Kardashian kulture has long been accepted as mainstream.
Television’s most famous family wield an influence never before seen in modern celebrity, which they use to their advantage when it comes to just about every aspect of their lives, both publicly and privately.
Prior to Kim’s relationship with rapper and Yeezy designer Kanye West – before the international Vogue covers and Council of Fashion Designers of America awards and front row seats at her pick of designer showcases – she was always deemed too low-rent for high-end fashion. She and her sisters had superstar-levels of fame but couldn’t crack their final hurdle of acceptance within an industry they so desperately wanted to be part of – a business so elite you couldn’t buy your way in. To make it in fashion, you had to be ‘chosen’ by an insider. At the time, Kim, Kourtney and Khloe had a successful collaboration with US department store Sears, they ran their own clothing store chain DASH and launched a Kardashian Kollection handbag range. Their market was mid-range and affordable, and it worked. It was also a time before budget online shopping blew up in the way we know it today.
After an extremely effective 2012 makeover, she now holds the keys to the industry’s famously-difficult-to-penetrate-castle and she knows how hard it was to get there, which is all the more reason why she would distance herself from any suggestions she is involved in shady deals with ‘fast fashion’ companies who rip off her look.
Websites like Missguided, Boohoo, PrettyLittleThing and Fashion Nova, among others, have sustained a very lucrative business model off a Kardashian aesthetic and in many cases; their clothes are Kardashian in all but name, with everything from chic bicycle shorts and bodycon dresses, as seen on Kim and co.
Earlier this week, fashion’s de-facto Instagram watchdog Diet Prada suggested that Kim was in cahoots with one of the brands because the turnaround time for them to sell a look-a-like dress was too fast for many to comprehend. It was a vintage dress by Thierry Mugler and a near-identical version appeared on Fashion Nova within 24 hours. The site didn’t mention her name, instead advertising a ‘Winning beauty Cut Out Gown’ but it wasn’t hard to deduce where their inspiration came from.
Speculation has been rife on some corners of the internet that Kim has professional relationships with these companies, in particular Fashion Nova, because the turnaround is spectacularly fast. She addressed the claims on Twitter directly, writing: “It’s devastating to see these fashion companies rip off designs that have taken the blood, sweat and tears of true designers who have put their all into their own original ideas.
“My relationships with designers are very important to me. It’s taken me over a decade to build them and I have a huge amount of respect for the amount of work that they put into bringing their ideas to life. So, as always, don’t believe everything you read and see online. I don’t have any relationships with these sites. I’m not leaking my looks to anyone, and I don’t support what these companies are doing.”
She followed up by launching a suit against Missguided for $10m for using her likeness and her “persona and trademarks” and said they used her image without her permission for profit (the company continually tagged her in their Instagram promotions and reportedly used a picture of her in one post). Missguided said they haven’t received notification of legal action, but their shoppers “know the score -we’re about the celeb look, for people without their bucks” and said anything suit based on online banter would be “meritless”.
While so many of us are keen to keep up with the Kardashians across just about every device, Kim knows more than anyone the work that went into her breaking that final tier of fashion – in fact, it required her changing her entire personality inside and out – which is why, the idea that she is being hailed as some kind of harbinger of originality seems a little rich. The Kardashian construct itself is, at its core, unoriginal: she originally gained fame by copying Paris Hilton’s early noughties ‘it’ girl shtick (only much, much better), signed up for a reality show which creates scenes for conflict and is regularly accused of cultural appropriation.
The Kardashians, while not single-handedly responsible, have also had a huge role to play in the existence of a fast fashion culture.
After they moved from affordable clothing ranges and developed more expensive taste, it became a lot more difficult for fans to replicate their looks. During this time, retail had been changing so fast, that more shoppers were moving from brick and mortar stores to purchasing cheap dresses with little consideration at the click of a button.
Boohoo previously paired up with Kourtney Kardashian and Kylie Jenner’s now-ousted BFF Jordyn Woods on collaborations, but both were presumably paid handsomely for their efforts, and the company’s continued relationship with them is proof that it’s been a profitable partnership.
Kim and Kylie in particular aren’t just trend-setters, they’re global icons and as such, have changed what exactly style means to many – mostly younger – women. They know that when they see women at Coachella wearing a wig or an influencer in a latex dress on Instagram, it’s because they wore it first and that is something only a handful of people throughout history can say emphatically.
Their lives, by design, have essentially become publicly traded entities, so forgive me for not rallying up sympathy for Kim’s offensive against fast-fashion, an industry which she helped create. Being a cultural juggernaut has its downsides.