July 9, 2006

Project Runway new season starts Wednesday

[Spoiler added 7/13]
Season 3 of the fashion design reality show Project Runway begins this Wednesday at 10pm on Bravo. Judging from the trailers, it looks to be just as good as the previous seasons. And as one of a tiny handful of reality shows that actually has a threshold of brains to compete, it's good nerd TV. Not long ago, I got curious about the make-up of the fashion design world, and found out that like any other creative field, it was mostly dominated by males of Eurasian descent, not a few of them gay. This likely has nothing to do with irrational discrimination, but rather group differences in cognitive abilities (namely, visuospatial skills) -- and, though I didn't explore it then, personality traits.

I first became interested in fashion because of -- you guessed it, girls. My family and I were on a week's trip to Rome four years ago, and at the time I dressed like your ordinary non-descript indie nerd. Then, once we landed, I had three revelations there in the airport:

1) Roman girls are damn hot. Look no further than Sophia Loren. Curvy, dark, petite (well, Sophia Loren's 5' 8.5").

2) Their boyfriends were short (compared to Americans) and skinny -- oftentimes downright scrawny.

3) Both they and their boyfriends dressed with style, even if unable to afford the ridiculously expensive stuff.

Throughout our week's stay, what I saw only strengthened this initial impression. The girls were also very approachable compared to Americans -- though that could reflect their being used to getting hit on by Italian male strangers at all hours of the day. In any event, I never would've dreamed that there were hot girls who preferred not the Viking warrior physique in their boyfriends but rather that of the adolescent Greek male statue (not even the super-buffed ones). I was convinced I was going to return after graduation (I ended up going to Barcelona instead), so I figured I'd better look the part if I was to stand a chance. In Rome I only bought a pair of those bowling-inspired shoes that everyone had in 2002 but since seem to have vanished. I also ended up finding my comfort zone not in the generic Mediterranean Eurotrash "dirty look," but in a mix between Italian peacockish sensuality and Japanese cerebral sobreity. Ennio Capasa, who founded Costume National, apprenticed under Yohji Yamamoto after graduating from fine arts school, so he tends to be my favorite designer.

Back here in the US, showing even minimal put-together-ness immediately raises the red flag in girls' minds that you're gay, not a terribly irrational assumption since we're not as flashy of a culture as the Italians. And even among those who are cool with you dressing so, their interest is piqued only insofar as they view it as an honest signal of high status. As it happens, I'm definitely not high status (I have my ways of getting good stuff, though it requires work), so once such a girl found that out, she'd shoot me a disgusted look much as a guy would if he found out a girl stuffed her bra or something. But someday, I'll run into an Italian girl, or a Spaniard, or a Brazilian, and it will be my foot-in-the-door. And in the meantime, it keeps me looking professional enough so that I'll never be reprimanded for violating the dress code. Plus, deciding what to wear is something that's easy to have some simple fun with before having to be surrounded by jerks on the metro and snots in the library (the kids at work are fine, of course).

Spoiler 7/13: So the first to be eliminated was a female businesswoman. In the second episode of the second season, a female lawyer was eliminated. In sum: verbal smarts (the businesswoman had a BA from Stanford & MBA from Harvard) don't count for squat in the world of visuospatial art. Good for persuasive bullshitting, yes; for designing and executing 3-D wearable sculpture, no.


  1. i thought loren was neapolitan?

  2. She was born in Rome, but she & her mother moved to an area outside of Naples, then returning to Rome in search of movie roles. So my impression was that she was Roman but brought up outside of Naples... I Googled info on her parents' lineage but found nothing.


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