Fashion Cares, Kind Of

This Saturday, Fashion Cares is hosting it's annual Gala fundraiser for ACT (AIDS Committee of Toronto); they aim to raise a cool million for the organization, which shouldn't be too difficult considering tickets are $375 ($125 if you're willing to skip the dinner).

One would think that raising money for a local charity would be relatively scandal free. Alas, no. This year's theme, Bollywood Cowboy (get it? East meets West?), or rather, it's advertising incarnation, drew the official ire of the ASAAP (Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention). The source of dispute? Images exploiting South Asian culture - one poster featured a fair-skinned model as Shiva, at an opening event models in blue body paint were serving drinks.

An article in Now Magazine alerted me to the debacle. However, there's a much better, more interesting and personal article in Xtra, which appeared earlier than the Now piece. (update: There's also an editorial in eye which chastises the ASAAP for overreacting, and also mislabels them as the ASAP, which is a kind of software and an abbreviation for 'as soon as possible').

While no one's officially apologized, the outright religious imagery has been filtered, and rightly so. No one wants to see their God(s) serving hors d'oevres. Though henna tattoos are still featured and the models are still doing "Indian" poses. I love that Canada is so PC (although I'm sure a lot of people would disagree with me because it's difficult to find alternatives to "that is so gay" and suchlike, especially when the speaker clearly bears no ill will towards the GLBT community).

It seems a moot point to complain about poses and dyed skin - everyone and their chihuahua has played with henna tattoos, not meaning any disrespect to South Asian culture or attempting to devalue the ceremonial or symbolic meaning of various patterns, but simply because it's temporary and cool looking. Same with the model poses. Models are always standing in bizarre positions and making strange faces wearing clothes most people don't. And it is Bollywood after all - where the popular pictures are huge colourful musicals with little or no resemblance to real life in South Asia.

Political incorrectness notwithstanding, ACT does a variety of really great work for the Toronto community and is certainly a worthy cause. They develop HIV/AIDS prevention programmes, arrange transport services of HIV positive/AIDS patients to medical services, provide weekly hot lunches where people can meet in a supportive environment; they have a case management program to ensure that clients with the greatest needs get access to the support services available, and produce community specific information materials for at-risk communities.

Fashion Cares is ACT's single most significant source of funding.

So, assuming you forgive the fashionistas for their advertising faux pas, and wish to join the 5000 guests supporting ACT, you can buy tickets from Ticketmaster or by calling 416-870-8000.

And if you want to help but can't quite pony up the cash for a ticket, you can donate here.

The Bollywood Cowboy Fashion Cares Gala is Saturday, June 4
The fun starts at 5:30pm at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre

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