Met Gala 2018: Fashion & Religion

The Met Gala is essentially fashion’s most important red carpet event of the year. Fashion’s most important editors, models, muses, and designers come together to celebrate fashion in all of its excess and glory. Headed by Vogue USA’s iconic editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Gala has hosted various themes over the years. Some of which include Alexander McQueen, Punk, The Ballet Russe, Christian Dior, and Royal Indian Costume. What sets the Met Gala apart from every other fashion event during the year is the boundless imagination one can use in either having an outfit created for the night or wearing a designer outfit that not only fits the theme but goes above and beyond it.

The Met has recently released their theme for 2018 and the final verdict is Fashion and Religion. The announcement has been met with some opposition and controversy, with many thinking that it would be highly inappropriate to present religion alongside something as trivial and superficial as fashion. However, countless designers have taken direct inspiration from religion as well as weaving religious iconography and imagery directly into their designs. Just like religious art, religious fashion is an art form that aims at showing the world exactly how different societies and classes view religion and, more importantly, religious institutions and their traditions.

As an avid fan and down right lover of the Met Gala, the announcement of each year’s theme is something that fills me with utter wonder and excitement, knowing that the Costume Institute’s curator-in-charge, Andrew Bolton (husband of famed Amercian designer Thom Browne) will create yet another outstanding exhibit that accurately and respectfully showcases fashion and its accompanying theme. In anticipation for the Gala, I started to brainstorm the theme, wrapping my head around what designers or collections would be the perfect fit for next year’s theme. A few designers came to mind and even more collections came to mind after that. So what better way is there to celebrate the newly announced theme than to create a list of perfect pieces for the upcoming Gala this spring.

Alexander McQueen — Dante / Angels & Daemons

A legend in life and in death, Lee Alexander McQueen was truly a 21st-century pioneer when it came to groundbreaking and boundary pushing design. Andrew Bolton’s Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibit at the Met already showcased McQueen’s work. However, this time around, Bolton can take full liberty with exhibiting two of McQueen’s greatest collections. Dante and Angels & Daemons both showcase McQueen’s precision and unmatched expertise in design. On one hand, Dante depicts the darker, more indulgent side, wherein the pious hide behind masks of faith to justify their deeds, while Angels & Daemons paints a more realistic, yet completely closed off world where angels and their demonic counterparts reside.

Christian Lacroix — The Virgin Bride

Now, many years have passed since the heyday of Lacroix couture. But no matter the years, no one will ever be able to create a virgin bride the way Monsieur Lacroix did. The ornate mariée’s Christian created were always a staple of his couture collection. They usually strayed from the theme or the tone of the collection to present the image of a pristine woman, untouched by the evils and sins of the world. Apart from their sheer detail and grandeur, what makes Lacroix’s brides standout is the subtle nod to Eastern Orthodox brides, particularly the ornate and regal brides of Georgia.

Christian Dior — Ancient Egypt

The days of Galliano at Dior may be long gone, but the impact he had on the house and the fashion world, in general, can still be seen and felt to this day. There are very little designers in this day and age that have the gall to translate the many visual delights this planet has to offer, and none did it as successfully as Galliano did. Having covered almost every corner of the globe with his designs, it seemed as if Galliano would eventually run out of inspiration to base his collections on until he revealed this masterpiece after a trip to Egypt. Taking outrageous couture to the next level, Galliano unveiled a collection rooted deeply in the myths and legends of ancient Egpyt. Pharaohs and Gods walked the catwalk in gowns made of gold and jewels, perfectly conveying the dominance and extravagance of the ancient Egyptian empire. The most striking visuals in this collection came in the form of jackal heads that resembled Anubis, god of mummification and the afterlife.

Guo Pei — Il Vaticano

Guo Pei is the queen of extravagance and there is nowhere else in the world that is more extravagant than the all-powerful Vatican. It’s its own city, state, and country, and to top it all off, the Vatican even has its own law enforcement and bank. Representing the large population of Roman Catholics, the Vatican heads the largest group of Christians in the world. Some even suggest that the Vatican is the most powerful institution in the world, beating out the world’s most powerful governments. So it comes as no surprise that Guo Pei chose a powerhouse institute to pull inspiration from for her powerhouse brand.

