abbey Lee Kershaw: I was youth ambassador back in 2005. I think it may have been the last time I did it.
What was it like doing this show again?
It was great. It was nice to be back home and to support a great Australian brand who appreciates you. When I come and work here, they look after us and they’re kind. I’m very happy to support a brand like that.
You’ve obviously been away for several years now, walking the world’s runways. What was it like coming back to the Australian runway?
I was more nervous than I expected to be. The expectations [of] coming back and having people around you watching the show who you worked with years ago when you were just a young model. So there’s a sense of expectation to perform. Hopefully I did alright.
What’s coming up next? How long are you in Australia for?
Two weeks and then I go to Hawaii for a week and then back to New York. And then the [Spring/Summer 2011] shows in September.
The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show?
Yeah if I’m free, yeah.
Anything else big coming up?
Not that I know if. We don’t really find stuff out until very short...
I just wanted to ask about this Korean video you’ve done, Lewitt. What is it exactly?
It’s an Asian label and it was based around the story of Alice in Wonderland.
So what, she’s supposed to be falling down the rabbit hole?
Ah...I don’t...I mean...however you...we were shooting all day. There were different scenes all day. So his, ah, edit of it..I haven’t even seen it to be honest. I haven’t seen it yet. I think it just came out.
Some might be concerned that it looks like you’re trying to jump off the building.
Yeah of course people are concerned about things like that. People are always going to perceive..
South Korea has the highest female suicide rate in the world and there have also been a lot of model suicides, with many of them jumping. Do you not understand why it might concern people?
I understand. I haven’t seen the video.
But wouldn’t you have had the right to see it before it was finished?
[Starts to move away] I’m done here. I’m done. Thank you.
|backstage at david jones, sydney august 3rd|
As it emerges, this is not the first time that McGinley has persuaded a model to jump out of a building for a fashion shoot.
In May 2008, McGinley shot Agyness Dean jumping out of a building in New York in various outfits, and also naked, for the Fall 2008 edition of POP magazine. The images were reportedly inspired by 1950s shots of children fleeing a burning building and received quite a lot of publicity.
One month later, Kazakh model Ruslana Korshunova jumped to her death from her New York apartment building.
The proximity between Korshunova’s extremely well-publicised death and the magazine's August 2008 publication appears to have passed unnoticed by various media outlets that ran stories on the issue and its editor Katie Grand. But not by one blog commenter, who noted:
“It sure is swell that not only did McGinley continue on with this story in the wake of Ruslana Korshunova's suicide, but that Pop actually ran this. Goddamn insensitive and uncouth”.
|backstage at david jones, sydney, august 3rd|
Kershaw seems to have a knack for courting controversy.
She once fell on Rodarte's New York runway in some extreme footwear.
She fainted on Alexander McQueen's Paris runway in a tight corset.
And in December last year, Kershaw made headlines when it emerged that she and two other models turned down McQueen's Spring/Summer 2010 show because they had concerns about the safety of walking in his outrageously high "Armadillo" shoes.
Two months later, reportedly depressed by the recent death of his mother, sadly McQueen too took his own life.
***Any readers in need of support and information about suicide prevention should contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, SANE Helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263) or youthbeyondblue.com***