Style mavens in a tizzy as Kardashians take over Fashion Week

Written By kom nampuldu on Minggu, 15 Maret 2015 | 20.49

The biggest news to emerge from the just-wrapped Paris Fashion Week — long considered the ne plus ­ultra of chic — are as follows:

Kim Kardashian went platinum.

Jared Leto went platinum.

Rumors circulated that Kim was under makeover orders from husband Kanye West, himself a would-be fashion designer.

Naomi Campbell and Cara Delevigne reportedly got into a hair-pulling catfight over Rihanna.

Kim Kardashian stuffed herself into a variety of ill-fitting ensembles heavy on netting, mesh, fringe and fur.

Her sister, Kendall Jenner, walked in the Chanel show. Her mother, Kris Jenner, sat front row, wearing see-through pants.

Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson walked the runway at Valentino as their "Zoolander" characters, turning the show into an announcement for the sequel.

When Paris Fashion Week becomes a mere backdrop for reality stars, free ad space for Hollywood, and a tabloid free-for-all in general, it's hard not to wonder: Is high fashion dead?

Kim's new hair was one of Paris Fashion Week's biggest stories.Photo: INFPhoto.com

"It's funny — everyone thinks the French would be above this, but they're not," says Teri Agins, a Wall Street Journal fashion columnist and author of "Hijacking the Runway: How Celebrities are Stealing the Spotlight From Fashion Designers."

Celebrities have been front-row fixtures at fashion shows for decades, but the embrace of the Kardashians, whose brand was launched by Kim's sex tape, seems counter to luxury and aspiration. The family's fame is sustained by selling out aspects — real or fake — of their marriages, divorces, children and sex lives on TV and in tabloids. Celebrity and fashion bloggers often refer to the clan as "the Kartrashians."

No matter.

"Paris Fashion Week, like every other, is looking for as much publicity as possible, as many eyeballs as possible," says Fern Mallis, former executive director of the CFDA and author of the forthcoming book "Fashion Lives."

"But there are people at shows who, we all wonder: Why are they here?"

'R.I.P. Vogue'

To be fair, the world of high fashion was built on smoke and mirrors, and every great fashion innovation was first received as scandalous, transgressive and an affront to good taste — from the advent of the flapper to Coco Chanel's pants to Louis Reard's bikini to the mods to the punks.

It's the same with fashion icons: Kate Moss was initially dismissed as a plain-looking waif; Marc Jacobs' grunge collection got him fired from Perry Ellis; Alexander McQueen was castigated as a vulgarian and misogynist.

All three went on to become standard-bearers. But all three, unlike a Kim Kardashian, came up in the fashion world. It was their sole vocation, and their revolution democratized fashion in ways that allow for a new kind of Paris Fashion Week.

"Fashion's more inclusive and is now a global spectator sport," says Simon Doonan, creative ambassador at Barneys. "Fashion used to be the province of rich white women in the 1950s, and thank God that's no longer the case. Now there's so much more to enjoy. It's democratized."

But if we are living in an age where Kim Kardashian is a fashion icon, we're also grappling with our notions of elegance and vulgarity. What is chic, aspirational, elitist? What's crass, tacky, cheap, inelegant? Is fashion truly fashion if there's not someone or something always slightly out of reach?

A couple of years ago, Gwyneth Paltrow slammed the Met Gala, dubbed Fashion's Oscars, for no longer being exclusive enough.

"It sucked," she said. "It seems like the best thing in the world. You think, 'Oh, my God, it's going to be so glamorous and amazing,' and you're going to see all these famous people. And then you get there, and it's so hot and so crowded, and everyone's pushing you."

When Anna Wintour, who chairs the gala, put Kim and Kanye on the cover of Vogue in April 2014, the reaction was equally harsh.

"I guess I'm canceling my Vogue subscription," Sarah Michelle Gellar tweeted.

"RIP #Vogue December 1892-April 2014," tweeted Katherine McPhee.

Asked on Australian TV what she thought, supermodel Naomi Campbell laughed mercilessly. "I do not want to comment," she said.

But really: Is Kim Kardashian on the cover of Vogue any more vulgar than some of what's inside? Is a $1,500 Hermes belt any more offensive? A $3,390 Loewe tote, recommended in the December issue? What about the magazine's stable of socialite staffers — including the ridiculous Elisabeth von Thurn und Taxis, who has bragged about "our wild boar shoot at our home in Germany . . . always a riot," and who, last week, publicly apologized after Instagramming a photo of a homeless person reading the magazine?

