M·A·C/Rodarte: Juarez-inspired fashion faux pas

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¿Alo? This is a message for the Mulleavy sisters, Laura and Kate. This is in regard to your latest fashion collection and your collaboration with makeup giant and Estée Lauder subsidiary MAC. Do you really think it’s cool to draw inspiration from the feminicidios in Juarez for a fashion and makeup collection?

I’m tempted to ask, “Are you out of your mind?” but I know you are not. I have been following your career and your endeavors for quite some time now. I was moved by the fact you named your label after your mother Victoria’s maiden name, Rodarte; that you live with your parents and first learned to knit by making a sweater for a pet lizard, and that you have what you have described as a symbiotic sister relationship.

I was intrigued by all that and the fact that neither of you has had formal training in fashion design; that you both studied liberal arts and are very much influenced by art history, cinema and literature; I envisioned you’d come up with dresses inspired by Virginia Wolf’s Mrs. Dalloway or even Sylvia Plath, really pushing the envelope (because of her suicide and all). But the muertas de Juarez is a different thing. Insensitive. Bad taste.

I remember I was so into Rodarte, I got a couple of your less gothic-esque dresses. I even got offended and wrote a letter to the editor of Vogue after she invited you to lose 60 pounds and document your transformation in the magazine! Vogue couldn’t come to terms with the fact that the gordita sisters from Pasadena were taking the ooh-la-la East Coast fashionista snobs by storm.

Haute couture meets gender violence is nothing new, but being inspired by contemporary women who live – and the many who have died – in the bowels of a border town plagued with crime and poverty is not smart or sexy. You have won the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award, a super big deal. You need to understand with that will come much more media scrutiny, whether you care or not.

Was it really your idea to name the products for the Juarez-inspired Rodarte/MAC makeup collection? Who thought of the names?  Quinceañera blush, Ghost Town white lipstick, Border Town and Sleepwalker eye shadow, Juarez and Factory nail polish. Please tell me it wasn’t your idea. Come on.

I read a New Yorker magazine article about you aptly entitled, in retrospect, “Twisted Sisters.” This was back in January; at the time I didn’t really consider you to be twisted. I thought of you as sharp and obtuse at the same time. Attributable, perhaps, to the black-and-white portrait of you sitting together. You know which one I’m talking about? It almost looks like a Diane Arbus portrait. It captures your beauty and seemingly innocent demeanor, a je ne sais quoi air of mystery and creepiness I can’t describe.

I’m sorry that what would have been an otherwise joyous moment has turned into a PR nightmare for you two. It got worse when the corporate talking heads tried to issue an apology and revealed that MAC would donate $100K to the Juarez region. Then came your lame attempt to save face by saying you were inspired by “the ethereal nature of the landscape” of the region and wanted to “celebrate” the people of Juarez.

Granted, MAC/Rodarte don’t owe Juarez anything, but an honest response would have been better. Like the statement from Juan Alanís, director of Estée Lauder Mexico, who was blunt and simply called it as it is: insensitive; a stupid mistake.

Call me rustic or uncouth, but as far as I’m concerned, I’m not buying the intellectual interpretation, the white Ghost Town lipstick, or any MAC cosmetics anytime soon.

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