Now--as with all fairs--it's limited, so it well may be ending the day I get around to going and seeing what's there. (An act for which I'm sure the surrounding tenants are deeply grateful.) But this one has built up more controversy than most, and part of it is over the Fair itself--is it a themed fair only? Is it an event sponsored to support a charity? Was it planned as an exercise to defraud the public? Lots of touchy questions.
All right, so how did people get the idea that it was for a charitable cause? When I went there, there was a drop-down announcing that the event was not for charity, that all funds went to the designers participating. But that tells me that at some point, people--including some of the designers--thought that it was a charitable event, with most, if not all, proceeds going towards charities supporting mental health.
How did this idea come about?
Part of it was in the pitch itself. Above, the relevant phrase from the posters advertising the Fair: "Your favorite designers coming together with limited edition items to raise awareness about mental health issues."
And then there were the statements found around the single skybox that the entire Fair was crowded inside:
(On the runway.)
(By the Earthstones section.)
(On a side wall.)
(Near to Dilly Dolls' boxes.)
Okay, that's still raising awareness, though. Is that a bad thing?
Well, maybe it comes down to how the entire thing was handled. First, the organizers put out a tip jar for donations, to offset the cost of running the event--but that seemed to contribute to the idea that some--or all--of the funds raised were going to charity. (Not sure how, mind, and the tip jar, at any rate, was gone by Sunday.)
Secondly, there was tremendous strife, because apparently, no one in the Purgatory sim was consulted, or even informed, that a sim-lagging event of even single-skybox proportion was going to be taking place. Some people--and we're not talking casual shoppers, we're talking residents and business owners who live and work on Purgatory--got extraordinarily vicious, literally screaming at people to get off their land and away from their sim. For the past couple days, club owners on that sim have been unable to run events; people have been unable to go home; and a lot of people who managed to get in to shop at other stores couldn't get back out again--there was enough lag it caused port failures.
Thirdly, none of the designers were told in advance that all their wares would be shoved into one single--and surprisingly small!--location. The lag for special fashion events is always a problem--as Hair Fair attendees know well, Hair Fair (among other large charity events) actually sets out special themed avatars for the time, designed to be low-lag.
At least a few designers have dropped out of the Fair due to issues of lag and overcrowding, which makes the sponsor wall interesting:
When people drop out in most fairs, specialty events or hunts, their names are removed from the advertising. Apparently, not in this case.
Mabb Dilweg said on the SLUniverse forum thread on the topic:
"Nowhere is there a mention of an organisation receiving money raised, so it seems it is an event to raise awareness. Nothing wrong with that. Apparently there is lots of information on the walls and amongst the product vendors. That would be lovely if the lag would allow them to rez."Mabb's not kidding. Either you get the sign, and not the products:
or you don't get anything at all:
And let me be very honest, here, it took me over half an hour of standing in place, turning around occasionally, to even rez in as much as I managed to--these last two pics? Taken at the end of the forty-odd span of time I waited. They were blurrier before, with a whole bunch of grey vendor tiles I couldn't rez in or purchase from.
Kind of defeats the whole purpose behind any variety of fashion fair...for charity or not.
Well, okay, fine, but that doesn't say things are going to any charity. They're just trying to raise awareness, not raise funds...right?
Well, this is where things start to skew. For one, Secondlife.com is pimping the event on their Destinations page:
"Many of the top fashion designers in Second Life have joined forces for the Black & Blue Fair, a unique event designed to raise awareness of mental health issues. Event held through July 4."If I knew nothing about the event, I would immediately think two things: "charity event" and "running the whole month". Which does mean it's going to last longer than this weekend, but more importantly, it's going to ruin sim performance for three more weeks at least. Aren't those residents lucky...
The Black and Blue Fair does have an official blog, or at least some of the organizers do, and there they're pretty clear that it's just to raise awareness that many people in SL are depressed, lonely, disabled, or otherwise impaired.
I don't know how to break this to everyone, but...hang around in SL more than three months, we all learn this, because we have met some of those people, are some of those people, or we marry some of those people. I'll even go one farther and say there's a higher than average amount of people on the net, let alone the grid, that are depressed, lonely, disabled, et cetera.
And why is this? Because right now, with everything that's going on, there are a large number of people anywhere who are disabled; mentally ill; physically compromised; on prescription drugs; on street drugs; lonely and issue-laden; living with inadequate physical, mental, or emotional support systems; with inadequate medical and psychological care. It's where we are as a planet, currently. Does this surprise anyone?
