When we discuss race and labor in terms of the fashion industrial complex, we often consider these questions in terms of industrial production — the sweatshop, for instance. (And when we do watch Made in LA next week, we’ll see just how important race is in this equation.) But how do questions of race and labor pervade all the levels of the fashion industrial complex? Whose labors –industrial, technical, creative, and intellectual– are scrutinized, questioned, or degraded, and whose are not? And, as we read about this unit, how do certain bodies and persons interact with those meanings and try to challenge, transform, or negotiate with them?
Consider the following quotes collected by a former student about Chloe Dao’s win in the second season of Project Runway:
In reference to my first comment (first entry above), yes Chloe is a traitor to her race, but also to fashion. Not only does she dates a Caucasian male, but she designs for the Caucasian body! Hell, she has a fat Caucasian body herself! Buttermilk butt and cancer-prone buttermilk boob. Here’s a chance for a prominent Asian female to stand in the spotlight and what does she give us? Rehashed satin evening gowns to go prancing to the prom. C’mon now. Where are the ao dai’s, the sarongs, the modified kimono’s? Let’s see some avante garde Asian influenced designs instead of run down oppressive Anglo-Saxon garb… or should I say, “garb-age”?
Comments posted after the Season 2 Finale: http://www.realitytvmagazine.com/blog/2006/03/08/project-runway-winner-is-chloe-dao-viewers-disagree-with-judges/#more-9680
I think Santino said it best, Chloe, while talented, is a great pattern maker but not a great designer. I am also surprised….why did nobody mention anything about the fact the Chloe had much more help than any of the other designers. Are we to believe all her other sisters did not “give her a hand” in designing the 12 dresses for the finale? Give me a break, we all say where she was when Tim Gunn visited her in Texas.
Comment posted on: http://www.rickey.org/?p=967
Thank you for being you. You make me happy. You make people laugh, make them think, make them question whether life is , whether it should be, a popularity contest. Chloe will always be a robotic pattern-maker (Tin Man – no heart) and Daniel is a whiny backstabber (Scarecrow – no brain) who will someday, if he is lucky, have the passion and creativity and COURAGE (The Lion!) you have in your heart. As one artist to another, I have the greatest respect for you. Best wishes to you!
You know Chloe pulled together variations of her greatest hits from her shop. If they cut her first she would have been forgotten. As it is they got the immigrants and asians vote.
Comments posted to Santino Rice’s blog: http://santinorice.com/blog/2006/03/turn-it-around-people.html
How does Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu’s work help us make sense of what is going on here? What does a designer look like? What does a patternmaker look like? What does a seamstress look like? How do we make sense of Asian Americans’ overwhelming presence in fashion design? Tu intimates that Asian American designers are often positioned differently in the industry because of their Asianness. At the intersection of culture and economy, Tu addresses “how Asianness has become a resource in this creative economy, and how the economic terrain has worked to shape what we know or claim as Asian American.”
In doing so, she wishes to demonstrate that aesthetic productions rely on labor, capital, and other material resources, and moreover, to show how processes of immaterial (creative, intellectual, etc.) labor mirror and are linked to other forms of work – industrial and entrepreneurial among them.
How does the fashion industry seek to delink garment manufacturing from design, and why? How is this a false dichotomy (one perpetuated in the comments about Dao)? How might this “high culture” distinction between art and craft be racialized in particular ways? How do Asian American designers disrupt this distinction?
How is some work –critical to the design process— nonetheless deemed “unskilled,” while other work is understood as “creative”? What differences in value accrue to each designation?