Is it just me or lately has the fashion industry been allowing celebrities to take the sartorial spotlight away from fashion’s trained elite? Since the 1980s, celebrities have been the spokesmen for everything, from brand advertising campaigns to something as simple as wearing a couture gown on the red carpet. They have always been the ultimate representatives for designers, but now it seems like they’re in direct competition with them.
As we have seen in the past, celebrity clothing lines, like Sarah Jessica Parker’s Bitten collection or 6126 by Lindsay Lohan, had their 15-minutes of fame but were never heard of again. Although, there are celebrities like Victoria Beckham and Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen who have transformed their fame into entirely new careers in fashion and now have very successful and influential brands. Today, big names like Kanye West and Rhianna are making their way into top positions in the fashion industry – but do they deserve it? Especially against fashion’s highly trained professional designers who have worked their entire life to get to where they are today?
Aside from being a rapper, Kanye West has been trying his luck as a fashion designer since 2004. Since then, he has had numerous collaborations with brands like Nike, Louis Vuitton, APC, Phillip Lim, and now Adidas. Some of his past collections weren’t successful, and he’s gained a reputation as someone who wants to prance into the fashion industry and change everything. On February 12th, Kanye debuted his first New York Fashion Week collection with Adidas Original and it wasn’t a crowd pleaser. The collection had a muddy palette with an urban and tough edge to it, but it did not fulfill fashion’s creativity void. It was great that Kanye used models of all different shapes, sizes and ethnicities, but the clothes were less than flattering. The female models were dressed in Vanessa Beecroft-esque nude body stockings and the men were dressed in the Kanye-styled classics: oversized jackets, deconstructed sweat shirts, sweaters and sweat pants.
Kim Kardashian was even seen at the show wearing a camo jacket with a brown leotard over matching shiny leggings and a green bra, an outfit that Kanye designed for her. Given our current Kardashian-obsessed society, this might have been a good marketing technique on Kanye’s part. However, Kanye is still missing a creative flair. He takes his celebrity status to new heights by assuming he can just create a high-fashion collection that everyone loves, without having to really work for it. He might blame it on his race, but I blame it on his lack of creativity and innovation.
Rihanna’s style progression has been followed for years now. She influences her fans and expresses her emotions not only through her music, but through her style. In the summer of 2014, Rihanna was presented with the CFDA Fashion Icon award where she shocked the world in a translucent Swarovski gown. The backless gown – which was custom made by designer Adam Selman – consisted of a total of 216,000 Swarovski crystals. Hurriyet Daily News wrote about what Rhianna said after accepting the award. Growing up in Barbados, she “didn’t have a lot of access to fashion. But fashion has always been my defense mechanism. I can compensate for all my weaknesses with my fashion. There are rules, but rules are meant to be broken.” She adds that she used to think, “She can beat me, but she can’t beat my outfit.”
This is a typical way celebrities are noticed in the fashion industry – by wearing shocking and unusual outfits on the red carpet. But now, Rihanna is taking a new role in fashion, aside from her collaboration with M.A.C. Cosmetics. In December 2014, the pop-singer was named the creative director and global ambassador of Puma. This title is usually reserved for designers, who work years to receive such a position. No matter how many head-turning outfits or high-street collaborations she has done, it’s a surprising choice to hire a singer as a head designer. Especially since we’re sure she has a large design team behind her and will not be designing full-time given her singing career. No matter how influential she might be in the music industry, it’s frustrating to designers when stars, who usually sit in the front row at fashion week, suddenly want to join the elite club of designers.
Suzy Menkes’ Red Carpet Braggers, perfectly describes the relationship with celebrities and the fashion industry, and how it has become too easy for the two to form. She writes, “Sometimes I get mad thinking how tough it is for talented young creatives to get financing while stars are lavished because they’re already famous.” Collaborations of brands and celebrities will never fade since it’s a good marketing technique for designers. Celebrities have been and always will be the walking billboard for brands. However, when celebrities become creative directors or decide they want to have their own high-fashion line, it becomes a problem for fashion’s highly trained professionals who have worked years to get to where they are.
Written by: Jessica Manno