I wasn't going to include this picture in my MAC/Rodarte post as I really can't bear to look at it every day. But then I noticed the blue-red dribbles in the silhouette on the left. Is that blood? You probably wouldn't make the connection unless you knew the 'inspiration' behind the Rodarte Autumn/Winter 2010 catwalk collection shown in New York.
The Mulleavy sisters (the design duo responsible for Rodarte), inspired by a road trip from El Paso to Marfa, Texas, became interested in Ciudad Juárez, the troubled Mexican border town that boasts the title of 'murder capital of the world'. Escalating violence between rival cartels competing for governance of this 'drug corridor' into the United States has led to the murders of more than 5,500 people since January 2008.
After the North American Free Trade Agreement was established in 1994, 'maquiladoras' (Mexican factories that take in imported raw materials and produce goods for export) became commonplace in Juárez and other cities. Staffed predominantly by young women, conditions in these factories are often dangerous – the toxic chemicals used in manufacturing cause nosebleeds and long-term health problems – but, despite receiving approximately one-sixth of the average US hourly wage (Mexican labor must remain cheap and competitive to keep United States firms operating within the assembly plants), workers are still paid more than those in other sectors.
A brutal phenomenon known as feminicidios (femicides), or las muertas de Juárez (The dead women of Juárez) has arisen in parallel with the growth of both the maquiladoras and the drug cartels. Hundreds, possibly thousands of young women have been kidnapped, violently raped, tortured and murdered in Juárez since 1993; the majority of whom are young maquiladora workers aged between 12 and 22. Many of these women vanish as they walk to and from their factories at dawn. Despite the continual flow of defiled and mutilated female corpses, Mexican authorities rarely investigate the murders or succeed in prosecuting anyone.
I know what you're thinking: this all sounds like the perfect inspiration for a designer clothing collection and subsequent makeup brand partnership. Well, you'd be right!
The sight of the female maquiladora workers 'drifting' to work in the middle of the night gave the Mulleavy sisters the idea to build a collection around the (impoverished) sleepwalking women of Juárez and the 'ethereal nature of the landscape'. Because, god knows, a backdrop of violent gang wars, mass female homicide and worker exploitation is nothing if not romantic.
The collection was a huge success, the inspiration behind it mostly lost (the Catwalk Queen TV website gleefully described the 'touch of Mexican thrown in for good measure'), and Rodarte succeeded in comodifying the troubled lives of Mexican workers. They also failed quite spectacularly to use their obvious platform as a catalyst to do anything whatsoever about the manifold atrocities in Juárez.
If this macabre collection is turning you pale, perk up your cheeks with a sweep of 'Quinceanera' – a blue-pink blush. Presumably the fact that Quinceañera is a ceremony held in Latin-American cultures to mark a girl's fifteenth birthday is a tasteless reference to the feminicidios killings; teenage girls often failing to make this seminal age.
In response to the calls of outraged bloggers and beauty folk, MAC have issued a statement (which you can read elsewhere) saying that they are sorry if the 'product names' have offended anyone and that they will donate 'a portion' of the proceeds from the collection to help the people of Juárez. I think they're rather missing the point. I am offended by the whole ethos of the collection, from its Rodarte inception to its MAC diffusion, not merely the product names. And I'm not the only one. Dozens of beauty bloggers have come together in unison against the tastelessness of the Rodarte collaboration. Click here for Tsunimee's rather excellent and comprehensive list.