For the past couple of weeks I've been captivated by the States of Undress TV series by VICE - presented by Hailey Gates. If it had cliffhangers I would probably have binge watched the whole box set back-to-back. Luckily it doesn't, but it's still a white knuckle ride.
It's as much a travel series as a fashion show. Grass roots, rather than snobbish safari.
Hailey takes you right to the front line, literally: in the Palestine episode (Series 1 episode 5), she interviews a young man who describes the invisible boundary at the end of his road, marked only by a shadow. If he traversed it he would be shot. Hailey interviews the lively spirits and businesses who strive to push up through the concrete weight of curfew and constriction in Gaza and the West Bank: The Speed Sisters who dress-up-to-the-nines in glossy lipstick and wrap around shades whilst screeching down a drift racing track. The fashion designer whose search for local female catwalk models is repeatedly thwarted by worried parents, until finally one single model is available for a shoot and she's never posed before but carries it off with aplomb. And the high street store stocked full of racy underwear for newly wed brides.
What's so fascinating is how essential fashion is. Every person makes a choice, or has a choice imposed upon them by someone else. What we choose is so influenced by our society. And when different cultures exist in the same society there can be these conflicts of choice. Hailey sits on a French beach with a woman wearing a burkini, only a few feet from topless sun bathers. I would have been very confused on that beach. I don't see myself as especially conformist, but I've been on a beach in Morocco and felt under-dressed and I've been at a swimming pool in the UK and felt over-dressed.
If Hailey made an episode in the UK, would she interview Stephen Gough? He is a British activist nicknamed the Naked Rambler who believes in the freedom to be naked in public. He refuses to conform to a getting dressed code. In a 2015 BBC interview, he guessed that he's been arrested around 40 times for being naked in public. Since 2006, his stubborn fashion statement has dealt him many years in UK prisons, with a large chunk of the time served in solitary confinement.
Next on my list to watch:
Series 2 Episode 4 - Thai Transgender Beauty Pageant
Hailey travels to Thailand to see how transgender models are redefining fashion.
Episode 6 - Packing Heat in Heels
With women the fastest growing group of US gun owners, Hailey goes shooting with grandma.