Next in Fashion is best described as a new and improved Project Runway. 18 designers battle to win the competition, securing a prize of $250,000 and a chance to have their collection sold on premium fashion retailer Net-A-Porter. Thanks to the show airing on Netflix, the contestants are of international origin and this allows for a wide range of different design aesthetics and sensibilities. Presented by Queer Eye’s Tan France and model/designer Alexa Chung, the show is irresistibly addictive.
Many of the contestants identify as LGBTQ+ and the show takes a strong interest in each individual’s background. Designers Ashton Hirota and Marco Morante’s clothes are often inspired by various subcultures within the LGBTQ+ community, and Carli Pearson also talks candidly about the support her partner gives her, and how fundamental it has been to her success as a designer.
Furthermore, one of the most touching moments in the show is when designer Julian Woodhouse discusses his relationship with his family. Born into an army household, Julian served in Korea as an army sergeant, which is where he met his future husband. After marrying, Julian’s relationship with his family completely broke down despite attempts from both sides to salvage the situation. His story serves as an important reminder of how much some of these designers have sacrificed in order to be authentic to themselves.
Whilst the fashion industry is commonly viewed as an accepting space for gay men, this does not mean their relationships with their families are as simple.
Next in Fashion is a finely conceived piece of reality TV. It allows each of the contestants to express their own ethos, without having to conform to any mould. This being said, it is a shame the narrow, western category of ‘suits’ and ‘lingerie’ where chosen for two of the weeks.The former is problematic as it is a western standard of formal dress, thus giving a distinct advantage to competitors from countries where a suit is the formal garment of choice. Perhaps a more inclusive theme for the episode could have been ‘formal wear’, which would have allowed contestants to design the traditional formal attire from around the globe, should they have wished to do so.
Lingerie poses an issue due to its lack of suitability for any contestants for whom modesty is a religious or personal preference. The challenge also raised questions of how well the show was catering for contestants for whom English was not their first language, when Chinese contestant Angel Chen asked the presenters mid-way through the challenge: ‘what is lingerie?’. Despite these two minor issues Next in Fashion is a fabulous show that celebrates talent, irrespective of where it comes from or how it identifies.