Smile Down the Runway
by Lynzee Loveridge,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Smile Down the Runway ?
"Promise" is dedicated solely to Chiyuki and Kokoro, their dynamic as a designer-model team, their rivalry as models, their conflicting personas, and how each has dealt with their physical bodies. We also finally get something satisfying to explain Kokoro's relationship with her manager beyond Kokoro being a pushover. It was an incredibly satisfying episode where the context of both girls' struggles is explored through the runway show.
Chiyuki and Kokoro's partnership started initially as multi-pronged attack on the crappy adults in their lives. Kokoro put her designer dream on the line by promising to win the competition and in turn get Igarashi to stop thwarting her at every turn. Chiyuki wants to support Kokoro's dream because she sees her own struggle represented through Kokoro's hardship. Igarashi also hasn't been particularly kind to Chiyuki in their limited interactions and has actively sabotaged her modeling work. In Igarashi's mind, this is is equivalent to "ripping off a Band-Aid;" might as well crush her dreams early and put this short model back in her place instead of letting her make a fool out of herself.
Chiyuki's never turned down a chance to prove her detractors wrong. She plans to not only walk the runway for Kokoro's show but also hopes to entice Kokoro to walk also and shine brighter as a result. Kokoro has the natural advantage so if Chiyuki, as a petite model, can hold the audience's attention she'll have proven to herself, Igarashi, and a whole bunch of fashion industry elites that her height isn't a detriment to her performance. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that Kokoro and Chiyuki have more at stake here than most of their competition, including Ikuto.
When their moment in the spotlight arrives, my impression mirrored the crowd at Geika. The lead design was surprisingly simple followed by a presentation switch that utilized parts of the previous garment. At first this seemed to be little more than a gimmick, but the more I thought about it the more Kokoro's show resonated with Chiyuki and her individual journeys. The overall pieces aren't particularly embellished; Kokoro focused striking silhouettes and unexpected combinations like a half-coat-cardigan and utilizing patterned fabric. The individual looks themselves aren't highlighted particularly well because it's the repeated transformation of the looks that's important. Kokoro's show is about the unexpected, like a short model, and the ability to transform from one piece to the next, like how she's "transformed" from a model to designer. It's also about versatility and perception. All of Kokoro's clothes are versatile, a point that reflects her modeling experience of having to adapt to the look and mood of photo shoots. This theme also greatly benefits Chiyuki who could easily be pigeonholed as a petite designer suited for soft, feminine looks. Kokoro has not only highlighted her own ability to design clothing that adapts to the wearer but Chiyuki's ability to fit a multitude of looks.
The runway show also deliberately manipulates the audience's own perceptions to show how mutable they are to begin with. Chiyuki is not considered a suitable height for modeling but by simply adjusting the props and the fitters, the audience loses the sense that she's short. The characters that weren't already familiar with her as a model eased into the presentation as "normal." It's only when Kokoro walks at the very end that they realize that the show has influenced their perception of size. Once the fashion elite realize how foolish it was to dismiss a versatile, hardworking model simply over her height, they start considering Chiyuki as a viable option. Kokoro has, in effect, shattered a barrier with her presentation.
Perception is important to Kokoro, too. She's perceived as a model despite being uncomfortable with her own size. She reveals that the only reason she has continued to stand by Igarashi is because she was the first person to make her feel good about the parts of her she considered unattractive. Igarashi does have some kind of soft spot for Kokoro as a representation of her past self, a tall woman who wanted to design instead of model. Still...Igarashi is firmly in my "crappy adults" camp until further notice.
This episode finally marks a break for Chiyuki and shows what fashion can do at its most artistic. Kokoro and Chiyuki together have paved a clearer path for unconventional models and communicated a message of mutability of the self. You can change and be whatever you dream to be, no matter what anyone else says.
Smile Down the Runway is currently streaming on Funimation.
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