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Shaheel Shermont Flair is 24 years old and wants to be a comedy actor. On his social media, where he showcases his comedic talent through videos/reels, he describes himself as a “public figure” and an “artist”. On June 20, he shared his latest clever idea online: a parody of a fashion show. “Fashion shows be like that,” he declared (along with an emoji of a crying laughing face). Then, barefoot and dressed in a T-shirt and sports shorts, he began to walk as Linda, Naomi or Christy through what appears to be the backyard of his house. Each trip showed a style created with all kinds of junk, junk, utensils and household items. In an unintentionally Rickowensian moment (or not), he even used his little sister, Riharika, who was wearing accessories and standing to the side, as a foil. On TikTok, where he has been appearing as @shermont22 for just over a year, the short video has racked up more than five million views and counting. He continues to gain a following as well; he has almost 350,000 right now and 13 million likes. Viewers keep asking for more. By popular demand, he uploaded the most recent video of him a few hours ago. It is the ninth installment of a viral saga that, in reality, is not so ironic and hilarious.
By today’s standards, Shermont is already a star in terms of fame and glory. In a recent story on her Instagram profile (@shermont_22, which has far fewer followers, though her audience there is supposed to grow eventually), she confessed to Googling his name and couldn’t believe the scope of her performance. “I’m on the news!” He was amazed and posted screenshots from different digital media, especially from Southeast Asia. On Twitter, he’s being hailed as the hero of the week for mocking, mocking, and ridiculing that dumb and increasingly absurd thing: fashion (of course).
The same thing happened just two months ago, when a video on Douyin (a social network) went viral on its Western counterpart, TikTok, giving rise to the challenge of turning your grandmother into an international supermodel. In the video, a young boy (presumably her grandson) dressed a venerable old Chinese woman as the embodiment of Balenciaga, Gucci and Prada with whatever she had on hand in her yurt, including chicken. The results of the challenge — images made in the style of luxury advertising campaigns with superimposed brand logos — tell us that we are all Demna Gvasalia, Alessandro Michele or the Miuccia-Raf Simons tandem, or at least we can be.
For a long time, people have repeatedly complained about how bad fashion is, now more than ever. Fashion not only pollutes the planet and exploits its workers, it also mocks consumers. Are these designers crazy? No, they are simply kidding us with so much arbitrariness/ugliness/aesthetic stupidity. So it’s only fair to return the favor in amazingly fun ways. In fact, trolling the fashion industry — like Shermont and the Chinese grandmothers (there are quite a few) — may be evidence of a certain social disgust with its three-ring circus and its trainers, illusionists and clowns, whose extravagances are understood as nonsense and , even worse, as insults or near insults. Vetements DHL uniform. Ikea bag by Virgil Abloh. JW Anderson’s broken skateboard encrusted sweater. Balenciaga’s crushed sneakers. All Balenciaga, the brand inevitably referred to in the comments on the young comedian’s reels. There are not a few comments that also praise Shermont’s attitude and the model’s stylized trot; They already ask to see his fashion show in Paris and Milan. And then there are those who try to be more funny and sarcastic and ironic than the video itself, which is usual on Twitter. But none of the commenters have had a problem, or even tried to have a problem, with the deeper premise of the video.
Shaheel Shermont Flair is a Fijian of Indian descent; His ancestors were Indian Girmtyas who went to British-colonized Fiji in the mid-19th century as slave labour. He is also homosexual. “Welcome queen to Instagram,” he urged in April 2021, when he debuted on the social networking site. In November, he posted that “[m]Your sexuality is not the problem, your fanaticism is. In April of this year he returned to the charge: “There are those who hate me for being different and not living according to society’s standards, but deep down they would like to have my courage.” Before her phenomenal fashion show, she was already making a “low cosplay” of Indian women using scraps: toilet paper for the sari, a bottle cap for a nath on the nose, and a tea bag for the maang-tikka on the forehead, for example, to create an Indian bridal trousseau in the playful post, “Preparing for my lover.” In another, she straps on two water-filled balloons as bobbing boobs under her T-shirt. “The things I do for TikTok,” she wrote. In fact, Shermont has made comedy her way to escape bullying and discrimination (prejudice is double in her case) and turned her social media accounts into a highway to heaven. As she did on her day Apichet Madaew Atirattana.
Except for its glamorous intent, everything on Shermont’s catwalk is reminiscent of that of the so-called Thai Dovima. In 2016, before the single mind of Tik Tok took over, a teenager from the Isaan rice region, one of the poorest areas in Thailand, wowed the world by turning everyday objects, twigs and trash into fabulous outfits. He filmed himself modeling those clothes in different places in his town; his grandmother acted as a styling assistant. Facebook and Instagram went wild over what was called “breaking down the barriers between gender identity, fashion and recycling.” At the time, Madaew (a nom de guerre) explained it this way: “I want people to see that ugly things that don’t fit can be transformed into something beautiful. And that dressing well is not a matter of money. Just a few months later, Asia’s Next Top Model, the South Asian edition of the US talent show, called him to be a guest designer during the show’s fourth season. The following year, Time magazine included him in its list of new generational leaders. His example spread. Soon, new stars made their appearance: Suchanatda Kaewsanga, a fellow Thai woman who is openly trans, and Chinese Lu Kaigang, whose offerings for fashion shows in his town in Guangxi province included, without irony, dresses made from tapas. of garbage cans and old air. -bags of conditioner.
Here we have a response from the poor and marginalized to the global impact of fashion as a mass phenomenon ascribed to leisure/entertainment culture. It’s a practice that resonates with the button-down politics of Patrick Kelly, the first African-American designer to join the ranks of the Parisian ready-to-wear trade association in the mid-1980s; the garment activities of the Swenkas (workers of Zulu origin) and Skhothans (post-apartheid image-obsessed youth) in Johannesburg; and the young Ghanaians who exploit the city-sized textile dumps surrounding the capital, Accra, as sources for their creativity. The narratives of designers setting the current direction of the industry, amplified like never before by digital media, also show that it is indeed possible to dress in the style of Balenciaga, Gucci or Prada without breaking the bank. This is why Chinese TikTok supermodel grannies reflect aspiration and not contempt; they are proof that fashion has something for everyone, even for the most socially disadvantaged (you can’t miss the proud hashtag that usually accompanies them, #chinastreetstyle). That’s why Apichet Madaew Atirattana, Suchanatda Kaewsanga and Li Kaigang have made careers as creators, bloggers or influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers. They have come this far, buoyed by the dream fuel offered by magazines in village barbershops and satellite television. “It is very easy to blame fashion for all the problems it creates, but I would like to think that it is also capable of helping people in many ways, in a positive way,” says Minh-Ha T. Pham, professor of media studies. at Pratt Institute in New York and author of Asians Wear Clothes on the Internet (2016), an essay on the dynamics of race, gender, and class among young Asians who have found a way to express their identity through fashion, and in the process they pushed the system to finally recognize them as a socioeconomic and cultural force. Shaheel Shermont Flair laughs, but he does fashion shows because he too knows what fashion can do because of his ambition to become an actor.