Jean Paul Gaultier — Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows

Jean Paul Gaultier is a master couturier known for many things; cone bras, corsets, and nautical stripes all found their fame at the hand of Gaultier. However, one of his most underrated and outstanding collections has to be his spring 2007 couture show, where the shining hallowed glory of a sorrowful Virgin Mary was presented before the eyes of fashion’s finest. The gentle tears painted on the models’ faces created a visually stunning, yet spiritually familiar feeling, mirroring the crying statues of the Virgin Mary found in many Catholic churches around the world. But what really makes this collection breathtaking is the different incarnations of the Lady of Sorrows. There are hints of Latin American Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, and European Christianity, showcasing the different views of within the various branches of Christianity.

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Comedy in the Trump Age

Just about a year ago, while other comedians on the late-night scene, from Seth Meyers and John Oliver to Stephen Colbert and Samantha Bee spent the evening denouncing then-candidate/full-time racist hairball Donald Trump, who was in the throes of accusations of coziness with Vladimir Putin and Islamophobia and racism, one man had the courage to ask the really tough question: if he could ruffle Donald Trump’s hair.

I’m talking, of course, about the infamous segment on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, where Jimmy Fallon spent the interview asking the softest of softball questions, without a hint of pushing him on any issues or criticizing anything he ever said. The segment was widely criticized, with many suggesting Fallon was helping to humanize or normalize Trump.

What was the issue, exactly? After all, Stephen Colbert also had Trump on as a guest last year, and Seth Meyers had Kellyanne Conway on just eight months ago. And sure, Fallon asked some pretty tame questions, but he isn’t a journalist, and it’s not his job to ask the tough questions. Is he really to blame for trying to keep his show apolitical, to want mass appeal? Apparently, yes.

In the Trump era, it’s become increasingly clear that few people are interested in that kind of mass appeal. People want sharper comedy, comedians who aren’t afraid to be critical, to call out bullshit when they see it, to denounce hate. It’s no wonder that the more sharply political late night hosts, like Trevor Noah, Oliver, Bee, Colbert, and Meyers are getting ever-increasing audiences and attention.

Indeed, consider the fact that Colbert’s most popular segments on YouTube are monologues where he denounced or criticized Trump. Bee’s show, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee is almost dominated by Bee eviscerating Trump to shreds, perhaps most notably with her segment “Pussy Riot”, made shortly after that tape with Billy Bush came out. For six glorious minutes, Bee alternated between strained, venomous sarcasm and unsurprised fury, unleashing a badly-needed female perspective, noting: “We know this is shocking for most normal men, but every woman I know has had some entitled testosterone monster grab her like a human bowling ball.”

Not only that, but even the relatively apolitical Jimmy Kimmel got a moment in the sun during the height of the health care debate. After an emotional monologue where he discussed his newborn son’s heart condition, Kimmel begged Congress not to remove protections for those with pre-existing condition, pleading in a cracked voice, “If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make.”

And even more recently, as Trump refused to outright condemn white supremacists and Nazis in Charlottesville, late night hosts ranging from the less political James Corden to the more political Meyers  lined up to criticize his silence and condemn white supremacy in the strongest terms.

And in the world of standup comedy, the specials that have been more widely celebrated have recently been those that either dealt specifically with politics or the issues on the periphery, even if those jokes weren’t the main focus. Jen Kirkman discussed sexism and harassment in Just Keep Livin’?, Roy Wood, Jr discussed race and blackness in Father Figure, Hasan Minhaj discussed Islamophobia in Homecoming King, and Maz Jobrani discussed being an immigrant in the aptly named Immigrant.

Even here in Canada, comedy has taken an ever-sharper political edge. Just take the satirical site and now comedy show The Beaverton, which in addition to featuring video segments and articles mocking Trump and the alt-right, also isn’t shy about criticizing the Canadian alt-right, especially in their biting satire of the alt-right, heavy on racism and light on facts Canadian “news” site, The Rebel with their own spin, The Rebelton.

