When I say Kanye West, you say?... Rapper, musician, performer, style-icon, bully- Taylor Swift might-, "controversial" attention seeker? The list goes on, but this season, he has added yet another string to his bow: yes, Kanye is now a musician/designer. Because, y'know, he can.
He debuted his collection at Paris Fashion Week to an array of screaming fans and it was paparazzi gold, but the collection was universally panned. And quite right too, I think. The clothes were okay, really, but it's the concept i'm grappling with. Yes, he has every intention to dress the rich and the glamourous in a flesh, spangly sexiness, but what makes this arguably rather talented rapper think he's got what it takes to do what every design student across the globe dreams of in having his own show at Paris Fashion Week- the most commercially and financially important of the lot- where having a show is held in such high esteem?
While friends of Kanye- those living "The Good Life"- undoubtedly appreciated the spectacle, and the tabloid press clambered for shots of Lindsay Lohan, the fashion crowd were not so impressed. The formidable Suzy Menkes of the NY Times effectively urged Kanye "not to give up the day job". Still, for the Alexander McQueen show, the flamboyant Anna Dello Russo ignored the critics and waved a flag for Kanye in a very low cut black dress from his show. Said dress reveals so much chest that it verges on tacky... never a good place to stand. To say the least, it wasn't a very ADR look, but she had Kanye's back and would even risk her own style to show him that. So already, Kanye can take a light breath of relief knowing that, thank his lucky stars, his celebrity connections have saved him from the scathing remarks that could lose him a lot of dollaz.
Somehow, Kanye has managed to pave himself a path of riches and fame to bypass all the talented design graduates living on a LIDL budget and take a coveted show place at PFW, as well as his own clothing line- the dream for so many. It really is appalling, in my opinion. And it's not the first time this has happened- people who have absolutely no real connection with the fashion industry striding in- letting others do the real hard graft- and putting their name to it with all their celebrity pizazz. Remember Justin Timberlake's urban range William Rast that has done surprisingly well? Hmm... Who would have thought that back in those N*Sync days, Justin had a real dream of his own fashion range, rifling through issues of Vogue, WWD and Elle just for inspiration. Oh, he didn't? Silly me.
Now hold your horses before you start branding me a hypocrite or whatever. I know that in the past I have been pro Victoria Beckham and Kate Moss Topshop among various other celebrity ventures into the fashion industry, but let me fight my corner. In this competitive industry, we can not debate the importance of the celebrity influence. You have a brand, struggling to get by, verging on bankcrupcy, and then suddenly your little pendant appears round the neck of Alexa Chung and BOOM the "Where Did She Get That?" pages of weekly glossies are full of your name, the bloggers are going crazy and then Alexa turfs it away, while you reap the benefits of the sell-out Alexa pendant. It's celebrity endorsement that makes or breaks a new label, a new designer. Why do you think fashion houses fork out so much money to have a celebrity gracing their front row? It's all about press, press, press. If you can get the fashion editors there, nice, if you can get Rihanna there: you've made it. All this, however, is very different to celebrity "designers" (if you can call them that), so what makes some okay and some- as I previously put it- "appalling"?
Take Sienna Miller's extremely successful Twenty8Twelve range, alongside her sister Savannah. Season upon season the brand churns out affordable, quintessentially stylish pieces with a chic bohemian slant. The label isn't flashy, they don't command shows in Paris Fashion Week, and they don't solely base the brand on Sienna's fame. Of course, it helped in getting the business to take off- Savannah wasn't exactly a household name and her sister's status elevated their vision, but it's still low-key and it is still all about the clothes. It's not the Sienna Show. Same goes for Victoria Beckham. She has forever been affiliated with fashion, she loves it. Be it a deep mahogany tan set off by fluoro Cavalli and honeyed extensions or a Tibi shift and slick Birkin (to name but a few of her style guises over the years!) She wrote a book on fashion, and kickstarted the DVB brand with her dashing husband. Yes, it was all about their A-list cred, but Victoria had something other budding celeb designers did not: passion. A genuine interest in the industry, the networks, the textiles, the structure- she loved it all and that was evident in her surprisingly successful first collections. She spent her time talking editors through each individual piece in her debut collection, meticulous details that only a true fashion devotee could cite. It wasn't an easy battle for Mrs. B, but she braved it until other celebrities were wearing her dresses and even hard to please industry insiders welcomed her into their circle as Victoria Beckham: the designer. She has since been nominated for a BFA, which is something Pixie Lott could never even dream of with her little range at Lipsy.
Obviously, Victoria Beckham was a singer (if that) first and foremost, and grew to adore fashion and was simply lucky to have enough of a profile to make that leap- but it wasn't just a whim as I feel it is with Mr. West et al. I don't see his collection having any real sense of longevity because it just isn't right in this day and age. Think of all the graduates we know nothing about, all the truly talented people leaving RCA or CSM with stellar degrees and having to work long, moneyless hours just to get their foot in the door let alone a show at fashion week. As it goes, there are not enough opportunities for the new breed of fashion designers, but there is always room for an extra celebrity to clock up show-space. How could that be fair?
Blake Lively once said she would never dream of designing her own range, because she knows of the talent that it requires and how much work people put in. It's a good outlook to have- why take these precious opportunities from the hands of those who need them?! Why should Cheryl Cole be able to have a shoe range? Just because she's a hot pop star who got lucky with her X Factor break before losing all that adoration and deciding "well, pet, i'll just design some shoes." What would the Cordwainers at LCF say? For all it's worth, for those in the industry fashion is life and it takes dedication and enthusiasm to succeed, it shouldn't just be a fleeting fancy and a way of more press... it should remain an art form for as long as it can.
This post is just a draft, and I have loads more detail to go into and images to add, but I will update shortly! The just of this, however, is: Kanye? Stick to what you do best... Stealing Taylor Swift's awards and giving them to the godly Beyoncé. Just not for her services to fashion by way of "House Of Dereon" Give me strength.