“Next In Fashion” Contributes to the Othering of African-Americans in High Fashion

Netflix adds to its growing array of reality TV with the game show “Next In Fashion.” The series has popular names in high fashion, Tan France of “Queer Eye” and Alexa Chung as the hosts. It is a competition based show in which pairs of fashion designers from many different countries create different runway looks in just two days before they appear on models. They are all competing for $150,000 and a platform to sell their designs in order to jumpstart their business. Please note, this article has some spoilers. 

This is runway fashion. There is a stark difference between this and stylish clothes that you would normally see in stores. Many beautiful and practical pieces are deemed unappealing by judges such as Tan France because they are not “offensive” enough. But when contestants dare to add frills with a pattern, the judges complain about an outfit being too busy. The problem with judging fashion is that it is all subjective.

This show’s structure favors some contestants over others. Participants Kiki and Ferai wanted to create a design for the lingerie challenge that was comfortable, but still sexy and beautiful for the female model. Instead of adding underwire to the bra, they decided to have the bra piece without it in order for it to be more comfortable, since most people who wear bras complain about the harshness of underwire. Because of this decision, the judges criticized this piece, claiming that her breasts should be lifted higher. Just because women are on a runway, that does not mean that their cleavage line has to be exposed. 

Additionally, it is clear that the judges believe that they can be harsher on the team that consists of two black members. To their faces they openly criticized each one of their outfits and put them in the bottom two during elimination rounds often even though many other teams had less creative designs. On the other hand, there was a team of two Asian women that were very talented, but did not perform as well on the lingerie challenge. The judges barely criticized their work to their faces, and altered their tone while talking to them as if they were young children. 

The judges are too critical of the contestants. It is typical for pieces like suits, lingerie and streetwear to take weeks, months, or even longer to design, fit and style, but these competition requires all of this to occur in two days under extreme pressures. Some of the contestants knew their partner on their teams before the competition started and had great chemistry, while others did not know each other before the competition started and were incompatible. Many of the latter teams were eliminated during the first rounds because of this obvious disadvantage. 

I used to like Tan France and even guest judge Jason Bolden from Netflix’s reality show “Styling Hollywood,” but hearing their seemingly oblivious comments putting these two black women down constantly leaves me with a bad feeling in my stomach. I will not be anticipating another season.

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