Fashion’s Powerful Duo

Are these related family names the most formidable in the industry? Bear witness to the influence of the two Ks

 

J & W

Kanye West has caused the stocks of Gap Inc to slide. Improbable, but it has happened. And he has not even officially joined the company. We assume that to be so since Mr West has threatened to take off from the deal. Trying to proof that he can be a president at a campaign rally in Charleston, South Carolina, he said, “risk or no risk of losing whatever deal possible, I am not on the board at Adidas. I am not on the board at Gap. And that has to change today or I walk away,” Can he do that? Still, that was deemed such a serious threat that Gap’s stocks fell, according to Forbes, by 6% on Monday.

This news is a little familiar to us. Back in February, 2018, Mr West’s sister-in-law, the former billionaire Kylie Jenner similarly caused another company’s shares to drop. In a Twitter post that responded to Snapchat’s update, Ms Jenner wrote, “sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad.” It didn’t take long for the social media company’s stock to tumble. As Reuters reported, Snapchat’s suffered a US$1.5 billion loss in market value. Things apparently did not improve for Snapchat a year later. According to Markets Insider, “shares have never really recovered.”

When it was revealed that Kanye West will collaborate with Gap to create a sub-brand called Yeezy Gap, Gap Inc’s stocks soared by as much as 42%! The surge is understandable since Mr West’s Yeezy brand is valued at US$1.3 billion, according to Forbes. Gap must have thought that the rapper is a walking money-printing machine. Then came the no-longer-a-shocker: Mr West will run for his nation’s top job. And people began wondering if Gap was embroiled in a bad 10-year deal. Would Kanye West have time to design clothing? And, as we wondered, what kind of designing president would he make?

That Mr West’s words and possible moves are so influential boggles the mind. When it was announced that Raf Simons will join Prada, there was no news about a shock-spike in Prada’s stock. And Mr Simons is a lauded designer with haute couture credentials. How did we get to this point in the evolution of fashion, when celebrities with debatable talents could send the stocks of established companies (in the case of Gap, they are eight years older than Mr West) tumbling? Or, has fan adulation inadvertently handed over the reigns of power to celebrities who sit on the throne called social media?

Illustration: Just So

All That Is Needed Is A Face

In celebrity/KOL-sports brand pair-ups, taste and talent are unimportant

 

Kylie Jenner for AdidasKylie Jenner giving Adidas a Calabasas spin. Photo: Adidas Originals

By Mao Shan Wang

Kylie Jenner may not be as major as sister Kendall in the modelling business, but she is big in her own right and bigger still as a cosmetic seller, more so after being named by Forbes as the youngest near-billionaire (USD999 million is how much she’s worth, as reported) on its yearly ranking of America’s wealthiest “self-made” (controversial in the case of Kylie Jenner) women. I don’t know about you, but that sounds very much like success, which makes her decamping Puma for Adidas, where her sister is already the latter’s face, quite a puzzler.

“So excited to announce that I am officially an Adidas ambassador,” she boasted via Instagram stories recently. Nothing more was said. Two sisters for one brand is quite a lot. I don’t think Kylie Jenner is doing it for money—she’ll make more through her wholly-owned company Kylie Cosmetics. I don’t think it is about fame—the still-successful reality TV show with her family ensures that, as well as her IG following which numbers 114 million to date (versus Kendall Jenner’s paltry 94.7 million). I don’t think it’s about power—since the Forbes cover story broke, she isn’t lacking in that either.

What could it be then?

Adidas FalconThe Kylie Jenner-endorsed dad-ish Adidas Falcon soon to be released. Photo: Adidas Originals

Fore sure, I do not know. So, I am guessing here: It’s a cultural thing, a Calabasas thing, even a cheap thing! Cultural because the people of her ilk and tribe are all trying to be designers or faces of brands, whether they have this other thing called talent or not. Some are, of course, more successful than others, but that’s not important. Rather, it’s vital that you get your foot across the threshold and the Jenner sure have. Their half-brother-in-law only succeeded after many (news-making) attempts. It’s a Calabasas thing because in this lian town of southern California, people dress in a certain conspicuous way and they think the rest of the world wants to dress like them too, so much so that the name of the town appears on Yeezy apparel and attendant knock-offs. It’s a cheap thing because it costs the Jenners virtually nothing to get into the fashion business as almost everyone is clamouring to collaborate with them, which validates the power of association than the strength of talent.

