We are living for everyone on Netflix's Next in Fashion
From an iconic Italian 'communication artist' to a Chinese-South Korean power duo making Piccioli-esque magic. We stan.
Tan France and Alexa Chung in 'Next in Fashion'
The best TV shows require little-to-no cerebral cortex engagement to watch them. They just exist: unfolding on the screen in front of you with no real thought process involved. It could be argued that these are the shows that act as the bedrock of modern society: staunchly apolitical, escapist art that we can retreat to when the real world gets a little too fucked up. We have lots of them already -- The Great British Bake Off, The Masked Singer, Real Housewives of Wherever -- but a new one has just arrived on Netflix and, let me tell you, it’s just as addictive and delicious as you would’ve hoped. It’s called Next in Fashion: a spiritual successor to the classic Project Runway in which 18 designers compete for a $250,000 cash injection into their namesake brand and a stockist deal with Net-A-Porter.
For some, it’s a nice little boost to their already-successful brands. Britain’s Daniel W. Fletcher, leader of his namesake label and Artistic Director of Menswear for Fiorucci, is one such figure competing for the top prize. Angel Chen, a now hugely popular Chinese designer and former i-D one-to-watch, is another.
In the Next in Fashion workroom, they rub shoulders with working single mothers as well as camp and iconic Italian ‘communication artists’: a real mixed bag of fashion figures all gunning for the same prize.
It makes for weirdly riveting viewing. Alexa Chung and Queer Eye star Tan France act as the show’s presenters, guiding us through the challenges they set the group. I’ve only had the time to watch up to episode six but it’s good so far, so here are some thoughts on your New Fashun Netflix Obsession®.
Alexa Chung, a stylish person, dresses really well
The first shot of Next in Fashion sees Tan France and Alexa Chung walk through an LA backlot delivering a piece to camera. During this, I completely zoned out of the pair explaining the whole point of the programme -- how it would work, how much the winner would go home with -- because all I could think of was how absolutely iconique she looked in that Christopher Kane AW19 dress. Later, I think in episode three, she wears a baby blue peplum skirt and mohair sweater combo that made me shed real tears. Did we deserve this serve from our T4 queen? I don’t think we did.
Tan France loves the word problematic
Problematic: the word I use to describe almost anybody who ever puts a single foot wrong (see also: cancelled). In 2020, it’s a word often associated with shitty behaviour -- not deciding to pair leather and silk on a mini-dress for a runway challenge. Still, there’s a moment in episode two where the fashion consultant uses it roughly three times in the space of 30 seconds, and it’s never felt more… problematic.
I would die for Angel Chen and Minju Kim
China’s Angel Chen and South Korea's Minju Kim are paired up as a design duo in the first episode and make magic right off the bat. We know they’re talented -- Angel and Minju are two of the familiar names in the show’s line-up -- but when they rustle up a hot pink red carpet gown that looks like something Piccioli could have created, with a two-day turnaround and no prior experience with women’s luxury gowns, it becomes strikingly clear that we have no option but to stan. Their reign is unparalleled.
The ‘pairing up’ system is a pain in the arse
One of the quite annoying things about this show is that everyone, for the first five episodes at least, works as a pair. Some of these work (Angel and Minju); others don’t. The first episode sees a streetwear designer from New York who doesn’t seem all that bothered to be there paired with a mother of three whose working umpteen jobs to keep them fed. One shrugs off the 250k like its pocket change; the other is literally begging for it.
Angelo Cruciani is an icon
Angelo is an Italian creative director who waltzes into the first episode in full animal print and swans about the work room for 45 minutes and for that reason and that reason only he is worthy of your attention.
Hayley Scanlan has the patience of a saint
Okay, so Hayley Scanlan is a single mother of two from Dundee in Scotland, and in the first episode she has to cross creative brains with the beret-wearing former Army officer Julian Woodhouse. She likes softness: tulles and polkadots and dainty womenswear. Julian prefers Fanta orange zebra print. For the most part, Julian gets his way while Hayley sits in the background being like
¯\_(ツ)_/¯. They are the most incongruous pair in the whole show and watching their aesthetics collide is, quite frankly, insane at times.
Just give us more drama!!!
The one thing Project Runway has on this (well, not including Heidi Klum), is the abundance of drama that’s permitted to unfold, completely unrelated to the general pressures of making clothes under a tight time constraint. We don’t have a ‘Not even to dinner with the Kushners?’ moment, though they try to force a thrilling storyline around the mid-way point when Kerby Jean-Raymond, one of the show’s many guest judges, walks out when the panel has to decide who to send home. Tan France returns hours (read: maybe 15 minutes) later and promptly breaks down in floods of tears. “I want you to understand that me and Alexa do this… we…” -- he starts crying. “We’re designers too, and we know how important it is for you!” His whimpers echo the exasperated Tyra Banks “We were all rooting for you” speech. Tan France is exhausted, you guys!
Next in Fashion is streaming on Netflix right now and you'd be silly to not spend your weekend binge-watching it.