About a week before the Big Apple's Fashion Week kicked off, the New York-based womenswear and accessories brand Proenza Schouler (founded by designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez in 2002) released a new video called "Act da Fool" to help sell its fall collection. The creator of the short film is Harmony Korine, 37, who wrote the 1995 cult classic "Kids" about New York City teens experimenting with sex and drugs. (He's also responsible for "Gummo," the 1997 film that explores ennui in a post-tornado Xenia, Ohio.)
"Act da Fool" is shot in the Nashville, Tenn. projects, and portrays a stylishly dressed group of poor female black teenagers drinking malt liquor, tagging Dempsey dumpsters with the word "Coke," and talking about, among other things, how much they love smoking because they will die "sooner rather than later."
"My friends and I are gangs of fools," says one of the film's characters before the film cuts to the girls banging a pile of tires with rods in an abandoned yard. "We can act like wild animals, we can do some messed up shit." Presumably all of the girls shown are wearing Proenza Schouler's high-end fall 2010 collection, although you might not know it if the designer's name wasn't in the film's title.
Since the video went live on September 1, "Act da Fool" has created a little firestorm among bloggers and the press. Fader called it a "messy critique of fashion’s affair with exploitation and aesthetic poverty." IFC's Alison Willmore said it was "dreamily hypnotic, but does not fill me with an immediate urge to purchase a $550 pair of Proenza Schouler for J Brand hand-painted high-waisted jeans."
Two writers who blog as Threadbared had this to say: "Their significance lies only in the difference they represent: the exoticism of their racially classed nihilism, the contradiction of their gendered optimism which serves to assure the viewer poverty is actually not too bad, and perhaps most importantly, their spatial and social distance from the luxury fashion world that excludes them even as they wear the clothes in the film."
Korine defended his work an interview with The New York Times, saying he drew on real life experiences to make the short, which Proenza Schouler commissioned. "Just because I used to hang out with this gang of black girls that were really hardcore delinquents, and I always loved them," Korine says. "Sometimes we would walk home from school and I would just watch them like set stuff on fire. Some of them would sleep in tree-houses and things. I used to always just think they were so terrific. In some way I just kinda tapped into that story."
On Proenza Schouler's website, Korine adds that the designer's fall line inspired him to make the video he did: "[The patterns said]...eat mud, snort glue, drink a lot of malt liquor and eat some fried chicken."
Does Korine's Proenza Schoueller video essentialize and perpetuate stereotypes, or showcase an edgy, new line? Let us know what you think by posting a comment below.
And while you're at it, let us know what you think about two other potential fashion faux pas in recent memory: The MAC-Rodarte "Juarez" makeup collection being pulled because it was named after the Juarez, Mexico town where thousands of women were murdered — the mysteries are still unsolved today — and Chanel's decision to make fur the center of its fall collection this year.