But a behind-the-scenes look at Colombia fashion week reveals the Colombian obsession with plastic surgery and the dubious trend of ‘narco beauty.’
The documentary is the latest installment in the Fashion Week Internationale series, and far from the westernised stereotypes at much-hyped New York, London, Paris and Milan fashion weeks, the Vice series explores the oddities of some of the world’s lesser-known fashion events.
And Medellin’s fashion showcases are far from usual.
Model and presenter Charlet Duboc contrasts the less traditional and more international – if a little classist – Colombia Moda fashion week with the city’s alternative, more accessible fashion event, Moda Para El Mundo.
While models at fashion week proper have a ‘matured’ look – tall, skinny girls with high cheekbones and ethereal beauty, shunning the fuller figures of which the country is so proud – some aspects of the week are stuck in something of a culture warp, with one runway decorated with a vast mountain of fake cocaine.
An underwear show sees bright bikinis leaving little to the imagination of models’ perfect, though often far-from-natural, bodies.
A trade show attached to Colombia Moda is, in the words of Ms Duboc, ‘more high street than high fashion,’ bursting with bootylicious bottoms, curvaceous figures, impossibly bouncy breasts, bronzen skin and white teeth.
Plastic surgery is clearly the norm, if not openly spoken about. One underwear model patently lies, claiming her figure is 100 per cent natural.
Over at the main fashion week’s competitor, Moda Para El Mundo, the focus is even less on fashion and more on bling and booties.
An incredulous Ms Duboc clearly has a hard time focusing, surrounded by glutes of epic proportions.
‘People’s arses are such a massive distraction from anything else,’ she says. ‘It’s kind of impossible to talk about anything else. It’s just ridiculous.’
While Colombia Moda may be championing a skinny look, the remainder of the city – and the country at large – continues to pay homage to the famous Latina booty and its accentuated form, known locally as ‘narco beauty.’
One model tells her: ‘I didn’t take part in Colombia Moda because I was too fat. But I am happy with the way I am. I think Colombia Moda should show fashion and Colombian models.’
It’s a far cry from the stick-thin models that are part-and-parcel of international catwalks.
Show beautician, Maria, told Miss Duboc that the city’s extraordinary body consciousness is a throwback to drug cartels.
‘I dare say it was to do with narco trafficking,’ she says. ‘They always want an exuberant woman with many attributes who is very revealing. The culture applied itself to Medellin. All girls have to have perfect hourglass figures or even better.
‘It is often implied that to be beautiful there is a need to have surgery. Not just the breasts, but also the face, everything.’
She says that at her school, ‘all’ of her friends had bottom or breast boosts and that ‘by the age of 17, most girls have surgery.’
Gluteoplasty surgeon, Dr Juan Mejia, told Ms Duboc that he has seen horrific cases of bottom injections going horribly, irreversibly wrong.
And sadly, he said, the upward trend in plastic surgery is a direct result of the country’s poor educational system.
‘There are many girls from working and lower classes that do not hope to see education. They have seen that beauty queens and models have managed to climb social barriers and they stop relying on education, relying on a future where beauty could help them.’
The Vice team even manage to film a bottom implant surgery – not for the faint-hearted, the operation and its associated risks prove how far some will go to shake that Latina ass on the catwalk.