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For someone who created quite the media storm over the past month, The Fat Jewish's New York Fashion Week debut was a surprisingly easy show to sneak into. It was helpful, no doubt, that the venue wasn't exactly overrun with fashion enthusiasts dying to get a peek at the latest dadbod fashions. "I'm just here for the maah-suhve laughs!" an exuberant British stylist explained. She was not the only one, from the sounds of the crowd inside.
"We love Josh!" a pair of women headed into the show assured me, with the type of tone that implied, how could you not love Josh? But what about the controversy, I pressed. All that joke-stealing? "Everyone does it on the internet," the more outspoken of the two said, dismissing it immediately. "Comedians are just jealous of him." When I asked for her name, she grabbed my arm and leaned in: "Can we just make this anonymous?"
Everyone I talked to outside of the show venue fell into one of two camps: a) diehard Fat Jew supporters, or b) confused, but down to check it out. "I'm not really sure what it is," another woman told me, admitting that her assistant had booked all her NYFW shows for her. "I follow him on Instagram and think he's funny."
MADE announced the Fat Jew's fashion week debut in mid-August. Within the same week, mounting allegations that the Instagram star had plagiarized jokes from a number of comedians started to gain media traction. He was accused of ripping off memes and tweets and disseminating them to his 5.9 million Instagram followers. (One illuminating roundup, of many: "Top 50 Jokes @FatJewish Bogarted From the Internet.") Shortly thereafter, news broke that The Fat Jew had secured and then lost a TV deal with Comedy Central. While Ostrovsky and the network maintain that this deal had dissolved mutually months earlier, the full picture looked bleak for the "comedian."
Ostrovsky's subsequent apology tour consisted of an interview with Vulture and the promise to start giving credit where credit is due on his Instagram account. "At the end of the day, I get it: I should have been providing attribution for all posts," he told New York Magazine's culture vertical. "It's always been important to me. The internet is a vast ocean of stuff, and sometimes it's hard to find the original source of something. I now realize that if I couldn't find a source for something, I probably shouldn't have posted it in the first place."
While former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather wrote an op-ed on Mashable in the days following saying Ostrovsky was being "beaten like a rented mule" and we should all just get over it already. The modeling agency Ostrovsky signed with this summer, One Management, and MADE, the company hosting his NYFW show, didn't release any statements addressing the controversy at the time.
Fashion's quick way of acknowledging controversy and carrying on as normal has played out well for other, more serious figures in the industry. Terry Richardson, the infamously skeevy fashion photographer, sat down for an interview with New York to address the multitude of sexual harassment claims that had been brought against him, and then was back to working for brands like Rolling Stone and Valentino within the year. Domenico Dolce drew a celebrity-fueled boycott of Dolce & Gabbana when he made derogatory comments about children born by in vitro fertilization; the brand finally issued an apology five months after the incident. Kate Moss's publicly acknowledged drug use hasn't ever kept her out of booking work.
John Galliano, on the other hand, stayed out of the fashion industry for years after he went on an explosive, anti-Semitic rant while he was working as the creative director of Dior. Even after he was hired on as Maison Martin Margiela's creative director last year, he continued to make public apologies for his actions. Josh Ostrovsky's joke thieving took barely a month to blow over.
Two days before the show, MADE ran an interview with Ostrovsky which presented the issue as resolved, and it appeared as though, outside the blog run by the brand that was hosting his show, he wasn't going to address it anymore. Journalists who attended the show and got interviews with Ostrovsky were told to strictly adhere to "only fashion questions," according to the Post.
The Fat Jew's show venue itself was very small: two rows of white plastic chairs lined a strip of green artificial turf that would serve as the runway. I hadn't even gotten an invite, but all it took to get in was waiting around for a couple of minutes until it was clear that there would be extra room available inside the show. I was given a standing seat assignment, but once inside, was offered a chair in an effort to fill in the empty seats.
The dads posing as models for the show seemed like either people Ostrovsky knew or, as he's said in various interviews, hired off of Craigslist. They came down the runway in, for the most part, incredibly normal dad attire — sweater vests, khakis, tube socks, old T-shirts, flip-flops (or, in one case, no shoes at all). As amateur models, many of the men appeared nervous but the crowd wasn't holding back. Each of the dads drew increasingly louder and louder shouts of laughter from the audience as he made his way down the strip of green turf with a solemn expression and halting walk.
It grew more uncomfortable as the minutes dragged on. Most of the men were wearing anything you'd see out on the street — since when is a black V-neck tee something to laugh at? Making matters worse, the crowd hushed when one younger model appeared who looked like he had been plucked from a real runway at one of MADE's other shows. "Oh, he's actually hot," the women beside me whispered. He didn’t draw as many laughs.
Ostrovsky ran out at the end to take a bow and slap some high-fives with the audience in the same white sweatsuit and pink-framed sunglasses he had been wearing at Karen Walker's show earlier in the week. He didn't say a word, and there was no mention of where Ostrovsky had bought or pulled any of the clothing curated for the show.