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Fact check: Project Runway mask outfit by designer named Kovid is not evidence of ‘predictive programming’

Viewed tens of thousands of times, a viral clip of fashion reality show Project Runway shows an outfit with a face mask designed by a contestant named Kovid Kapoor. While the 2019 scene is authentic, some users allege the video is evidence of “predictive programming”, implying that there was prior knowledge of the COVID-19 pandemic. This notion is false.

Models present creations during the Project Runway show during New York Fashion Week, February 20, 2009. REUTERS/Eric Thayer (UNITED STATES)

Most of the posts with this claim share a TikTok visible here that has gained over 2.7 million views as of the publishing of this check.

The video has also been shared on Facebook ( here ) , Instagram ( here ), Twitter ( here ) and YouTube ( here ).

Some users commenting on the video claim it is evidence of “predictive programming”. As explained by Ohio State University here , the term refers to the “theory that the government or other higher-ups are using fictional movies or books as a mass mind control tool to make the population more accepting of planned future events.”

Other users sharing the video ( here , here ) also refer to the term “plandemic”, which is frequently used in relation to conspiracy theories that the COVID-19 pandemic is a hoax or a deliberately planned outbreak. The term was popularized by a video that has been removed from several social media platforms including Facebook and YouTube because it contained potentially harmful medical misinformation ( here ) . A breakdown of misinformation contained in the so-called “Plandemic” video can be seen in a Reuters fact check here .

THE SCENE

The scene in question is part of episode 3 of season 17 of Project Runway, in which competitors had to design an outfit for the Head-to toe-challenge, which entails a complete editorial look with a single fabric pattern.

One of the designers of that season, Kovid Kapoor ( bit.ly/2Ib6xbd ) created an outfit with a red and black plaid fabric that included a matching face covering ( herehere )

The viral clip shows judges Nina Garcia, Karli Kloss, Elaine Welteroth, Brandon Maxwell and guest judge fashion designer Adam Selman reviewing Kapoor’s work. Around timestamp 0:12 ( bit.ly/3lLS2s1 ), one of the judges asks “What do you guys think of this mask?” “It’s sick, Brandon said it,” Welteroth responds.

Upon examining the footage of the complete episode, Reuters was able confirm that, that moments before this exchange Maxwell said he “thought, ‘oh she’s sick’, but like sick in a good way. It’s sick. The outfit is sick. The whole thing is perfect,” after the model walked out.

INSPIRATION

Reuters contacted the designer, Kapoor ( kovidlab.com/about ), to provide more context on his design.

When asked about the claim, Kapoor told Reuters that he decided to include a face mask because he wanted to “put forth the issues of pollution.” He said he had been inspired by the Chipko Movement ( here ), a nonviolent social and ecological movement that was mostly led by women in rural villages in India.

Kapoor told Reuters via email that in our daily lives, “pollution is a reality that is [suffocating] our environment every single day. The use of a gas mask was a reference to the air pollution.”

Kapoor added that amid the COVID-19 pandemic, people had been calling him “a fake person/a simulation/a sell out who was ‘paid’ by the World Health Organization” and other organizations “to spread fear in people’s mind and give them a ‘warning’.” Kapoor dismissed those claims and said to “find humor in them.”

About sharing a similar sounding name to this year’s global pandemic, Kapoor referred to the Indian concept “kismat” or “kismet”, which is used to describe fate or destiny ( here ) . “I cannot be upset the cards were dealt to me… all I can do is make the most,” he said. “I genuinely think sharing the name has been a blessing.... I cannot be mad because people are curious and google me,” something that, according to Kapoor, helps his small business.

During the episode, the designer also said that his style draws inspiration from Asian markets. In response, guest celebrity stylist Marni Senofonte ( here ) suggested he include a mask. “In Korea, don’t they walk around with those gas masks?” she said. 

For years, face masks have been commonly used in some Asian countries in response to airborne illnesses outbreaks and the increase of air pollution. As reported by Quartz in 2014 here, the custom dates back to the Spanish flu pandemic in the early  20th century,  but more recently “it went from seasonal affectation to year-round habit”.  According to the article, Japanese consumers bought “$230 million in surgical masks a year, and neighboring countries facing chronic pollution issues—most notably China and Korea—have also adopted the practice”.

The practice  has even resulted in an Asian fashion trend known as “smog couture”, which features face masks as a fashionable accessory ( here , here ).

But the COVID-19 pandemic has made  people from all around the world  wear face coverings as a tool to reduce the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 ( here ). Earlier in November, the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention updated its previous guidance and stated that masks do not only protect others but also the wearer ( here , here )

KOVID

The meaning of the name Kovid, which is of Indian origin and mostly used for boys, according to the namemeaning.org  ( bit.ly/3gd5bJu ), is associated with terms such as “expert”, “academic” ( bit.ly/3oq3Ceo ) and “wise“ ( bit.ly/3lDnuZL ).

Re:Set, a wellbeing publication, reported here on how some Indians named Kovid have dealt with the pandemic. .

Another public figure with this name is Kovid Gupta ( here ),  Indian-American screenwriter and filmmaker.

Reuters has debunked other claims that allege the COVID-19 pandemic was planned here   , here  , here .

VERDICT

False. While authentic, this scene from Project Runway is not evidence of “predictive programming”. There is no public evidence to suggest the COVID-19 outbreak was deliberately planned. According to the designer Kovid Kapoor himself, his outfit drew inspiration from mask-wearing customs in some Asian countries, a trend pre-dating COVID-19, and was intended as an environmental statement.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts   here    .    

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