You Are What You Eat

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15-08-2019

How Diet Prada is Changing the Face of Fashion Media

The food pyramid of fashion media is getting overturned. Features writer Emily Bacal details how the new clean eating involves a hefty serving of Diet Prada’s brand of no-holds-barred criticism and in-depth analysis. It’s time to purge your pantry of problematic brands and uncritical publications. Are the expiration dates of traditional fashion publications finally coming due?

Fashion, welcome to the information age.

The growth of social media has shifted virtually all aspects of the fashion industry. Models are cast or passed over based on follower counts. Social media influencers have taken fashion by storm, accumulating a flurry of collaborations, editorials, and ambassadorships. Brands are paying more attention to the digital community, bolstering their online presence. In attempting to establish themselves within new digital frontiers, industry giants and newcomers alike are making the rules up as they go.

The democratization of public voice has facilitated various upheavals in the realm of fashion media, allowing for plebian voices to be heard among the patricians. Increasingly diverse voices have used the internet to amplify their perspectives, challenging the former monopoly on fashion coverage once held by magazines and newspapers. Digitization has not only shifted the medium of publications, but has fundamentally altered the type of information being distributed, broadening the public’s access to the industry. 

Enter Diet Prada, a vigilante Instagram account boasting 1.2 million followers, run by a formerly anonymous duo well versed in fashion history. Diet Prada’s founders, Tony Liu and Lindsey Schuyler, have weaponized their nearly catalogical knowledge of designer collections. The duo uses their own observations alongside tips direct-messaged from their followers (referred to affectionately as ‘Dieters,’) to expose the rip-offs, bigots, and liars running amok in fashion and its adjacent industries. These Prada-wearing Robin Hood reduxes expose everything from the ideas megalith designers have poached from smaller labels, to the problematic imagery evoked by Gucci’s blackface-balaclavas. 

Among the many takedowns Diet Prada has dished out, none were as sweetly satisfying as their assault on Dolce & Gabbana’s ‘The Great Show,”  a huge fashion extravaganza set to take place in Shanghai in the fall of 2018. By exposing the blatant racism and cultural insensitivity of Stefano Gabbana, Diet Prada caused this show to be cancelled altogether. No other fashion media platform would have been able to shut this show down in the way that Diet Prada did, both on account of the speed with which the social media account attacks wrongdoers and DP’s place of extreme influence. The exposure of Gabbana’s offensive comments about China and Chinese culture set off a tide of backlash to the brand, including videos of consumers burning their Dolce & Gabbana pieces, a spatter of D&G stores shutting down around the world, and some major retailers dropping the brand altogether. As fashion is a reputational industry, exposure of this sort of bigoted behavior has direct consequences for brand marketability. The scale of this takedown proved the influence this upstart Instagram account really has. Notably, in their coverage of the event, many publications neglected to mention the integral role DP played in this takedown.

Diet Prada has faced backlash from fashion media as it stakes its claim within the industry. News outlets and critics claim that Diet Prada’s rapid rise to fame is a result of a cultural desire to bring others down. The first line of a March 2019 Vogue article about the wardrobe choices of “scammers” reads, “Cultural fascination with people who do wrong has never been higher.” However, the reduction of DP’s purpose to fulfilling our desire for vindication ignores the revolutionary quality of its content. 

The antiquated rules about zipping lips when it comes to fashion criticism have been overturned. Diet Prada’s role is so unique because, rather than ingratiating themselves with support of brands, they have made themselves known for their criticism; they profit off of the radical honesty they have a virtual monopoly on. Authenticity seems to be the only thing wealthy brands and influencers can’t buy nowadays. In a world in which everything has been reified and sold to the highest bidder, capitalistic maneuvers are viewed as some sort of indisputable modern-day natural selection. We look to monetarily-disinterested parties to play the role of ethical compass. This shift breeds a new brand of criticism: less cooperative gentility, more “anything goes.”

The take-no-prisoners approach of Diet Prada is unprecedented and thus attractive to fashion media consumers due to its elusivity. But call-outs and criticisms are not all one can glean from DP’s Instagram. Shuffled in among pointed barbs and side-by-side comparisons are delicately wrought, perceptive reviews of designer collections which give Vogue Runway’s iconic critiques a run for their money. It is vital to acknowledge the inclusion of commentary among the criticism to fully appreciate Diet Prada’s success. Through creating a brand not solely based on unchecked disparagement, DP establishes itself as a bona-fide source of fashion information, thus staking its claim among other sites and magazines peddling risk-free collection reviews.

Diet Prada gives rise to conversations not only about the content it puts out, but about the lack of real criticism found in other publications. If Diet Prada can integrate real criticism with rigorous and thoughtful reviews, why can’t other fashion media publications? A suggestion is implicitly made that the most complete media diet should include both appreciation and no-holds-barred, honest journalism, praise interspersed with documentation of where designers fail and how they must improve.

Photography by Iris Wu. Models: Cassandra Fernandez, Angelica Johnson, Helen Owusu.

Originally published in ROCKET Volume IX, Issue 2.

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