VICE Journalist Charlet Duboc's Style of Reporting
VICE journalist Charlet Duboc grew up a rebellious punk in a family of British trophy wives.
In fact, she was the first woman in her family to get a formal education. "The definition of success of a woman in my family was being good looking and marrying well," Duboc says. "I was extremely rebellious to do the opposite of that."
Her early nonconformist attitude would later prove to be a harbinger for the unconventional, non-Western style of TV that prompted her on-air career: Fashion Week Internationale. Through the series, Duboc travels the world covering the "other fashion weeks" that aren't the Big Four (New York, London, Milan and Paris).
"I've always been drawn to what I found in other cultures and places," Duboc says. "I've always found white, Western culture stifling and pretentious and depressing."
Fresh from Kings College London clad in clothes inspired by hip-hop mixed with David Lynch and John Waters films, Duboc began her career at VICE in London as a writing assistant. The company's storied video platform was in its infantile stages. VICE was in brainstorm mode and famished for fashion ideas, according to Duboc.
"'The fashion world hates us—they think we're VICE, we're going to take a piss out at them,'" Duboc recalls her boss saying. "'We'll never get to cover fashion week, right? The Big Four. We need fashion ideas.'"
For VICE, "it didn’t matter if you were a janitor or filmmaker" when it came to pitching stories, Duboc says. She was a writer, but one armed with a unique angle on fashion coverage that would later position her as one of the few fashion broadcast journalists to exist.
On her own accord, Duboc contacted Pakistan Fashion Week and snagged an invitation. When she told her editor about it, he didn't believe that such a fashion week existed at first, but Duboc persisted, "I know it sounds crazy, but I saw it online and it's real."
"You're pretty funny for a girl," Duboc’s boss told her. "I think at the time, it was meant to be a compliment and by today's standards, it's probably offensive. But I took it as a compliment because back then it was."
He insisted that she go on camera for the event.
"To myself I thought I was too shy, I didn't want to just be another blond girl on camera. At the same time, I was like, of course I want to go to Pakistan, this is amazing!"
On camera she went, and Fashion Week Internationale (2011-2015) was born. The 33-year-old reporter has since reported on skin bleaching at Caribbean Fashion Week, Ukraine Fashion Week during the Maidan, mass fainting in factories during Cambodia Fashion Week, and many others.
Getting to know female factory workers in between attending Cambodia Fashion Week (2012) holds a special place in Duboc's heart—a time when she “never felt more alive” and the reason she hasn’t been able to “shop at an H&M since.”
Duboc and her cameraman staked out the factories in Phnom Penh, Cambodia waiting to talk to one of the female workers about the fainting spells.
"The factory doors opened. Thousands of girls streamed out of the factory and they all started piling onto me. I thought, 'I'm going to lose them, I need to follow them,'" Duboc says. "So I just ran with my camera guy and jumped onto one of the trucks [used to take the workers home]. We had no idea where it was going."
Duboc rode the bus into the darkness of the night, without any knowledge of where she was. One of the factory workers invited Duboc and the cameraman lodging for the night.
"These people, who had absolutely nothing, exposed their lives to us and let us film them, invited us home and offered what little they had," Duboc says.
While some of the "other fashion weeks" attempt to align themselves with the Big Four, the fashion shows on Fashion Week Internationale underlined the garments and messages distinct to each country's culture and location. And that's why the show worked.
"Other geo-colonies, developing nations...where people have less, there's often so much more going on to compensate for it. So people tend to be more creative," Duboc says. "You know how they say, 'great art is made in times of adversity'? I've found people to generally be more positive, more authentic."
Looking back, Duboc is still frustrated with the lack of attention these nations have received from the Fashion Gatekeepers. During her reporting, Duboc was pretty much the stand-alone member of the "legitimate fashion world" (Duboc says with sarcasm) in attendance at non-Western fashion weeks.
"When I went to, for an example, African countries, they saw a white girl walking around fashion week—I know this because they told me this often—they felt like, 'we've made it because this girl wants to be at our fashion week,'" Duboc says. "That made me angry at the stereotype...angry because we're still so backward. That what I looked like was still what was celebrated."
Duboc did acknowledge that the fashion industry has done a better job at recognizing diversity more in recent years. "We still have a lot to overcome in terms of white privilege and idealistic beauty standards, but I think we've made great gains," she says.
Duboc produced Fashion Week Internationale’s spin-off series on VICELAND, State of Undress with host Hailey Gates, but has since left the fashion world in favor of harder news pieces, as not be placed in a pigeonhole as the "fashion girl." She mentions that she is working on hosting another show in the vein of Fashion Week Internationale but can't give further detail while the project is still in the works.
Meanwhile, we have Duboc to thank for having a hand in changing the perception of the international fashion industry.
"It took many years off my life making these films. It's very hard work," although Duboc adds that she would "do it all over again."
"People still need to take fashion seriously, to take a step back and realize it's not all about being trendy."