An obsession with pale skin among young Vietnamese, as seen across electronic media and virtually all advertising, has given rise to vibrant displays of scooter fashion. These ‘cover up’ styles, as they’re known, emphasize bright colors and colorful patterns.
Italian photographer Monia Lippi traveled to Ho Chi Minh City, where she was surprised to find locals covering up so diligently, even in the intense tropical heat. She learned that their masks, scarves, gloves, socks with flip flops, and even hats worn under helmets had less to do with shielding against flying debris than with preserving the lightness of their skin.
Like much of Southeast Asia, says Lippi, “to be white denotes the social status and class of a person. In fact, people in Asian countries look down on dark skin not because of racism, but because they don’t want to be perceived as poor…to the point that all the new lotions, creams, body and baby soaps, even deodorants contain whitening agents.”