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Models pelted with garbage during fashion show to simulate online hate and 'verbal brutality'
Photos by Justin Shin/Marco M. Mantovani/Getty Images

Models pelted with garbage during fashion show to simulate online hate and 'verbal brutality'

A Milan fashion show featured clothing models having trash — including food and drinks — thrown at them by audience members in an effort by the designer to simulate online commentary.

Designer Beate Karlsson created the new, garbage-covered line for Avavav, for which she is the creative director. The company describes itself as an independent fashion house "striving for creative freedom, driven by humor, entertainment and design evolution."

Creative freedom might be an understatement for Karlsson's recent show during Milan Fashion Week, where models had drinks, discarded food wrappers, and other garbage thrown at them on the runway.

The performance art was meant to simulate online trolling and an attempt to get out ahead of any hate Karlsson may face for her choice of clothing design.

"Hate comments and internet trolls have become a part of modern culture," a statement from the company read. "The show is an experiment where this verbal brutality is translated into a physical space, and hopefully shows that it isn’t necessarily a reflection of reality."

Aside from the cups of coffee and occasional can, the show also featured social media comments running on a constant feed behind the models.

"Wow this is really bad guys I'm sorry," one comment read as the designer was on stage.

Other comments said "It's giving p**s" and "who the f**k came up with this."

"So bad," and "that ain't fashion," other comments read.

It is unclear however whether the comments were real or meant to simulate online commentary the brand may receive. Given that some of the purported online handles were listed as "username1100" and "username3746," it could have been either or a mixture of both.

Videos posted to X showed photographers surrounded by standing audience members who threw the trash at the models as they reached the end of the runway. At the same time, generic, industrial hip-hop beats played throughout the venue to set the scene.

Designer Karlsson was not held to a higher standard than the models, though, as when she came onto the runway for the tradition of the designer closing out the show, she was pelted in the face with a pie by an apparent staff member who then ran off stage.

"Soiling high-end models with real trash and juice as a metaphor for the online hate the designer receives feels like some art world equivalent of a hiring a whipping boy," blogger and stand-up comedian Francis Ellis remarked. "Sure, she took the pie to the face in the end. But that's goofy, expected, and delicious," he added.

This wasn't Karlsson's first foray into obscure performance art. In a 2022 show that featured thigh-high fur boots, each model purposely fell to the ground on the runway.

“I wanted to do a parody of a fashion show to go with the pathetic theme of this collection, and of fashion’s extreme superficiality, at a time when so many people fake richness at the risk of falling down hard," she said at the time, according to Dazed.

Much of Avavav's clothing can be described as futuristic or even Kanye West-esque, featuring over-exaggerated, all-black garments that cover the entire body. The brand also released gigantic, lizard-style boots with individual toe holes.

While Karlsson's messaging isn't particularly bad, it certainly makes it difficult to tell if her entire brand's purpose is to mock the fashion industry as a whole.

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Andrew Chapados

Andrew Chapados

Andrew Chapados is a writer focusing on sports, culture, entertainment, gaming, and U.S. politics. The podcaster and former radio-broadcaster also served in the Canadian Armed Forces, which he confirms actually does exist.
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