Monday, November 1, 2010

What does Project Runway have to do with your work?

- by Anne Phillips and Stacey Prince

* SPOILER ALERT * Do not read this if you have not seen the finale of this season's project runway and do not want to know the outcome.

Well, everything. Let us explain. I (Stacey) really love Project Runway. It's been a guilty pleasure since the very first season, offering three things I love: beautiful clothes, beautiful people, and complex interpersonal relationships. This season was no exception. The three finalists couldn't have been more different: Andy, a 23 year old first generation Hawaiian whose family immigrated from Laos whose clothes ranged from edgy to elegant; Gretchen, a European-American Northwesterner with an earthy crunchy, indigenous influenced ready to wear aesthetic, and Mondo, the 27 year old, HIV+ gay man whose family is fifth generation Mexican. All worked their asses off and fought to get to fashion week. I think I can safely say that the majority of viewers thought that Mondo was a shoe-in. His designs were spectacularly innovative, playful, creative, awe-inspiring.

What a shock when the winner was Gretchen. What was even more shocking was the deliberation between the judges to make that decision. Racism and xenophobia in action. What enraged me the most was Michael Kors and Nina Garcia REPEATEDLY saying "this is where fashion is now, this is where fashion is going" (regarding Gretchen's designs). What they were really saying was, this is where we want fashion to stay--bland, boring, and ready to wear. None of this Orientalist (Nina's word for Andy's final show) or Mexican stuff (Mondo's final show was influenced by Day of the Dead and featured a crucifix). The irony is, this is NOT where fashion is going. These two judges' denial and marginalization of the multiculturalism of this country was profound. And I won't even comment on the abhorent parallel they drew to food - "it's subjective--you either like Chinese or Mexican!" To their credit the other two judges argued in favor of Mondo, but somehow in a triumph of privilege over authenticity and in a scene that we were not privvy to, they were out-argued and Gretchen was crowned the winner, the next big thing in American Fashion. And please note that this was not just an empty title: the win came with money ($100,000), opportunity (help launching their own design line) and connections. The link between personal and systemic racism and heterosexism was as glaring as Michael Kors' fake tan.

To read entire article click here.

1 comment:

  1. Stacey, I think that something else was happening- internalized oppression and classism. Nina Garcia is an upper class Latina; Michael Kors an upper middle class gay man. I think that each one of these people may have been dealing with their internalized oppression by marginalizing the work of an amazing artist, Mondo, whose identities foreground aspects of their own that are problematic to them. I, too, was shocked and appalled not just by the outcome but by the discourse-and I think that perhaps we are seeing the rejection of disowned aspects of self that can be done by people who intersectionalities of identities include privilege as well as oppression. Oy, so much critical theory about this show--but I do believe it to be possible.