Gone glacier: fashion magazine depicts Mendenhall melt too soon

John Neary, the director of the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, in front of the actual glacier. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins, KTOO - Juneau)
John Neary, the director of the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, in front of the actual glacier. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins, KTOO – Juneau)

The magazine Marie Claire sent a team of journalists and fashionistas to the Mendenhall Glacier in the summer. The story that appeared in its September issue is called On Thin Ice: Can the Fashion Industry Help Save the Planet? But as first reported in the Juneau Empire, the magazine got a couple of key things wrong.

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“It felt like I was in Frozen, that’s the only way I can describe it!” said Nina Garcia in a video on Marie Claire’s website. She was describing what it’s like to enter the ice caves at the Mendenhall glacier.

Garcia is the creative director of the magazine. You’ve probably spotted it when you wait in line at the supermarket. This month’s cover featured Sarah Jessica Parker.

And inside, there was an article about the effects of climate change on glacier ice and how the fashion industry can help by reducing wasteful packaging. But some of the photos’ captions are pretty off. Or, as Nina Garcia would say as a judge on Project Runway:

“I think you made a real big effort. However …”

However, one of the pictures looked like it’d been put through an Instagram filter. It was supposed to depict the Mendenhall glacier in 1970.

“And we know, that at that time, nugget falls was falling — well, in the 70s — it was falling onto the glacier,” said John Neary, the director at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.

He thinks the photo was actually taken some time in the 1990s.

Then there was another photograph in the magazine spread — captioned “The Mendenhall Glacier today.”

“The other photo was more strange. It was — from what I can tell — a picture from the top of Thunder Mountain looking at that Thunder Mountain Basin with the airport behind it and then North Douglas,” he said.

You can see a rolling mountain with grass and only a little bit of snow. No glacier anywhere in sight.

When the article came out, Neary says he was in Denali National Park on vacation and initially he was disappointed. But he recognizes everyone makes mistakes.

“And I don’t fault them for it because it’s a long ways away from where they are,” Neary said.  “And they did a really good job of fact checking. I got follows ups about this fact and that fact but they just missed this one.”

No doubt, the Mendenhall Glacier is shrinking. In the past 30 years, Neary’s noticed extreme change. And scientists say the glacier won’t be visible from the visitor center by the end of this century.

Neary says even though Marie Claire got the photos very wrong, he found the overall message of the story interesting.

It’s from a different take than I would write an article on but at the same time people are coming from really different places than I am, too,” Neary said. “And if they’re coming from the New York fashion scene, then maybe that article really appeals to their sensibilities.”

As the Marie Claire article concluded, you shouldn’t have to choose between fashion and the glacier

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