Adidas, of course, loves working with non-talents. While they have teamed up with fashion mavericks such as Kolor’s Junichi Abe and corporate darlings such as Raf Simons, they have also paired with style-dubious Rita Ora with quite frankly dreadful results. In the case of choosing Kylie Jenner as the face (and body) of the brand, it is possible that Adidas is fulfilling Kanye West’s wish. Remember his now-deleted rant: “There will never be a Kylie Puma anything. 1000% Kylie is on Yeezy team!!!”? It isn’t hard to see that what Adidas mainly wants is her social media reach and her propensity to live her life publicly. They are happy to feature Kylie Jenner as she is, and she is happy to be as she is, complete with over-drawn brows and over-painted lips. Predictable? Yes, I know.

Two Pairs Of Sisters: No Blood Ties But So Alike

Do the Hadid and Jenner sisters come from the same model-making womb?

The Hadid sistersThe Hadid sisters, Gigi and Bella, in Tommy Hilfiger and Alexander Wang respectively. Photos: vogue.comThe Jenner sistersThe Jenner sisters, Kylie and Kendall, in Versace and La Perla respectively. Photos: vogue.com

There are sisters, and there are sisters. As we know, sisters are not created equal, but some sisters, linked by fame, reality TV families, and the very public lives they lead, rather than blood, can be quite equal. Fashion’s most visible model-sisters, the Hadids and the Jenners, share commonalities of behavior and style that are rather uncommon in the age of fierce individualism. As the Hokkiens would say, they seem to come from the same ang koo kueh mould.

Just look at them at the Met Gala. They’re not your usual sisterhood, characterised by something mutual; this is kinship, characterised by sameness. Not only do they look alike, they dress alike. Swop one sister from one twosome for the other, can you tell them apart?

They sure have the same taste; one pair a mirror image of the other. Is Gigi the Kylie of the Jenner duo and vice versa, or Kendall the Bella, vice versa? Surely this is calculated when one pair of sisters is in the same colour coupling as the other? Even the silhouettes seem deliberate: Gigi and Kylie in sheer, flowy skirts; Bella and Kendal, both in lingerie fabrics that were so see-through and back/posterior-baring that you wonder why they even bothered with clothes.

Are they the present-day equivalent of the Bennet sisters, only just more lian? They like to attend galas (in the 19th century, they were balls, with the Netherfield ball being especially irresistible) and they like to dress up to attract the attention of camera lenses (in the 1800s, it was notice and interest of a potential husband). We do not know for certain if the Hadids and the Jenners like to dance (we can only assume they do—“every savage can dance”, noted by Mr Darcy), but unlike the era of the Bennets, we think the model-sisters totally dispense with propriety. Near-nakedness to express twentysomething muliebrity is the Hadid/Jenner lure.

Kendall Jenner IG PostGoing low: Instagram post of the BFFs in derriere-accentuating pose during the Met Gala. Screen grab: Kendall Jenner/Instagram

The deliberate display so thrilled the media that the Daily Mail ran in their headline, “fashion’s new darlings: Gigi and Bella and Kendall and Kylie were fawned over at Vogue‘s Met Ball” (now, who’s really fawning?). They may be fashion’s current favourite, but are they really anyone’s “darlings”? Sure, the number of IG followers of just one of them easily exceeds the population of our nation—with Kylie Jenner’s at a staggering 93 million (as of today)—but “fawn over”? The Queen of England has about 65.14 millions subjects in the UK (significantly less than the online adorers of Kylie Jenner), but are there people who actually “fawn over” her?

It seems that it is not enough to gauge young women’s success—professionally or socially—from her social-media following, you have to take note of those inclined to secure the former’s notice by servile behavior or by cringe-worthy flattery. The Jenners and Hadids may reign for now, but why do we have to fawn over them? Isn’t their individual omnipresence enough, the collective overbearing? Or do we need the excess, ostentation, dizziness, self-importance, self-promotion, tawdriness, predictability, visual disturbance… times four? And marvel at how not stiff, how not self-conscious, and how not sanctimonious they are as they stare back at you from your smartphone?