There are still plenty of (mostly straight, cis, white, male) comedians who don’t like this shift at all. Fallon, for his part, has been reluctant to change his show toward a more political tone. Obviously, that’s his prerogative. However, it’s worth noting that we aren’t living in an age when politics is business as usual. The United States’ president is a racist, a misogynist, and Islamaphobic. He’s in cahoots with white supremacists. He and his party don’t care about the effects of their actions, even when people’s lives are at stake. Health care? DACA? Climate change? Just some pieces in a cynical, spineless game. No offense to Jimmy Fallon, who I’m sure is a very nice guy, but it’s irresponsible to avoid this stuff altogether as though they’re just touchy political topics. Comedy has evolved to acknowledge that reality, whether or not all comedians want to get on board.

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We Are All of Us of Our Time, and Other News

 

Bauhaus Building, Dessau — view from the vestibule window looking toward the workshop wing (1926) Lucia Moholy (1894-1989). Tate Modern.

2017 WTF Moments.. Part Deux

Art work by Michelle Cheung for Novella Magazine

We love to chew the fat here at Novella — bring up the most innocuous subject, like ice cream, for instance, and sooner or later the talk will switch over to our cultures and societies and politics. When we are good, we are the non-complacent civic minded, observant and vigilant (which makes sense since our team is a weird and awesome amalgam of minorities). We can also be the harpies of old, pecking at your ears about the latest disaster and stupefaction available in the great outdoors.

But what can you do when 2017 is so far a complete shit show without intermission? (And I don’t really see one coming our way anytime soon.) New disasters — as of this week, North Korea detonated its sixth nuclear bomb — rise and old ghosts — the Swastika is back in style for some — are turning out to be actually not plasma but living people. I forget where but I read (saw or heard) somewhere that Mark Twain said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme.” Fact check that for me.

The below list is one made of shits that have been on our minds for far longer than we’d like: they’ve caked on the walls and are now harder to clean. We’re sharing them with you so that you can commiserate, watch the shit dry.

Drew Brown, Editor-in-Chief

The fact that we are able to put together a second edition of WTF moments is proof that 2017 is not going as well as we hoped. Ann Coulter, right-wing media pundit everyone loves to hate, recently blamed Houston’s devastating storm on the LGBT community. Coulter tweeted “I don’t believe Hurricane Harvey is God’s punishment for Houston electing a lesbian mayor. But that is more credible than ‘climate change.'” It’s no secret that Ann is no supporter of the LGBT community, which is fine with us. I am not surprised that Ann is trying use LGBT community as a scapegoat but what is baffling is the fact that Republicans still think that Climate change is still some crazy thing liberals made up.

Hoon, Managing Editor

Trump recently pardoned Joe Arpaio of criminal contempt, good month and a half before the actual sentencing of the Arizona sheriff behind the notorious tent city, the modern American ‘concentration camp’ designed specifically for ‘illegal aliens’ and those suspected of being ‘illegal’. The baffling thing about the pardon is that it seems legal — despite challenges on the basis of the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause —, at least for now (cases are being made against its legality). The most sinister aspect of the pardon is that this may be Trump’s attempt to disarm Special Council Robert Mueller of his powers to subpoena and charge with criminal contempt — if Trump can pardon, say, an unwilling White House staff, who’s been subpoenaed by Mueller, of criminal contempt, Mueller is stripped of a necessary and important tool in his investigation. Trump is encroaching on the integrity of the Department of Justice and the judicial system at large.

Kimberley Drapack, Contributor 

Despite their horrible history with animal cruelty, SeaWorld has somehow topped itself. An orca whale named Kasatka recently died due to a bacterial infection. Kasatka is the third whale this year to die at SeaWorld. The nightmare began in January 2017 when the beloved Tilikum, from the documentary Blackfish, died without a confirmation from SeaWorld as to what it was that killed him. It is known that Tilikum was prone to bacterial infections, much like Kasatka. Global News reports that since 1961, at least 150 killer whales have been taken into captivity, and 127 of these orcas are now dead. Of those, 45 died at SeaWorld. Tilikum spent 33 years in captivity and died at age 36. In the wild, an orca whale has a much higher survival rate, usually living up to 80 to over 100 years old. It makes me wonder when they are going to shut down SeaWorld once and for all. A girl can dream.

Cara Fox, Contributor

So, the American evangelical-right got together for a tailgate party and decided to publish the stuff of every far-right Facebook status we have seen since 2002. Enter: The Nashville Statement. I don’t know what’s more WTF-worthy, the fact that there really is absolutely nothing newsworthy in the document or that James Dobson was able to climb out of his crypt to be the first to sign it. Congrats, American evangelicals behind this manifesto! You have successfully made your prejudice relevant for the twenty-first century by using words like “transgenderism” and “polyamory.” But oops, plot-twist! Guess who’s non-binary and asks to be called by a male pronoun? GOD!

