Cornell Fashion Collective’s annual fashion show is the club’s signature event, celebrating fashion, creativity and design. But behind the scenes, the fashion show represents the culmination of months of labor, from initial planning over the summer to last-minute finishes this week.
“Ppl knocking each other off lol,” quips the nonchalant Instagram bio of the account @diet_prada. An angry undertone is palpable in the account’s ironic humor, however. The owners of the account, and the 1.1 million users who follow it, have had enough. Diet Prada has been popularized — and trademarked, according to the account’s name on Instagram — as a term referring to knockoffs in fashion. Within the account, a garment that resembles Prada is exposed as a cheaper rendition that leaves behind a toxic aftertaste.
Dolce and Gabbana is over. This was the message sent by the Chinese after a 24-hour social media whirlwind that resulted in public boycotts by Chinese celebrities, videos of Chinese fans and consumers burning D&G garments and ultimately, the cancellation of the brand’s Shanghai fashion show by the Shanghai Bureau of Cultural Affairs. All of this was in retaliation to Stefano Gabbana, designer and namesake of the Italian luxury fashion house, and his racist exchanges via Instagram in argument over blatantly racist advertisements for the D&G Shanghai fashion show. The advertisements are best described as a corporate “ni hao” catcall: unsettling, racist and rooted in a lazy ignorance, featuring a Chinese model who embodies the archaic caricature of a submissive and silent East Asian woman, giggling as she struggles to eat Italian foods with chopsticks. The discomfort is furthered as the Chinese game show host voiceover, whose mispronunciation of Dolce and Gabbana is emphasized as an element of “kitsch,” expounds condescending rhetoric that in direct translation varies from “use those two little sticks to eat the pizza” to “that’s too big for you to handle.”
These advertisements resulted in an immediate outcry and an Instagram DM showdown between Instagram user Michaela Tronova and Stefano Gabbana himself, where it was made clear that Gabbana was a racist as he issued tired insults such as “dog-eater” and “China Ignorant Dirty Smelling Mafia.” The Instagram account Diet Prada (@diet_prada), renowned for calling out fashion copycats, publicized these exchanges, inciting an outrage that swept across social media platforms. What followed was what felt like a testament to the power of the Chinese, a power that Gabbana had underestimated, forcing D&G to abandon its show and issue a half-hearted video apology.
If you sit for long enough at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport you will see luggage carousels fill up with aluminum-ribbed suitcases, a parade of muted colors, subtly labeled Rimowa. There, the suitcase is so common it is easy to forget that it is a luxury brand, with prices starting at $495 for your basic starter luggage. Perhaps this speaks to the different definitions of luxury. In my mother’s country, using clothing for wealth signaling is less pervasive and luxury is harder to distinguish than in the Canada Goose-rife, Goyard bag-toting landscape that is Cornell. However, young or old, the obsession with the Rimowa luggage continues because of its practicality and quality.
At the recent New York Fashion Week, staff at Pyer Moss’ Spring-Summer 2019 show wore t-shirts emblazoned with the phrase, “If you didn’t know about Pyer Moss before, we forgive you.” This statement, rooted in bravado, was also prophetic, as the five year-old fashion house went on to put on what was arguably the most important show of the season. Founder and designer Kerby Jean-Raymond brought NYFW crowds to Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn, the previous site of one of the first African-American communities in the United States where a 40-person gospel choir sang in models who strode past 19th-century wooden framed houses, creating what Vogue reporter Chioma Nnadi called a “tableau [that] was like something out of a Kerry James Marshall painting”. In an interview with Vogue, Jean-Raymond said that he wanted to use the show to “explore what Black American leisure” looked like in the face of structural racism, where simple existence is systemically deemed threat. The result was a collection that featured beautifully structured suits, silks printed with images from visual artist Derrick Adams and vibrantly patterned athleisure from the Pyer Moss x Reeboks collaboration. Kerby Jean-Raymond is no stranger to the fashion show as medium and embraces experimentation with social commentary and art, having featured a short film on police brutality and a Raphael Saadiq-directed gospel choir in previous Pyer Moss shows.
“Every fashion or textile item worn atop or around the body has some kind of texture, yet the open-ended and vague nature of the prompt encouraged students to find an array of interesting and unique pieces,” Green said.