"What was interesting about [Kim's] Vogue cover was how angry it made people who were invested in the magazine's exclusivity," says Stella Bugbee, editorial director of New York magazine's The Cut. "People wanted Vogue to remain the last bastion of that. But I think the tearing down of the exclusivity of fashion is an interesting and positive thing."

Cara Delevingne takes a selfie with Woody Harrelson, Kanye West and Paul McCartney prior to Stella McCartney's show at Paris Fashion Week on March 9.Photo: AP

"Kim on the cover of Vogue said a lot more about Vogue's identity, or increasing lack thereof, than anything else," says Heather Cocks, half of the fashion-blogging duo The Fug Girls. "Weirdly, Kim actually has more relevance to Vogue than, say, fellow cover girl Lena Dunham, because Kim has made herself into a 24/7 fashion plate and actually does deck herself out every day in Balmain and Givenchy and all the rest."

And here's the thing: It doesn't matter if the clothes don't work on her — which they often don't. With nearly 30 million Twitter followers, Kim is more recognizable, and influential, than any designer.

Kanye, too, has more power as a hip-hop star and hubby to Kim than he does as a fashion designer — as Mallis learned at February's New York Fashion Week.

"I'm kind of over Kanye," she had told a Post reporter. (West had shown his underwhelming collection, a collaboration with Adidas.)

"I mean, I'm not a fan of his music, and the attitude and the agenda are not my style."

West hit back on Twitter — claiming his fame was an obstacle in the design world — and, suddenly, Mallis was a global headline.

"I was shocked," she says. "Shocked. I didn't even see his collection!"

West has since invited Mallis for a drink, and she invited him to speak at her "Fashion Icons" series at the 92nd Street Y.

"The attention has shifted so much in the past 10 to 15 years," she says. "I do wish there was a little more attention paid to the art and craft of design, to the people who love it and live it, not just the people who are hangers for the clothes."

'Elitism doesn't pay'

What is déclassé? Who, or what, is un-chic? Are these things, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder?

Last year, fashion photographer Juergen Teller — who shot Marc Jacobs' print ads for 16 years — had a falling-out with the designer over casting Miley Cyrus.

Miley Cyrus made a hair-raising appearance at the 2013 Met Gala.Photo: Getty Images

"He just didn't want to shoot her," Jacobs said.

And this is a photographer who, in the '90s, shot a greasy, bloated Harmony Korine for a Marc Jacobs fashion ad — back then, that was Teller's idea of chic.

Cyrus, meanwhile, is making fun of Kim K.'s new hair on Instagram.

And last week, Chloe Sevigny, once a fashion "it" girl — and not initially embraced by the industry — took a swipe at actress Jennifer Lawrence, who models for Dior.

"So much is about marketing and selling the product," Sevigny said. "Jennifer Lawrence I find annoying. Too crass."

Sevigny, who has modeled for Chloe, Miu Miu and Louis Vuitton, caught similar criticism for giving Vincent Gallo oral sex in his 2003 film, "The Brown Bunny."

Perhaps Chloe Sevigny and Kim Kardashian are not that far apart, and your definition of déclassé is defined by your tribe: One person's cool is another's calamity.

"I think Kim Kardashian represents an aspirational thing for a lot of people," says Bugbee. "I don't think elitism is dead; I don't think it pays. The savviest designers are willing to embrace all that's out there in playful and interesting ways."

Finally, there's this fatal irony: The fashion show has become almost irrelevant to the clothes. Today, a designer's impact is measured as much by which celebrities are in attendance as anything sent down the runway.

Ben Stiller and Own Wilson's Zoolander moment was the highlight of Paris Fashion Week — and a meta commentary on the entire fashion industry.Photo: Getty Images

Take Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson reprising their roles as dumb models, in a film that mocked the fashion industry, on Valentino's runway at Paris Fashion Week — a meta moment capped off by Wilson reportedly hitting on models at the after-party.

"Ten years ago, that would have been utterly unthinkable, that a designer of Valentino's stature would allow his show, in any way, to be upstaged by Hollywood or the media," says Bugbee. "But in the same way you need a movie star to mount a Broadway show, you need the same thing in fashion."

And so notions of high and low continue to blur.

"Maybe fashion isn't as elitist as it used to be," says Doonan. "But as a working-class kid from a working-class town, I always felt appreciative to be embraced in fashion's bosom. There's room for everybody at the party. Everybody."

Maureen Callahan is the author of "Champagne Supernovas: Kate Moss, Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen and the '90s Renegades Who Remade Fashion," out now.


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