Kim K’s latest Vogue Arabia cover could be the fashion cover of the year—and of all 2019 Vogues
We are not fans of Kim Kadashian as a model. Not as a reality star, nor a fashion icon. We are moderately amused by her as a shape wear designer and slightly more fascinated by her as prolific IG influencer. As a model, she’s mostly stiff, one-dimensional, and communicates little sartorially since what she usually puts on can hardly be called wear or, if she does, is something so skin-hugging that our imagination is never taxed.
Yet, she’s not only a model, she is, according to editors (and quite a few of them), cover material. From her feeble first—Complex (February, 2007)—to the borderline bridal bashful—US Vogue (April, 2014)—to the one that “broke the Internet” and consequently became a “cultural phenomenon”—Paper (Winter, 2014), Ms Kardashian is unfazed by the equally positive and negative effects she has on people who buy and read magazines. It is rather curious that despite her status as a social-media star, Ms Kardashian is rather besotted with old media and ever-ready to pose for print.
And now, a title associated with a hyper-conservative society that only very recently allowed women to drive and to travel abroad without consent from a male “guardian”. That Ms Kardashian is given the go-ahead to bare shoulders, arms, and cleavage is perhaps indication of creative output on her terms, rather than expression to test societal limits. Perhaps, to her, this is one way to encourage and empower the women of Saudi Arabia. Or, a chance to sell her “solutionwear”, now called Skims after the first disastrous naming exercise.
It is not unreasonable to assume that the cover girl wore Skims beneath the exaggeratedly shaped and fitted dress (with hips that could have been the result of a modest pannier), which is a vintage ensemble by the former designer Thierry Mugler, whose unnaturally enhanced silhouette was his trademark, an ’80s success story, and now the obsession of pop stars, such as Beyonce, who must wear his designs even when he no longer makes clothes, at least not commercially.
Shot by Spanish photographer Txema Yeste, this is, to us, Kim Kardashian’s strongest, fashion-savvy cover and the September issue cover to beat, but we are not inclined to give the credit entirely to her. The cover blurb also cites the contribution of Mr Mugler as art director (and Kanye West as interviewer of subject, but the husband is not the focus of this post). While the Frenchman’s eponymous line was still under his watch, Mr Mugler was known to have personally conceived the images that defined his sense of ultra-femininity, as well as the concepts of his wildly entertaining fashion shows in the ’80s.
Now a cabaret impresario, Mr Mugler continues to have full control of the images he creates, his own and those of the people he works with, as well as the projects that are under his conception and direction. His clothes might have appeared to be maximal (Harley Davidson corset!!! Millennials may remember Beyonce in it, but back in the ’90s, in that supermodel music video, George Michael’s Too Funky, model Emma Wiklund wore it alongside others in more clothes designed by Mr Mugler, who also directed the film), but the visuals have always veered towards minimal—even futuristic—to better underscore his designs’ sculptural, almost architectural quality.
Ms Kardashian’s covers have always leaned on the side of the commercial. Her rise from reality television is ascent from a commercial medium. Her later and current proclivities for nudity teeter on the pornographic, and nothing is more commercial than porn. The Vogue Arabia—not even two years old— cover is, conversely, a treatise on fashion as artistic expression that can be spared sexual overtones. The well thought-out composition of bi-coloured dress against a not-overwhelming desert that is roofed by a sheltering blue sky, as well as the red patina across the model’s face and left arm is evocative of Mark Rothko’s colour blocking, even if not at all painterly.
For Kim Kardashian, this is possibly the closest to art.
Photo: Vogue Arabia