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The Fashion Files

By Helen Holmes
Published: April 2011
Rarely within the confines of the shiny, commercial, and deceptively safe bubble that surrounds the fashion industry does any sort of real controversy present itself.
Sure, you can compare two identically clad, rail-thin starlets and squabble over who wore it better, but such arguments aren’t exactly 60 Minutes material, and also generally make me want to die a swift and painful death.
As a result, whenever there’s any sort of real confrontation sharp enough to puncture that superficial bubble, heaven knows I’m going to pounce on it like the last warm M&M cookie at Panera.
As evidenced by the wildly different outfits that flounce down the runway every season year in and year out, inspiration can come from anywhere, and can mean something completely original to every creative mind committed to designing clothes.
Unfortunately, Kate and Laura Mulleavy, the women behind Rodarte, were unable to comprehend that some ideas are best left on the cutting board.
In 2009, the sisters embarked on a “road trip” from El Paso to Marfa, searching for something to spark ideas for their next collection.
Though they were probably anticipating nothing more than cute desert critters and some scenic  tumbleweed, what they found was Ciudad Juarez.
For those unaware, Juarez is a Mexican border city located across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.
It is also the location of more than 400 female homicides since 1993, and that’s only the police force’s guess – the locals estimate that the carnage includes over 5,000 deaths of women mostly between the ages of 12 and 22.
Women aren’t the exclusive victims: what CNN calls “the most dangerous city in Mexico” racked up another 39 murders between this past Friday and Monday, mostly as a result of drug trafficking.
While any sane person would perceive this horrific community as a tragic hellhole for men and women alike, all Kate and Laura could see was dollar signs.  In late 2010, Rodarte launched a collaboration collection with makeup giant MAC, and there can be no mistaking the source of their inspiration.
A deathly pale lip product is entitled “Ghost Town.” Eye shadows tinged with bloody splashes of red boast names such as “Bordertown” and “Sleepwalker.” There’s even a jar of a product called “Lip Erase,” whose purpose is presumably to make the wearer appear as pale and emaciated as possible.
Promotional photos of the makeup show a bone-thin woman with eyes ringed by bruise-like eye shadow, staring bleakly into the camera. She looked dead, which was clearly the intention.
Needless to say, I was furious. In absolutely no context is it ever acceptable to market a death-themed product if the product is inspired by a place where death is all too real.
Not only this, but Rodarte and MAC had chosen to romanticize and commercialize the exploitation and murder of women, which to me bypasses offensive and closes in on disgusting.
Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one angered by the lack of propriety and blatantly ignorant nature of this collection.
Bloggers took to the Internet with a vengeance, forcing the partners to set up a fund to raise money for the women of Juarez to pacify the critics. This small positive measure, however, proved to be too late.
After several more subsequent promises from the embarrassed partners, the collection was canceled altogether.
What is important to take away from the carelessness of the Rodarte-MAC collaboration is that fashion, if left unchecked, can easily be both ignorant and downright stupid.
That is not to say that intelligent people cannot appreciate the aesthetic appeal of fashion.
However, stupidity is the existence of Lauren Conrad’s abysmal debut collection, and the reason why Mondo Guerra didn’t win season eight of Project Runway.
Ignorance is everywhere – in politics, in classrooms, and in industry.
Ultimately, fashion is as much a product of individual integrity and opinion as it is a result of factories and magazines.
Whether or not you choose to spend money on a product based on the demeaning and degradation of women, is up to you.

Rarely within the confines of the shiny, commercial, and deceptively safe bubble that surrounds the fashion industry does any sort of real controversy present itself. Sure, you can compare two identically clad, rail-thin starlets and squabble over who wore it better, but such arguments aren’t exactly 60 Minutes material, and also generally make me want to die a swift and painful death. As a result, whenever there’s any sort of real confrontation sharp enough to puncture that superficial bubble, heaven knows I’m going to pounce on it like the last warm M&M cookie at Panera. As evidenced by the wildly different outfits that flounce down the runway every season year in and year out, inspiration can come from anywhere, and can mean something completely original to every creative mind committed to designing clothes. Unfortunately, Kate and Laura Mulleavy, the women behind Rodarte, were unable to comprehend that some ideas are best left on the cutting board. In 2009, the sisters embarked on a “road trip” from El Paso to Marfa, searching for something to spark ideas for their next collection. Though they were probably anticipating nothing more than cute desert critters and some scenic  tumbleweed, what they found was Ciudad Juarez. For those unaware, Juarez is a Mexican border city located across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas. It is also the location of more than 400 female homicides since 1993, and that’s only the police force’s guess – the locals estimate that the carnage includes over 5,000 deaths of women mostly between the ages of 12 and 22. Women aren’t the exclusive victims: what CNN calls “the most dangerous city in Mexico” racked up another 39 murders between this past Friday and Monday, mostly as a result of drug trafficking. While any sane person would perceive this horrific community as a tragic hellhole for men and women alike, all Kate and Laura could see was dollar signs.  In late 2010, Rodarte launched a collaboration collection with makeup giant MAC, and there can be no mistaking the source of their inspiration. A deathly pale lip product is entitled “Ghost Town.” Eye shadows tinged with bloody splashes of red boast names such as “Bordertown” and “Sleepwalker.” There’s even a jar of a product called “Lip Erase,” whose purpose is presumably to make the wearer appear as pale and emaciated as possible. Promotional photos of the makeup show a bone-thin woman with eyes ringed by bruise-like eye shadow, staring bleakly into the camera. She looked dead, which was clearly the intention. Needless to say, I was furious. In absolutely no context is it ever acceptable to market a death-themed product if the product is inspired by a place where death is all too real. Not only this, but Rodarte and MAC had chosen to romanticize and commercialize the exploitation and murder of women, which to me bypasses offensive and closes in on disgusting. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one angered by the lack of propriety and blatantly ignorant nature of this collection. Bloggers took to the Internet with a vengeance, forcing the partners to set up a fund to raise money for the women of Juarez to pacify the critics. This small positive measure, however, proved to be too late. After several more subsequent promises from the embarrassed partners, the collection was canceled altogether. What is important to take away from the carelessness of the Rodarte-MAC collaboration is that fashion, if left unchecked, can easily be both ignorant and downright stupid. That is not to say that intelligent people cannot appreciate the aesthetic appeal of fashion. However, stupidity is the existence of Lauren Conrad’s abysmal debut collection, and the reason why Mondo Guerra didn’t win season eight of Project Runway. Ignorance is everywhere – in politics, in classrooms, and in industry. Ultimately, fashion is as much a product of individual integrity and opinion as it is a result of factories and magazines. Whether or not you choose to spend money on a product based on the demeaning and degradation of women, is up to you.

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