I have certain issues with the Rodarte sisters. Issues born from their “Mexico inspired” collaboration with MAC featuring ghostly nail polish and blood-streaked eyeshadow inappropriately titled “Juarez” to their blatant self-promotion of Black Swan that discredited the work of other costumers involved in the project. However, I still really enjoy their clothing designs. So the question is: are certain allowances appropriate to make for “creative geniuses?”
I often find that we do make allowances for brilliant people or artists, perhaps because their contributions to society are supposedly greater than their faults or because their personal lives shouldn’t be a factor when we judge their work. Still, I find it puzzling that girls who participate in Slutwalks to reclaim the term slut and stand by sexual assault victims who have been told that their attacks were their fault, enjoy and support films by Roman Polanski (who was convicted of statutory rape but fled the country to avoid imprisonment). Another example (from the fashion world): John Galliano’s anti-Semantic rant in a Parisian cafe nearly a year ago. Of course, for every example we have there are dozens of untold stories—if John Galliano had never opened his mouth, he’d still be designing for Dior. Further, both of these examples are of personal lives/beliefs; if they don’t behave like that in their work-space can we separate their work lives from their personal lives? Besides, who among us is blameless and innocent; we all make mistakes, so who can judge?
Of course, one difference between Galliano and Rodarte is: John Galliano has been ousted by the fashion community, sentenced by the French government for his crime, and generally made to suffer for his racist rant. The Mulleavy sisters continue to collaborate with MAC, receive credit for the costume design of Black Swan, and generally remain darlings of the fashion community. My issues with Rodarte stem not from their personal lives, but is directly related to their work. As of now, I enjoy the designs of Rodarte, but I feel uncomfortable posting on them (although I still do on occasion).
Yet one final worry that arises for me is, why do we make these allowances for geniuses of the arts or science when we wouldn’t make them for an “ordinary” individual? What makes the artist an exception to basic rules of morality? Are they somehow above the rest of us?
So, I’m really just wondering aloud where do we draw the line—when do we stop making exceptions for “creative genius” and why do we do it to begin with? I certainly don’t have an answer.
i had to re-read this and make sure i had the date right on this… because i remember when this story broke when i was IN mexico. i’m mostly reblogging to add a few links to those who have already covered this issue when it broke back in 2010, but i’m glad to hear more people are asking critical questions about when Artists We Like do or say things We Do Not Like.
i think, for the purpose of brevity, we have to limit the conversation to the (capital F) Fashion industry. i would add terry richardson to the list as an example of someone who has made personal and professional mistakes (some of which could qualify as crimes) but who, for some questionable reasons, continues to get a free pass from the industry.
keeping it short: in my opinion, we have to hold designers, photographers, magazines, brands and stores accountable for their missteps if they want our support. the case of the MAC-Rodarte fiasco illustrates quite well what should happen but doesn’t.
- a brand/designer comes out with an inappropriate, offensive product or ad campaign and presents it to the market.
- the market (whether it be press, bloggers, models, customers) say: “oh hey that’s kind of messed up/racist/sexist/shitty. you should think about that and maybe even reconsider selling us this.”
- if it gets enough kerfuffle, the brand/designer reacts.
this is where things get make or break. what USUALLY happens is this:
3a. hires a PR company for backup, issues a “non-apology” à la “some people are offended, we’re sorry they’re offended, but we’re not really going to take a hard look at WHY what we presented is offensive.”
4a. people move on and forget.
this is what i would like to see happen:
3b. brand/designer actually takes a good look at their choices, thinks about what they could have done differently (whether it be have done another focus group or market test or have just not pursued the project AT ALL, depending on the case) and issue a sincere statement apologizing or explaining (or both).
4b. people accept apology, confident they have held the parties in question accountable for their actions.
to me, these aren’t very complicated questions. in the case of MAC-Rodarte Juarez? to me it’s pretty straightforwardly FUCKED UP to market clothing and makeup on an ongoing (even worsening!) situation of thousands of women being violently raped and murdered all under the guise of fashion “inspiration.” but a lot of people want to give the benefit of the doubt to creative types,
these questions aren’t particularly difficult for me to address, perhaps because they don’t affect me, since i can’t afford to buy major label brands. unfortunately, i know that if i did have the means to drop hundreds of dollars on clothing/beauty products, the list of brands i could enthusiastically endorse and deem deserving of my hard earned cash would be pathetically short. because these missteps are part of the industry. there’s no such thing as bad press. look at how many brands live off of scandal, controversy, and mocking the “politically correct police” - all while being awarded and lauded for the very same shitty content. i could go on ad nauseam about this but i should wrap up.
these “controversies” should be discussions, opportunities for the market to express what they want and expect from their designers. reknown fashion bloggers (like the clothes horse) should be concious of these elements when choosing to devote their blog space to them. don’t mindlessly reblog something just because it’s pretty. don’t accept ads from whoever, however, just because you want the cash. this just serves to reinforce their mistakes, especially if they haven’t even bothered apologizing (i will point once again to the case of one mr. richardson). fashionistas should be demanding apologies. demand better.