And who are these millions who supposedly derive pleasure from looking at them? It beggars belief that there are this many followers so utterly inadequate in their own being and their own style that they should follow every move, every dress (or no dress), every vapid utterance of this quartet to support the certainty that there are those who need to behave like a pet to enjoy dubious fashion taste. It does not require mature perspective to see that photos of youthful prettiness in glamourous settings offer, by way of returns, very little long-term satisfaction for the amount of time spent tracking and looking at them.

It’s probably tiring to read our having a go at these young women’s empty showiness. For many IG junkies, our criticism is almost certainly socially naff and not original. This is not hater’s rant, just something to get off our chest, while Kendall, Kylie, Gigi, and Bella walked down some pavement in Los Angeles, four-abreast, encouraging tabloid-press and social-media delight.

Is This Athletic Brand In Crisis?

Kylie X PumaSOTD imagines what the Kylie Jenner + Puma partnership may look like. Photo: #Kylie Jenner. Collage: Just So

By Shu Xie

The question popped up as soon as I read, with—I admit—distaste, that Kylie Jenner has signed with Puma to be “featured in the brand’s Spring/Summer women’s training campaign launching in April 2016”, according to a statement issued by the athletic brand. I am sure Puma’s enthusiasm has something to do with her 52.6 million followers on Instagram (even South Korea has less inhabitants), rather than her natural talent as a model who can communicate the brand’s messages to a sea of potential customers. Or her track record as a face for sporting goods. In fact, Ms Jenner had, until her collaboration with Steve Madden last year, been associated with nail polish (OPI) and hair extension (Bellami Hair). Yes, there was the Kendall and Kylie Collection of 2013, but I am not sure it means anything to the world of sports.

The contract between the German label and the American reality star-slash-model was reported to be worth six figures. In addition, although she’s the face and body of Puma, Ms Jenner will supposedly be able to continue to wear Adidas, a necessary clause since she is likely going to carry on supporting her brother-in-law’s Yeezy line (an assurance to Kanye West’s rant that “1000% there will never be a Kylie Puma anything”?). It is puzzling that this isn’t an odd negotiation for Puma, considering that competitor Adidas is the other brand that emerged from the fallout of the two brothers who started in the shoe business together: Adolf and Rudolph Dassler (the company was originally known as Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik or the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory). Puma (Rudolph’s) is presently owned by Kering, the parent company of Gucci.

Signing Ms Jenner up appears to confirm the belief that, these days, merchandise alone—however appealing—isn’t going to ensnare the paying consumer. If a brand needs to mainly bank on celebrity to augment the desirability of its products, would that indicate that, at its core, their goods are perhaps not so appealing to start with? Puma has had cachet in the past (and, to a certain extent, still do), having collaborated with design heavyweights such as Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan, Yasuhiro Mihara, and Hiroaki Shitano of Whiz Limited. Then in a surprising move last year, it appointed Rihanna as creative director of Puma Women, a move that recalls Lindsay Lohan’s appointment at Ungaro in 2009. Rihanna’s output is the Fenty line, launched at New York Fashion Week early this month. It looks to me like a she-Yeezy, only with less earth-caked colours.

The increased celebrity association could mean Puma is relying less on heritage or DNA. Even its long-time association with the game of football seems deflated. Surprisingly, its own design studio has not updated and re-branded classics such as the Suede (once also known as State) and my fave, GV Special, the way Adidas has with the Stan Smith and Superstar. As with the Stan Smith, the GV Special is a sports-star endorsed product: in this case, Guillermo Vilas, the tennis ace of the ’70s, and, for the TMZ fan in you, one of the era’s most noted playboys.

Ultimately, which brand are we supposed to buy into: Puma or Jenner? What puzzles me to no end is the dire inability for so many brand owners and followers of the members of the Kardashian/Jenner clan to see what the latter truly are: crass. Increasingly, marketing heads these days care more about reach than taste, visibility than discernment, bombast than subtlety. For as long as you (and your family) are a whopping news-making machine, who cares if you look like Kylie Jenner?