Critic critically acclaimed! Suryansh named among winners of New York Times competition

Critic critically acclaimed! Suryansh named among winners of New York Times competition

A sixth-former’s review of Balenciaga’s autumn collection has been named among the winners in a New York Times writing contest.

Suryansh Sarangi was selected as one of nine overall winners – and one of only two from outside the US – after penning a review that commented not only on the clothes, but on the collection’s relationship to the American dream.

He drew inspiration from his interest in fashion, but also from his A-level English classes, and especially American literature lessons on F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

Head of English Robert Hyland said: “Full marks to Suryansh on this outstanding success! Having discovered the competition for himself, he then submitted an entry that was at once lively, original and thoughtful.”

There were more than 3,200 entries to the NYT’s Ninth Annual Student Review Contest. Entrants, who had to be school pupils aged 13 to 19, were invited to write original reviews of up to 450 words on any kind of creative expression covered by the Times, one of the world’s most influential newspapers.

In his review, Suryansh began by noting the importance of the show’s setting – “Draped in the golden Californian sun on a pristine neighborhood boulevard punctuated with postcard-perfect palm trees, everything about the Balenciaga fall 2024 collection just screams Los Angeles.”

The city, he noted, carried special significance for Balenciaga’s creative director,  Demna Gvasalia: “Having grown up in a dreary ‘post-Soviet vacuum’, Demna himself states that the very culture he idolized as the perfect, colorful life was that of L.A.”

The collection, with its “relaxed yet stylish outfits” and its mixed messages – “Perhaps celebrities are just like us. But are they?” – was, Suryansh concluded, “an ironic highlighting of inequality…nothing more than a testament to the modern American dream, an illusory ideal we can only chase, yet never achieve”.

Suryansh, who is in Year 12, found out about the competition through a friend he made at a US universities fair. “I was compelled by the immense creative scope it allowed entrants. I realised this was a great opportunity to express my passions about my non-academic interests: this competition gave me a free licence to write about whatever I wanted

“Social commentary through the media of fashion piqued my interest and I was drawn to brands which did this, like Balenciaga. Balenciaga’s philosophy is to make every piece a work of art, something that transcends mere fashion and becomes a statement of expression, emotion and creativity.

“I did not have to research much; I just had to watch the fashion show on YouTube, and from there, it was just about interpreting it and analysing it beyond its face value.

“When doing The Great Gatsby, we talked and learned a lot about the American dream, with it being a key focus of the novel, and I was able to incorporate this into my review.”

Suryansh writes for The Econobethan and The Arabella – pupil-run magazines at QE – and recently led a creative writing workshop at the School.

He recommends that anyone interested in fashion’s role in social commentary should look into:

  • Raf Simons Fall 2001 Show, Riot! Riot! Riot!
  • Alexander McQueen’s spring/summer 2010 collection, Plato’s Atlantis
  • The work of other designers and fashion houses such as Rick Owens, Maison Margiela, Yohji Yamamoto and Jean Paul Gaultier.

As his prize, Suryansh’s review has now been published, along with those of the other eight winners, on the NYT’s educational resource website, The Learning Network.