Smile Down the Runway
by Lynzee Loveridge,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Smile Down the Runway ?
We last left Ikuto staring down the spotlights of Hajime's runway show. A model is a no show and now Ikuto has to figure out how to reinterpret a dress designed to fit a much taller model onto Chiyuki's tiny frame. Ikuto confidently steps up to the plate only to begin having mini meltdown with no time to spare.
Smile Down the Runway fully embraces its shonen roots by taking a crisis that typically appears in a sports show and applying it to alterations. Ikuto becomes overwhelmed by his own experience and lack of tools; he'd need a thick needle to alter the heavy fabric and he can't sew a new hem with such limited time. The rest of the show is eventually able to cover for him by switching up the music tracks to buy more time. Ikuto's altered garment makes it out as the show's finale and it even pulls off the required drama; both from Chiyuki's unconventional height and a dress transformation at the end of the runway.
Ikuto's approach to designing is like an artist with his muse. He adapts Hajime's original look to something completely different that best suits Chiyuki's personality while also maintaining Hajime's theme of "power" and "independence." In doing so though, he completely remakes the dress' silhouette, and this is where I'm going to get annoyingly nitpicky. Hajime's original design for the dress emphasized volume and unconventional lines. I'm hesitant to call it "avant-garde" because bro sent out 40 red outfits with men's wear details for a women's line emphasizing power--and that's basic as hell. Regardless, even if he had gotten his taller model, this would have been a dress more suited for artsy magazine shoots than red carpet unless she's heading to the Met Gala. Which is fine, there is a place for fashion as visual art and playing with expected proportions.
Ikuto abandons that entirely for a lapel front and a voluminous high-low hem that transforms into kerchief hem. It's much more conventional and the initial look is more street wear. The audience eats up the "unconventional" transformation and Chiyuki's height and smile. The dress ends up defying expectations like Hajime wanted although I'd credit that more to serendipitous happenstance and Chiyuki than anything Ikuto actually did. Here you might say, "wait, but the dress' hem change was totally Ikuto's brilliant idea!" Please. That moment was entirely convenient timing written in for the sake of spicing up the show for us, the viewing audience, than anything else and you don't have to squint too hard to see it. Ikuto acts like it's purposeful but there's no way he could have timed when the thread would give, much less at the exact moment when Chiyuki's heel gives out.
Also why would you leave dangerous, non-functioning shoes in the line-up with all the good shoes? Hajime, are you trying to kill all of your staff? I'm also in complete denial that Hajime would allow Ikuto's alteration to go forward as the final look of the show which is conventionally the biggest piece. Designers typically save their most technically impressive for the finale, there's no way he'd send that out. In reality, Hajime would likely cut the look all together--a typical runway show has 30-40 looks and he'd be well within that by showing 39 instead.
My last complaint might be what is turning out to be a major piece of the show's ethos. Smile Down the Runway is named as such because, as is explained by the magazine editor, it's an industry standard that models do not draw attention to their face by smiling during a show. This is a partially true, quite a few shows have serious-faced models and will tie the looks together with similar make-up, wigs, hairstyles, or hats. Smiling is not the norm--unless your Betsy Johnson, who has been turning New York Fashion Week into a playground for YEARS. It's part of her whole aesthetic. There's plenty of other designers too that shirk the whole "serious business" standard. That's because presentation of a show is up to the designer and the mood they want their fashion to embody. Fashion is art and if you want your art to evoke joy, you can have your models smile as big as they want. You can send a whole runway of gay and drag icons down to bring Disney villains to life, like The Blonds did last year. Basically, models have been and doing all kinds of quirky stuff on the runway in Paris, New York, and beyond forever.
Or in other words, here's a lady in a big hat with a dog grinning on the Paris runway for Thierry Mugler in 1997.
The series is trying to draw a comparison to the "industry standard" of not smiling and Chiyuki's grin as breaking the mold or rebelling against what the authority says can and cannot be done. I appreciate that message, but tying it to smiling on the runway doesn't work; instead it looks like the creators made an assumption without doing research. Or they didn't expect anyone as annoying as me to watch this show. It's a good message overall, and one of two the episode focuses on this week.
Chiyuki's appearance on the runway draws gasps from the crowd but it also serves as an inspiration for Niinuma, a newbie fashion writer who is also of average height and has felt left behind in the fashion world. She felt like interesting clothes weren't for her because she's not stunning or tall. Seeing a representation of herself on the runway gave her a push of confidence to be true to herself again. This is an interesting development as fashion is often dismissed as an outlet of vanity, but it really can be about self-expression. You don't have to drop thousands of dollars on high-end clothes to be interested in fashion or enjoy how certain pieces of clothing make you feel whether it's strong, cute, fun, thoughtful, or anything in between. Your outward appearance can be another facet of what makes you--you. Fashion is better when it's not looked at as status.
Smile Down the Runway is currently streaming on Funimation.
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