Beyond that, though, there's been a lot of blogging on this one already. The Crazy in SL blog has an entire dedicated section now on Black and Blue Fair entries; and, in spite of the lag and the controversy and the associated drama, there's a LOT of items available there, that very well may end up actually being limited editions, in that most of the people involved may not want to put them up anywhere else, after all the controversy associated. This includes hair, skin, furnishings, poses, shapes, clothing, you name it. All generally in shades of blue, black, grey and occasionally purple; though some makers did make things in all shades because...well, that's what they do.
Nicci Chau is hard to understand at times (it's very definitely an ESL issue, not RL-mind-on-crack issue), but she did mention something I thought was worth repeating:
"Clothing for most part was very predictable mix of things that look like slx templates and very heavy on slutwears, and more than one item I already get as they were recycled from freebie grid hunts in the past. So perhaps are some with manic or hypersexual disorder in the mix and heavy on slutwear and cfm shoes is maybe not in good taste, and like shirt with slogans that poke fun at behaviors are similar."Man, she has a good point. The one thing you will see, over and over again, is how much the cleavage layers have caught on in SL. I mean, SL already had a tendency towards the topheavy, but the Fair offerings make it seem like we can't exist at all if we don't have double-J breasts with !!INTENSE CLEAVAGE!! to take advantage of their gargantuan size. I realize there are times and places for such togs--I used to own more 'slutwear' outfits myself, and I still have a folder of attire marked slutwear for ease of finding.
Still, even with that, it seemed like 75% of the outfits pictured used the same shape, almost the same skins--busty hippy cleavage-enhanced tanned, oiled damsels with heavy makeup and pouty lips.
(While you're at that blog, struggling to translate fractured English into more understandable sentence structures, you might want to read her post on the upcoming script limits as well. Miss Chau is a very rational woman. No RL storefront would bother offering free replacements if there was suddenly a radical shoe heel advance in the industry, say. They'd just say "Come down and buy these! They're NEW!")
So...what's the upshot? Don't go? Despise the designers who pulled out? Support the makers you like in spite of the controversy? Yell at the event organizers for bad planning?
Honestly, I don't know. I do know there are good things to be had, some for amazing prices, like the Alienated Soul skin and avatar combo--I know I wanted to see for myself what all the buzz worked out to, and for the most part, I think it really comes down to several small points:
* A really great group of designers, both known and up-and-coming;
* Too small a space to fit them all in;
* Not realizing that having a pre-event screening for the blogging community would mean that EVERYONE AND THEIR DOG who came WOULD blog this thing to death;
* Not realizing that the publicity garnered would mean insane amounts of avatars COMING to the Fair;
* Public perception that it's a scam event, when in reality, it's more the Good Intentions Paving Company;
* Lots of people screaming at each other who didn't bother to read notecards sent out with the event;
* And worse than that, lots of people screaming at the DESIGNERS of the items, not the ORGANIZERS of the event, to get out of their sim because of the lag issues.
As I've said, some designers have left over this; not because it's a bad idea, but because it was so staggeringly ill-planned. I've heard (I'd love confirmation of this) that this is the first big event of any kind that the organizers have attempted. If that's true, then cut them some slack, guys; the first Hair Fair was two sims and people would literally crash crossing between the two sims--including the runway models for the big publicity event, because the original runway path ran straight down the dividing line between the two sims!
To use the words of Penelope Thiessam:
"So I suppose the Black & Blue fair means a bit to me, because I think inspiration and creativity are key to life. When you lose hold of those, I think you lose hold of your mind. "Yeah. And maybe that's the biggest reason to go. Because in spite of everything, they're trying to do good. And get the message out. Tell people that they're not alone and friendless and crazy, even if they are, because hey, other people feel that way, too. Gut it out and keep going and maybe things will improve.
At the least, there's a lot of the designers who've struggled with these issues, themselves, and a lot of consumers who know what that's like. So, all in all, I'd say--go if you want to, but don't think it's a charity event. And maybe, the next time this comes around--if it comes around again--the organizers will be just a bit more seasoned on what crowds in SL do, and what sim performance issues they can expect.
(Also, while we're talking about it, and because I suspect that this blog post deals a bit with the Black & Blue fallout, I just want to say I adore the photos taken for that entry. They're amazing.)
[Late entry from the Editrix: I'd add one more thing from that SLUniverse forum thread:
"The purpose of this fair is, and always has been, to raise awareness and de-stigmatise mental illness. Knowing there are others who are currently experiencing or have experienced the same things is a good motivational tool in getting help and huge help in the recovery process. One of the goals of the fair is to make people realise that having a mental health issue is not something to be ashamed of. We just hoped that if one person would seek help because of the fair, or one person was a little more informed and wouldn't look down on someone else because of their mental illness, or was willing to offer their help or support, that the fair would be a success. And that was the goal.Well, then. Now we know?]
If anyone has any more questions or concerns, you are welcome to contact me in-world.