Category: Media Industry

Melania Trump Really Doesn’t Care

The big story about Melania Trump for Thursday, June 21 was supposed to be about her visiting immigrant children in Texas. Instead, it ended up being about her wardrobe. The ever-watched First Lady chose to wear a ZARA jacket with the words “I REALLY DON’T CARE. DO U?” printed on the back. This was bizarre, to say the least.

While Melania is often depicted as somewhat ditzy and not fully aware of what’s going on, I find it hard to believe that the impact of wearing such a jacket was truly lost on her. The Trump era has been and remains to be a tense one, with many minorities and lower class individuals voicing their feelings that the president simply doesn’t care about them. Therefore, Melania’s wardrobe choice comes off as confusing and somewhat taunting. It seems as if she’s making light of citizen’s grievances, which honestly wouldn’t be surprising considering the behavior of her husband.

However, he claims that the message on the jacket was aimed at the media rather than individuals feeling isolated by the Trumps. “[the message] written on the back of Melania’s jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares,” tweeted the president.

This doesn’t coincide with the statement given by Stephanie Grisham, Melania’s spokeswoman, though. Grisham responded to questions about the jacket, “It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope this isn’t what the media is going to choose to focus on.”

While I agree that there certainly was no hidden message behind the jacket, being that it was clearly and boldly printed on the back, I can’t accept the idea that Melania’s team didn’t intend for this to be a story. The First Lady doesn’t simply wear a jacket saying she doesn’t care and expect it not to be a big deal.

This fashion statement, while odd, is exactly the kind of non-traditional and arguably disrespectful thing we’ve come to expect from the president, but not so much the first lady. Early on in Trump’s presidency, there was much speculation about whether or not Melania fully understood or agreed with her husband’s policies and leadership style. I think she answered that question today. She doesn’t care.

Be the Zeitgeist.

The Signifgance of “Black Panther” Fashions, Both on and off Screen

As expected because it was so highly anticipated, Marvel’s “Black Panther” has created a lot of conversation since its release on February 16. One of the biggest conversations has surrounded the movie’s fashion. Costume designer, Ruth E. Carter, drew inspiration from various African cultures while maintaining the futuristic integrity of Wakanda to create the mainly green, red and black costumes.

However, the on-screen fashions were not the only eye-catching looks I noticed when I saw the movie on opening night. The audience seemed to have come to a consensus that the proper attire was either all black or traditional African fabrics. Of course, I wore my usual all black, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have “Black Panther” in mind that morning while getting dressed.

As someone who cares so deeply about adornment, it was heartwarming to see such adamantly pro-black looks both in the theatre with me as well as all over the country via Twitter. It was clear that the movie had instilled a sense of pride. Such pride is interesting considering the fact that much of the African-American population lacks knowledge of our origins. This was evident in the chosen movie-going attire. Pieces from various African cultures were mixed, most likely ignorantly but not maliciously.

This, however, is not really a negative in my opinion. It’s no secret that Black people were stripped of their culture and that any attempts to preserve practices for their prosperity were punishable during enslavement. Because of this, Black people not only in America, but across the diaspora have resorted to combining various West African cultures.

This is what I would consider self-determination. As a Howard student, I’ve had countless class discussions and written numerous papers about how enslaved people drew what they could from home while creating their own traditions in order to maintain their identities. Self-determination served as a defense mechanism against oppression.

This is exactly what we’ve seen in the theatres over the past week. Being Black in America can be exhausting, but “Black Panther” has inspired pride in African-American people. The moment may or may not be fleeting, but it’s still beautiful. And yes, as an actual Marvel fan, I know that “Black Panther” is not a “race movie,” but that does not change the fact that it was released in a volatile time and has sparked a cultural movement. Such an impact, intentional or not, is noteworthy.

 

Be the zeitgeist.

A Conversation with Wild ‘n Out’s Costume Designer, Satthra San

Last weekend I had the amazing opportunity to spend time backstage at Wild ‘n Out in Brooklyn, New York to see how things work behind the scenes. During my time on set, I sat in on filmings of the show and hung out with cast members, which was somewhat surreal being that I’ve been watching Wild ‘n Out since I was too young to be watching it.

However, what was most exciting is that I got a chance to interview the show’s costume designer, Satthra San. San is the woman behind the eclectic, yet cohesive red and black (and recently gold and platinum) fashions that have become such a huge part of the show. Here’s a closer look at just what that job entails:

Chantè: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, I just have a few questions. Firstly, how did you get to this position in your career?

Satthra: No problem! Do you want the long story or the short story?

C: Either one is fine.

