18 July 2010

MAC x Rodarte x Controversy

When the MAC Rodarte makeup collaboration was revealed this past week, it was met with distaste and outrage from many a blogger. Why? For the sake of brevity, I'll let this article from New York Magazine explain.

Rodarte's A/W 2010 collection inspired this makeup, and was described as being partially inspired by the maquilladora workers. Style.com's write-up actually went as far as to say that the runway models resembled the "ghosts" of Juarez's drug wars. It makes me wonder why there was not more converstation, if not controversy, about this when the clothes were shown. When I read the post on Jezebel, commenters seemed to be equally outraged at the clothing and cosmetics. But the clothes were shown all the way back in February. I can only guess it is getting attention now since MAC is a widely available cosmetics line, as opposed to the relatively narrow audience for $5000 dresses. Further, the product names are more explicit references than when a designer makes vague statements to travels along the border.

But are the Mulleavy sisters getting a free pass because what they do (creating clothing) can be categorized as art, rather than just a consumer product? Is designing an expensive dress inspired by the workers on their way to the factories any more socio-politically aware than naming a nail polish "Factory"? I know that MAC can't be excused for releasing a collection with such provocative and sensitive subjects attached to it. At the same time, I find it odd that they are being held more (even solely) culpable than the fashion designers who originated this idea.

From the statements that were issued, it seems Rodarte are trying to diminish the negative connotations associated with product names like Factory, Ghost Town, and Bad Lands. But it is somewhat hard to believe they didn't intend for people to make these associations, as they have a history of utilizing macabre imagery in their designs. Yet most of the ire seems to be aimed at MAC.