Author, as told to
Filippo Del Vita
The things we do in the fashion industry, they are weird. It makes sense when you’re on the inside, but people on the outside don’t get it because it’s all taken out of context. It’s weird spending 2.5 hours doing makeup on a 15-year-old and taking it so seriously. It’s weird that no one knows each other and that sometimes, people are working for free. Today, there was someone wiping sweat off my armpit during the photo shoot. Would you ever wipe someone else's armpit? But within the context of the fashion industry, it makes sense.
ake photo shoots; where else can you get 15 people who don’t know each other and might not be on the same page, and expect them to get along? In any other circumstance, people might get competitive or feel weird, but it doesn’t happen on photo shoots. It’s all very collaborative. It might be a bit messy, a bit unorganized, but I think the fashion industry is one of the most resilient industries there is. So many factors determine why someone gets lucky and someone else doesn’t. Who knows? Maybe they knew the right people, maybe they slept with the right people, maybe it’s someone’s son or daughter, or maybe you did cocaine with the right person at the right afterparty. It could happen anywhere.
↑ On Preston:
DDUGOFF sweater, Talent's own vintage LEVIS jeans
A lot of coverage and reporting on the fashion industry is taken out of context, and it’s not very fair. As much as I criticize my industry, I also defend it. People in fashion exhaust themselves, it’s hard work. People don’t realize how hard it is, and sometimes they go, “Well, if it’s so hard then why are you doing it?” Because it’s worth it, maybe? I don’t know, why would you work hard for living? Why is it different to work hard in fashion?
By law, you have to have a lunch break but it’s not true for fashion. I’m working with video guys on the show and they’re like, “We’re going take an hour for lunch,” and I’m like, “But we didn’t get the shot!” We can’t get this shot tomorrow, we can’t get it an hour from now. So no one eats. If someone from fashion invites you for lunch, you sit there and drink water or wine. That’s what lunch is. “Let’s get burgers?” It never happens. You’re not there to eat, you’re there to talk.
We sell an aspiration. We convince you of an aspiration and then you commit to it. It’s similar to religion. We sell ideas, and idolatry, and images. I’d say the first supermodel in the Western World was Jesus Christ. The image of him hanging there, the son of God, that’s how religion goes. I like the images that make impressions or create aspirations, ones you can be inspired by. I see nothing wrong with it.
People Photoshop and edit their Instagram pictures. There’s this Asian app where you can add eyelashes, make your eyes bigger, and cut off your chin. Everybody wants to be a better version of themselves, there’s nothing wrong with that. And now with the Internet, the standard of beauty is becoming the same all over the world.
As Tina Fey said, “Now, to be a woman, you have to be hairless like an Asian girl, you have to have the butt of a Jamaican girl, and you have to have the skin color of a Mexican girl.” And to look like a Photoshopped image of that ideal is even more impossible. It’s what society already finds aspirational. For women in America, for most of its history, it was to be thin and white. And I think it’s changing, but I don’t know if it’s necessarily changing for the better because the standards are still unrealistic. Now everyone feels like shit, cause no one fits the new ideal.
Why look like a sick drug addict junkie? Because it was considered aspirational. Now we have these Victoria’s Secret girls who are just as thin, they just have a tan. So, this is healthy! This is now what we consider beautiful. Why do you care? You want to be considered beautiful on the outside, is that it? Is that essential for a human being? The purpose of fashion is to exploit those ideas and to sell it. I really feel like if something works, fashion will jump on it. If you want to be beautiful, you don’t need fashion for it—just do it. But if you think this industry is fucked up, then why are you asking for its validation. Challenge it by creating your own standard or your own culture around it. That’s why I love Instagram. It’s not Vogue. Don’t put your personal value on something where millions of dollars are made and a lot of people and technology are involved. It’s not about you. You know what’s about you? Your money, so you take care of that.