S: Basically, I moved to New York six and a half years ago and started doing sales in fashion. I have a Bachelor’s in design, and I’ve been sewing since I was like thirteen so I actually had a lot of opportunities back home, but I really wanted to be in New York, so I literally left everything. I left a comfortable life and started from scratch here. I didn’t know anyone, I met my roommate online and I found my apartment the weekend I graduated. When I got here I started doing sales in a showroom as an intern and I was there for a year. I met a bunch of stylists. One, in particular, I kept in contact with and a year later I hit her up and she had to fire her assistant that same weekend and she lived down the street from me. I was everything that she needed at that time and she was everything that I needed at that time, so it just kind of fell into place. She did a lot of styling for Atlantic artists such as Wale, B.O.B. and Joe Budden, so that’s how I got my start in the styling world. Her best friend was actually working Wild ‘N Out at the time, this was season six. At the same time, my former boss was moving to London, so I worked my ass off on season 6 and my her best friend adopted me for the next four seasons. Then I graduated to be lead for the past two seasons, seasons ten and eleven. And now, here I am.

C: And now here we are! That’s great. So now that you’ve been in this position for a couple of seasons, what’s your favorite part of the job?

S: Well since I have a design background, all of these jerseys are kind of sort of my visions. Our people, New Jersey Sets, who are based out in California, I give them my inspiration and the things I’m looking for for the season and they come back to me with designs and I’ll say “add a hood” or “add this color panel.” We’ve actually been a couple seasons going trying to achieve these sequin jerseys, so getting to make stuff like that happen is probably my favorite part.

C: That actually flows right into my next question, which is how do the fashions on the show come about? I know the cast all have their different styles, so do they come to you and say “this is what I want” or do you just tell them that’s what they’re going to wear?

S: It’s definitely a collaboration. There are some guys that sort of know exactly what they want and they’ve been on the show for so many years that they just trust us at this point. They just come and kind of look through the jersey racks and anything on these racks they kind of customize however they want. But then there are other cast members, the new ones, that are super excited and just want to put everything together.

C: So how is the work environment? Is it chaotic? It is chill?

S: You know what’s crazy? It all starts at the top. For me, I wanted to build an organized foundation. I wanted it to be so that everyone coming in to work for me knows the lay of the land and is multi-talented. You can’t just be able to do one thing here. You’ve got to do multiple things. For me, I’m on the [sewing] machine, I handle the vinyl cutter, I’ll heat press the names, I’ll make designs on the computer along with putting the clothes onto people.

C: So that again kind of goes into my next question: How much of your personal style goes into the clothes that we see on the show?

S: All of it. But actually, a lot of the things I wouldn’t pick out personally, but I would pick out for a certain person. Like Karlous likes crazy pants so we’ve gotten a lot of the G-Star and Pharell collaboration jeans for him. So like, for the OG cast members I have pieces I specifically hand pick for them, and there are other fillers that I kind of just get just in case someone might want to try it, but most importantly it all just needs to look good on stage and on camera.

C: Okay, final question: Do you also design Nick’s turbans?

S: Unfortunately I do not. Nick has his own team that I’d be happy to connect you with if need be.

C: Thank you! And thank you again for your time.

S: No problem!

 

Be the zeitgeist.

What Classifies as an Award Show Fashion Statement?

Unsurprisingly, award shows have always been riddled with celebrity fashion statements. Nights such as The Grammys where all the stars (and cameras) gather are without a doubt a great time to speak up. However, it is also true that TV & Film award shows tend to have more subtle protests, while music award shows are more theatrical.

The point is that they all seem to get political in one way or another.  Some of the most notable recent award show fashion statements include Pharell dressing his backup dancers in hoodies to honor Trayvon Martin at the 2015 Grammys, various stars wearing blue ribbons to the 2017 Oscars to signify support of the ACLU and, of course, Joy Villa in her controversial “Make America Great Again” gown at last year’s Grammys.

This year, many celebrities elected to wear black to the Golden Globes to stand in solidarity with victims of sexual assault. The lack of color on the red carpet was definitely noticeable, but the problem is that it wasn’t really that groundbreaking. Many critiqued the protest by noting that black gowns at an award show are hardly a statement.

On the other hand, many artists at this year’s Grammys adorned white roses to support the cause. This protest, while still simple, seemed to say a little more. The white roses were obviously meant to symbolize something and weren’t easily confused with a regular Grammy accessory.

This difference is huge because a protest is hardly a protest if it doesn’t require much diverting from the status quo. Fashion statements, just like any other protest can’t afford to be subtle if they truly aim to make a difference. While TV & film award shows such as the Golden Globes don’t offer as many opportunities for performance art protests as music award shows do, they do offer just as much public attention, and therefore should be just as bold when it comes to their political fashion statements.

Be the zeitgeist.

 

 

State of the Zeitgeist

2017 was interesting, to say the least. All things considered, I’d say that the one word that sums up this year would have to be “hectic.” From culture to historical events, there was simply a lot going on. As we reexamine the past twelve months and promise ourselves to improve over the next twelve, we’ll have a lot to consider.

The fashion industry, particularly, had a year that merits some reflection. The push for diversity and cultural respect has never been stronger; however, the industry has proven to be completely unprepared for this. PR disasters surrounding appropriation and tokenism plagued 2017 as brands attempted to give consumers what they thought they wanted.

