August 27, 2020 – By Beatrice Tridimas
Unsurprisingly, over recent months I have found myself with extra time to catch up on TV and re-watch some of my favourite Netflix series. Coming back to this year’s Next In Fashion I could not help thinking how much it had surprised me in its more than heart-warming depiction of an industry plagued with nasty stereotypes…
Representations of the notoriously tough fashion industry in popular culture have varied from the comical Ugly Betty to the infamously savage, America’s Next Top Model.
Although I was pretty open-minded when it came to watching Netflix’s Next In Fashion, I can’t say those stereotypes didn’t come to surprise me when I couldn’t find them anywhere.
Fronted by British model and designer, Alexa Chung and Queer Eye’s Tan France, the series promised fun, likeable judges, if nothing more. France, known for being the stylist on the hit Netflix series, Queer Eye, has only ever brought pure joy to my screen. Chung, who radiates a coolness that would be intimidating were it not for her natural, unaffected quirk and charm, challenges our preconceptions of supermodels.
Next In Fashion, which was filmed in the US, attracted contestants from all over the world, offering a refreshing internationalism that wasn’t forced, but a genuine celebration of global talent. That the contestants were already professionals, even if only junior, absolved the show of those horrible cringey disasters when illusioned fools present their less than mediocre talent.
But more than the loveable judges and clearly talented contestants, Next In Fashion stood out as unlike many competition shows before it. To kick off the series, the contestants were asked to abandon their individual drive and team up.
Some paired with people they did not know whilst the lucky ones paired with designers they had worked with before. What ought to have been the show’s first challenge was in fact its most endearing ploy.
Instead of petty fights, double crossings and unproductive designing, camaraderie replaced competition and the show became a powerful attestation to the power of teamwork.
Together, the designers worked to the best of their abilities, trusting in each other’s strengths and overcoming each’s weaknesses. Their work was dictated by passion and compassion. They learned from each other rather than worked against each other, enamoured and inspired by each’s talents. What they displayed was a genuine love and respect for each other. A love that was infectious, and surprising in its strength.
The challenge came later when the pairs were asked, finally, to disband and compete against each other as individuals. As the final drew closer, the contestant’s desire to win was confused by the presence of their exes – well-meaning, inspiring and after the same prize.
The show’s greatest achievement was, through these lovable pairs and terrific teamwork, painting a picture of the fashion industry quite contrary to its other representations in popular culture. A show where glamour trumps kindness and success is sought through savagery, America’s Next Top Model is perceived as a microcosm of the fashion industry as a whole. It is its ability to make an atmosphere so rife with humiliation and pressure simultaneously so desirable that is its most honest reflection of the fashion world. It is not unfair to say that the industry hides its true self behind this front of glamour, style and elitism, whilst underneath integrity fails at every level.
But the stereotypes exacerbated by shows like America’s Next Top Model or the iconic film, Devil Wears Prada, are damaging to the industry. Rather than inspire change, they encourage an every-man-for-himself attitude.
It is shows like Next In Fashion, in which humanity thrives, that enable the industry to progress.
Next In Fashion demonstrates that working together is the key to success. It is this display of genuine camaraderie which I hope to see lead change throughout the industry.