Somnambulist Factory Girls — Rodarte Revisions Maquiladora Exploitation for Profit

by Samantha Anne Scott

Every once in a while, a fashion collection comes along that unintentionally exemplifies the ironic. Rodarte‘s Fall 2010 collection epitomizes such an ironic collection. Inspired by a road trip from El Paso to Marfa, TX, Rodarte’s Kate and Laura Mulleavy presented a collection based on their contemplation of the troubled border town of Ciudad Juárez. The sisters based their fashion week presentation on the idea of female maquiladora workers dressing in darkness and traversing the violent night to their graveyard shifts. The collection itself is relatively charming. It’s an imagined maquiladora-scrap patchwork of floral chiffon, vintage and point d’esprit lace, yarn, crochet, shearling, embroidery, and burnout velvet, tied together with twisted swaths of fabric and faux pearls. Some of the pieces even feature rebozo-esque sleeves and huipil-like necklines and bodices. And Rodarte’s footwear partnership with Nicholas Kirkwood birthed quirky leather piecework zapatos with charming lace-up ribbons and melting-wax heels. But, ultimately, Rodarte’s attempt to comment on the violence and exploitation in the lives of Mexico’s factory girls by producing a final vision of them as sleepwalking, ghostly, virginal quinceañera celebrants-cum-corpse brides is both exploitative and unoriginal. And, suffice to say, using a women’s high-fashion line to comment on the exploitation of female maquiladora workers is utterly ironic, in the ugliest sense of that word. Lest we forget, more than 400 young Mexican women, mostly maquiladora workers, have been brutally murdered in Ciudad Juárez, as they sleepily marched to and from their graveyard shifts at maquiladoras.

Watch video of the Rodarte Fall 2010 show here and see excerpted looks from the collection below:

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