Natasha Grodzinski, Contributor

So, it’s happened. We are in a time where facts are called fake and skewed opinion can be called fact simply because it is a belief. An unbelievable side effect from this has been the rebranding of Nazism. It had been, for a decades following the Second World War, a politically unifying statement to say “Nazis are bad.” That’s a safe one. You could probably say that at a party and have everyone agree. But then the “alt-right” came, who claim to be neither Neo-Nazis nor White Supremacists. Then Charlottesville happened, where protestors used Nazi salutes and old Nazi chants but Donald Trump said that there were “two sides” to the events there, and took his sweet time condemning the clear racism and Neo-Nazism. My question is this: are we doomed to repeat the past? Did we learn nothing from historic events in Europe to be able to recognize when something is bad and harmful to other people? Germany emphasizes how bad those historic events were in their schools, with facts. How are we in North America not able to do the same thing?

Adina Heisler, Contributor

Even if you don’t know a whole lot about politics or international affairs, you can probably recognize that, when dealing with a country like North Korea, it’s important for world leaders, particularly the President of the United States, to be calm, keep a level head, listen to advisors, and not act rashly. Thank goodness there’s a man in the White House who only loses his temper over important matters, like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s TV ratings. On August 8th, Trump warned North Korea that any provocations against the U.S. will be met with “fire and fury”. Luckily, he thought that through carefully, took advice from his military advisors…what’s that? He totally improvised it? He’s a spoiled tangerine child with no impulse control and has absolutely no clue what he’s doing? We’re all doomed? Ok, cool. He’s playing Russian Roulette (wink) with North Korea, but hey, at least he doesn’t have a private email server!

Christopher Zaghi, Fashion Editor

Having to watch Houston natives suffer through Hurricane Harvey’s full onslaught and its devastating aftermath was horrifying enough, but, of course, the U.S. has a bad habit of demanding sympathy for its affected people while attacking those whose intentions are to help out. Such was the case for queer actor and all around bad ass Ruby Rose, who posted on her twitter that she was planning on generously donating $10,000 to an LGBTQ community centre to help with the cost of providing care for Houston locals. However, some U.S. citizens felt that Ruby’s choice of donating to an LGBTQ community centre was highly insensitive and wrong. Ruby was hit with tweets that read like a witch hunt news letter, some people felt her choice didn’t take into account that “All Lives Matter” (Lol) while other’s felt the need to tell her that “it must be nice to be able to flaunt your money like that.” It seems that the many citizens in the United States think it’s more important to be humble about your wealth then donating a portion of it to flood victims. And it’s far sadder that even more US citizens think that LGBTQ community centres have body guards at the door making sure that ONLY queer people are lining up for help.

Snigdha Koirala, Contributor

Last week, Munroe Bergdorf — a black, queer, trans model, and DJ — was announced as the face of L’Oreal’s True Match campaign — the corporation’s attempt at centering diversity and social justice in its advertisements and operations. Three days later, after Bergdorf wrote a Facebook post in response to the events in Charlottesville (where a white-supremacist killed an anti-racist protestor), she was dropped by the company. In her post, Bergdorf writes the following: “Most of ya’ll [white people] don’t even realise or refuse to acknowledge that your existence, privilege and success as a race is built on the backs, blood and death of people of colour…Your entire existence is drenched in racism.” Because of Bergdorf’s comment that all white people are racist — meaning that they benefit  from the systematic racism found in all corners of society, and, as such, unless they actively work towards fighting this form of oppression, they end up perpetuating it — L’Oreal claimed that Berdorf’s post went against its values of “tolerance” and “diversity”. L’Oreal, a worldwide corporation with a history of alleged racist and discriminatory work environments, a corporation that, through its products and advertisements, has continuously prized white women over women of colour, is now crying lack of tolerance when faced with the angry, unfiltered, true words of a black woman. WTF indeed.