↑ ON PRESTON:
DDUGOFF pants, Talent's own clogs
Fashion was late to the internet and it’s kind of confused right now. Not like pornography, an industry that jumped on it, invented shit, and really proliferated. Fashion is like, “Oh, e-commerce, what’s that? Should we start a Facebook? We have to get Instagram likes for the girls in our agency. Let’s take another selfie of three of them on vacation.” Fashion likes to draw inspiration from different subcultures to get new ideas and to get engaged. But now internet microtrends come and go so fast that fashion can’t keep up with it. And there are no subcultures, really, or they are all open, they are all online. Like with normcore or health goth, when designers caught up to it, it was already dead. By the time the collection is ready, the trend is over. I’ll wait for some young designers to bring some fresh new views to it. Cause if I see another European collection that is rocker-inspired, I’ll be like, ugh.
I’d like to show people that there is some self-awareness in the fashion industry and to make this a little more transparent through satire. My series (Model Files on VFiles) is supposed to educate; it’s not just about making insiders laugh at themselves, it’s also meant to make outsiders laugh at the insiders and to learn about them. When I first started, I learned that a lot of people didn’t know that models were casted, that there’s someone who edits a shoot for a client. Most people out there will never be on a photo shoot, they’ll never meet photographers or stylists. By exposing this world, I aim to show how much work and talent there is inside the industry. People ask, “How do I break into fashion?” You don’t break into it! Just learn something and get prepared for some hard work.
I’m at the point now where I’m doing more entertainment that is inspired by or explores fashion. I’m working on a new show for VFiles called FML, or Fix My Life. Oh, sorry, that’s an Oprah show, mine’s called Fix My Look. The show intervenes with people who need help. I’m bringing professionals on the photo shoot to make up our subjects in real life. We’ll have someone do their hair, some to do their extensions, a makeup artist, and a stylist.
I really miss top models from the 90s. Nowadays, everyone walks and talks like robots: “I love my look today!” Why is it like this? Because we need fashion to be transparent. It applies to the whole industry, and models are just one example: the market is saturated and everyone’s replaceable. A lot of times models just play it safe. Everybody has an opinion, but not everyone actually means it. With the 90s top models, they actually meant everything they said. But now agents are answering questions for models. We make up a personality she doesn’t have. Yeah, cause she’s fifteen.
↑ ON PRESTON:
I made this episode on VFiles called “Asiancy” about Asians in the modeling business. Among trolls, I’m referred to as the “ugly Asian guy.” So, whatever, I searched this hashtag #asiancy and I found a fake reality show that is actually gay porn. Maybe fashion will become more like porn, but instead of sex images being normalized, luxury will be.
In pornography, they’re pushing the limits, and that is what we try to do in fashion. Look at [some recent] men’s collections: it is straight up crossdressing. That’s when fashion’s getting topical: gay marriage, LGBT rights, and the internet gave voices to people that didn’t have voices before. We’ve been there with metrosexuality and it became normal. And it’s not about unisex, it’s not being neutered. On the contrary, gender is being accented. It’s not about being a genderless person: It’s about being everything at once—big balls and big tits, and a big ass and big muscles. Give him a dildo! Give him… a salad! Tattoos! And he’s a priest! It’s just everything all at once. Maybe one day in retrospect we’ll be like “Ah, that’s what was happening.”
And I think it’s interesting, it’s an opportunity for engagement. I enjoy Black Twitter and I think about wasps from Connecticut who would have never been exposed to that point of view otherwise. Same with LGBT: every sitcom used to have a gay character, everybody has a gay friend, now everyone will have a transgender friend. Maybe fashion and the rest of the world is going to go post-sexual.
Fashion is going through choosing what is sexy now: man, woman, traditional gender roles, and not so traditional roles. The industry is seasonal and it’s not prepared for the “third” fashion week, so it’s experimenting on men’s shows. We still live in a world where you have to choose a bathroom in most public places, so choosing clothes is not the first problem. If that becomes something aspirational, fashion will know how to use it. There’s going to be more self-awareness about things, it’s going to get more meta, and hopefully the humor will come back. Like JW Anderson, c’mon, we need this kind of stuff.
Fashion should be entertaining.
On the cover: Sheena Trivedi button down shirt