The editorial side of fashion also had a pretty unfortunate year. Most notably, the Terry Richardson scandal disrupted many collaborations. In addition, multiple bloggers were vocal about the discrete advertising and bias found in many magazines. What’s worst is that the disconnect between consumers and brands and the unethical journalism were simply icing on a cake of runway shows that many viewed as “boring.”

The hip-hop industry, on the other hand, had a year that was far from boring. Most of the many projects that came out this year found themselves on one end of the spectrum, complete trash or certified hit. The abundance of collaborations and mumble rap generated so much noise that it was easy to miss the lackluster work.

I must admit, though, I am disappointed with just how much lackluster work there was to miss. I, like many others, was hoping that the introduction of the Trump administration would inspire some brilliant music as well as fashion. Instead, all we got was a few powerful protests, but many more empty ones.

My hope is that going into 2018 we’ll find inspiration in both our 2017 failures and successes, creatively and socially. While New Year’s resolutions are a bit cliche, they do help us to be honest with ourselves and seek improvement. So my hope is that every creative and/or activist who comes across this dedicates themselves to contributing to the spirit of the times in a way that is no less than phenomenal in 2018.

 

Be the zeitgeist.

Hoe, But Then Make It Profitable

Tyra Banks telling America’s Next Top Model contestants to “hoe, but then make it fashion” is easily one of the most iconic ANTM moments. The strange but perfect advice told the contestants exactly what was expected of them in order to be successful in their industry.

Now it seems that Tyra’s advice can be applied to any field in the public eye. Women who are sexual, quirky, loud, assertive and a million other adjectives that don’t exactly fit into the description of “ladylike” are winning and I’m loving every minute of it.

Cardi B, who is a retired stripper, has a Number 1 single. Issa Rae, who has never shied away from sexual topics or explicit language, is literally everywhere. SZA, who sings from the point of view of a sexually liberated woman, broke into the mainstream this year. And Rihanna, who hasn’t been at all conservative since her “Good Girl Gone Bad Days,” is building an empire.

These women are producing work and creating images for themselves that may not win your grandma’s approval, but they’re definitely honest and relatable. Just like everyone else, Black women want to see people who think and talk like them in the media and we’re finally getting that.

From Issa’s mirror pep talks to SZA’s musical anecdotes, it may not always be clean but it’s always real. Although we may not have bloody shoes like Cardi, listening to her feels good because the energy is genuine enough and her personality is familiar enough for us to feel. And Rihanna is literally an embodiment of almost every young Black woman’s alter ego so we’re going to support anything she produces.

The times of having to have a squeaky-clean image and the ability to be a perfect role model in order to be marketable have passed. We don’t want an angel to look up to, we want a “hoe.” We want someone who isn’t perfect, we want someone who reminds us of our friends, sisters, cousins, aunties and mostly ourselves.

 

Be the zeitgeist.

 

Fashion Journalism Has Forgotten the Fundamentals

When you look at the big names in any industry, your expectations should be high. You’d expect any name that carries weight to live up to the hype and for their entire operation to ran at an elite level. Unfortunately, some of the big names in fashion journalism seemed to have backpedaled to a point that they’re not just failing to be elite, they’re also missing the fundamentals.

Paid reviews, personal disputes and lack of imagination have turned some of the biggest names in fashion journalism into jokes. The magazines I once worshiped have begun to lose my respect to independent bloggers who are more concerned with accurate and well thought out content than the petty matters plaguing magazines.

It’s disheartening both as a reader and as a journalist to not be able to trust the “go-to” sources in the industry. Most recently, the blurred lines about sponsored content have been a concern. In the Fundamentals of Journalism class I took as a college freshman we learned that accepting monetary, or any other kind of gifts, from the subject of your story/review is unethical. So, did the journalists working for major fashion publications skip that day of “fundamentals” or have they simply abandoned the integrity of their craft?

That same lack of integrity has led to the fashion world mirroring the cafeteria in “Mean Girls” with a “you can’t sit with us” attitude. Stepping on the wrong toes can result in total exclusion. Oddly enough, that brings up another Fundamentals of Journalism lesson– bias. It goes without saying that bias is something every journalist is told to avoid, and completely ignoring those you don’t care for is arguably the worst kind of bias.

However, what’s most painful is the boring and out-of-touch approach to covering the industry. Editorials are beginning to blur together and the critiques are becoming increasingly safe. Once again, this lazy approach to journalism shows a lack of interest in the fundamentals.  A journalist is supposed to inform as well as entertain, and the content is supposed to be relevant. 

Sadly, the giants of fashion journalism have shown us that they’ve either forgotten or felt they’ve become above the fundamentals. It’s hard to defend my favorite magazines when I’ve literally been trained to see where they’re going wrong. At this point, my only hope is that they stop trying to imitate young writers, and start hiring us. If not, we may witness the fall of multiple giants in the near future.

 

Be the zeitgeist.