Meg Summers, Contributor

The fashion world has been increasingly inclusive and it’s about time. Magazine covers and runways finally celebrate models of different body types, races, sexual identities, and more. However, there still seems to be some flaws when a brand shows their ignorance towards wanting to appear inclusive while not actually doing so. This past July, Vogue featured Gigi Hadid and her boyfriend Zayn Malik in a cover story that deemed the couple to be ‘gender neutral’ in their fashion choices. This is simply because Gigi enjoys wearing her boyfriend’s shirts and jackets (so basically, if you are a girl who has ever needed an extra layer or run out of laundry, you are also gender neutral — who knew?!). With the number of models who belong to the LGBTQ community and ACTUALLY identify as gender neutral, this could have been a great opportunity to gain some insight into a truly different aspect of fashion. Instead, this has been a sad attempt by Vogue to look edgy while still clutching onto their celebrity status.

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“The World. In Short Form.” — On TIFF’s Short Cuts Program

Short film, like other mediums accompanied by the modifier, is often defined by its length, as though it is a curtailed version of what would have been, or a diminutive of an established medium. Indeed a short film is short(er) — the industry standard is something along the lines of ‘under 40 minutes’ —, especially when compared to Hollywood epics or trilogies. But it is a medium in its own right, by which I mean that the qualities that make great shorts are entirely different from those that make a feature length great. The slogan for TIFF’s Short Cuts program this year is “The World. In Short Form.” And indeed Short Cuts’s eight programs and sixty or so films in total are exemplars of the form’s ability to be broader than its length.

In Yang Qiu’s A Gentle Night, a mother searches for her missing daughter a few nights before the Lunar New Year. There is little dialogue, just enough to propel the story; we aren’t told who these people are; no establishing shots tell us where or even when we are; no thriller-genre watermarks that keep us on the edge. Yet, we are engulfed. A Gentle Night relies on the images and pacing to make immediate this removed and unnamed mother’s horror and despair. The movie ends as it begins with little explanations, yet it is difficult to escape the feeling that it is complete, that Qiu’s said all he wanted to say. Absence of specific details encourages the audience to engage with the film with sympathy and compassion, two refreshingly different emotional standpoints from empathy, the currency of usual feature lengths that involve a mother and a lost child. The audience cannot identify with the mother, is left in the emotional peripheries, just close enough to be bystanders to the horror that’s all her own. Charlotte Wells’s Blue Christmas is another example of this kind of storytelling. The story of Alec, a debt collector out on the job on Christmas Eve, hurtles forward — he has a son and a wife, who wants to burn down the family Christmas tree. Much of the film is occupied with Alec driving around town, collecting. Yet, when the film draws to a close and Alec returns home to his smoky living room, we cannot help but sympathize with this family we barely know or understand. Once again, the narrative is focused on the specific events and not on its origins or aftermath. The latter two, we are told, are Alec and his family’s, as Qiu’s mother’s is hers.

Kei Chikaura’s Signature takes a different approach. A man walks through Shibuya, Tokyo. He is unfamiliar with the city and does not seem to speak either Japanese nor English. He runs into a petition, passes by a row a row vending machines, walks into alleyways, and ends up in a dimly lit, disturbingly green hallway. The audience is kept in the dark until the subdued revelation that the man, Cheng Liang, is a ‘foreign worker’ trying to land a factory job. The film creates the illusion that we are, in real time, experiencing what Cheng is experiencing. It is immersive in that the audience’s not knowing is parallel to Cheng’s jarring and painful feeling of being uncertain, out of place, alone, in a foreign country. We find sure footing on the narrative just as Cheng finds his footing in his job interview.

Watching a number of these short films one after the other, one can’t help but feel that they are more truthful reflections of the way we live — not in grand narrative arcs, but in a series of indelible, meaningful periods of time — and of the way we interact with others, within liminal spaces between our points A and points B. That the beginnings and resolutions in many short films feel abrupt is perhaps the form’s greatest gift; our dealing with their absence is an exercise in compassion.

TIFF Short Cuts has eight programs, each with a loose theme ranging from relationships to survival. Details on each of the eight programs, times, and ticket information can be found here. I highly recommend the three mentioned above (‘A Gentle Night‘, ‘Blue Christmas‘, and ‘Signature‘) and the following: ‘Waiting‘ (Amberley Jo Aumua), ‘Magic Moments‘ (Martina Buchelová), and ‘Mother‘ (Rodrigo Sorogoyen). 

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