Vice‘s web series Fashion Week Internationale offers a Vice-style perspective on all those other fashion weeks that we don’t always get to cover, and shows that we’re definitely missing out on. What makes the series particularly worth watching is that, amidst bare-bones fashion shows and wild parties, host Charlet Duboc always finds a real story. She ends up tackling some pretty controversial issues, all without an ounce of condescension or derision.
Last week, for the premiere of season two, it was transgender models and prostitutes in Rio. This episode, it’s illegal skin lightening in Kingston, Jamaica, where Duboc attends Caribbean fashion week. Skin bleaching has become ubiquitous among women desperate to achieve a “brown” look that, for whatever reason, is considered more attractive than their natural darker skin tones.
We chatted with Duboc over email about how the show has progressed, what other disturbing beauty trends she’s encountered on her travels, and why Jamaica has been her favorite trip thus far (it totally wasn’t just because of the abundance of smoke everywhere).
Fashionista: Was there a break in between filming the first and second season? What are you working on now?
Charlet Duboc: Season one was so popular we decided to continue to season two before we finished shooting at the end of last year. Technically, I didn’t get a break between the seasons, and it’s safe to say the series has taken over my life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’m currently working on Tel Aviv and Moscow fashion stories. They’re going to blow people’s minds!
You’ve already been to so many exotic, interesting places–what’s been your favorite so far?
I’ve always had a soft spot for Jamaica. I am a huge dancehall fan, Kingston parties are amazing, and the island is beautiful. It must be something in the err… air! When I was younger I fetishized Jamaican culture and became obessed with the dancehall aesthetic–the way the girls looked in early dancehall videos has had a massive influence over my personal style.
What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you?
The list is endless… I once spent the night with 300 Cambodian garment workers who lived in a shanty town two hours into the countryside. I was extremely moved and affected by the struggle that these women, some still in their mid-teens, have to go through every day to service the needs of the “fashion industry.” Then in Jamaica, I got really sick with stomach ulcers so I went to a ghetto hospital where they told me to pee in a cup in the corner of the room and charged me 30 US dollars for the privilege; put an injection in my ass, prescribed me Gatorade, and sent me on my way.
The bleaching in the Jamaica episode is crazy. What was it like when you did it to yourself? What other strange beauty trends did you discover while filming the show?
If you have ever bleached your upper lip or hair or cleaned your toilet with bleach–it didn’t feel too different from that. Getting sunburnt is almost comparable to skin bleaching. But you don’t have to worry about getting a suntan to give yourself a better chance of rising out of the ghetto.
Another beauty trend that is unusual to Caucasians is explored in the next episode: Seoul Fashion Week. A startling percentage of young urban Korean girls have double eyelid surgery and other parts of their faces remodeled in what many people have dubbed ‘Westernisation’ procedures. It’s become so popular, it’s almost abnormal not to have it. We actually filmed inside a surgery in Seoul, some women going under the knife. Shit gets freaky.
You investigate a lot of controversial issues: Race, gender, plastic surgery. Did you think going in before starting the series that you’d encounter so many? What’s been the most disturbing?
I try to look at things from all angles and put myself in other people shoes before I enter a situation. That’s not to say that the issues we cover in each episode aren’t shocking. I wish these beautiful black girls in Jamaica could see what I see: How wonderful their natural complexion is. But it’s unfortunately just not that simple.
Where are you planning to go for season 3?
Well! You definitely haven’t seen the last of us, even if we choose to change the format that you are used to. There are a bunch of stories that I am really excited about… you’ll have to wait and see!
You can watch the whole Jamaica episode below or over on Vice.com. In addition to enlightening you, the episode will probably really make you want to go to Jamaica. Enjoy!