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Review: Netflix Next in Fashion

Netflix has delivered us some much needed dress relief

Whilst we loaf in our Winnie the Pooh pyjamas and heated blankets, Netflix has delivered us some much needed dress relief, with a show that leave’s conventional on the cutting room floor.

Reality TV can leave a bad taste in your mouth. It’s a Warholian whirlwind of unfounded fame streamed into our living-rooms in sensational technicolour. Over the last ten years it seems to have occupied that same space in our minds as a public hanging or gladiatorial combat. There is a thirst for blood and tears in HD, and an appetite for trial and execution in candy coloured costumes and kaleidoscopic stage lights. Next in Fashion offers a welcome break from that guiltiest of pleasures, and resuscitates our screens from catfights and red buzzers with a show that’s sincerity and spunkiness is irresistible.

The contestants are warm and level-headed, indeed most of them already have their own label, and instead of chasing their fifteen-minutes of fame they come in search of that familiar artist’s dream – the opportunity and the funds to flourish creatively, which in this case translates to a Net-a-Porter deal and $250,000. Sure, there is extravagance and glamour, you will see $650 of crystal encrusted fabric smashed with a hammer, but the level of talent on show here is mind-boggling, these are earnest creators with a capital C.

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Each week sees our designers come up with a fresh take on an old classic. In one challenge, denim becomes unfixed from the usual expectations of our collective conscious: that heady combination of James Dean with a cigarette pouting from his lips, Salt n Peppa, and Britney Spears arriving at the 2001 MTV music awards – a look Chung graciously recreates for us. Instead, we see a hurried finalist foraging opposing teams’ scraps of fabric off the floor, in an effort to create a collage-like textile ice cap which takes the shape of a bell dress culminating in a puddle of white and blue patchwork.

It's fair to say all the designers are geuinely likeable, but there is one contestant who steals the show. Half of the self-coined ‘Team Dragon Princess’ – Minju Kim is a lesson, or rather ten of them, in self-belief. Her talent is riddled with a lack of confidence, and it’s excruciating to watch her derail her own thought trajectory as she second-guesses her ideas, but those ideas that do come to fruition are boldly innovative. At her best her garments are a burst of pure joy materialised in neon limes and series pinks, and this is no more obvious than during her ongoing battle with sexiness.

It won’t come as a surprise, that exactly what sexy means is a hotly contested topic on the show. Male underwear is rendered in silk and lace, whilst one contestant maps out her dream vision as ‘slutty but not illegal’, waists are tightened, buckles are fastened, and boundaries are pushed. But amongst the thigh-slits and slashed necklines, Minju doesn't play by chooses to parade trapezium silhouettes down the runway with Kahlo-esque monobrows painted on the models, and accordingly takes everyone’s breath away. Even as a layman spectator, you know something important just happened, the designer who had initially been branded modest successfully brings a new point of view to female sensuality in textile.

That’s exactly what makes the show so watchable. We walk away learning that everything can change with a good idea, that silk does not go with leather, that referential does not mean derivative, and that fashion, if nothing else, is a stage for self-expression, self-creation and self-belief.