Let me start by clarifying who “us” is. Us refers to those of us at The Fashion Law who, as you’re likely to know even if you just read the site sporadically, are vehemently against fast fashion. Us also refers to those of you who find yourselves unable to ignore sweatshops and lives lost all in the name of a $20 pair of jeans. With all that in mind, I ask: Could it be that Kendall Jenner is good for us?
This question was a hard one for me to answer. First of all, for a reason I’ve yet to analyze, I’m predisposed to be against all things Kardashian. Secondly, a celebrity/ reality star-turned-model is, on its face, a hard thing to digest. Or, maybe better put, the idea is double-edged sword. On the one hand, there’s the argument that a model like Jenner, who came into the game with a certain amount of fame, doesn’t pay her dues like other models. What’s more, certain people on the runway, like Jenner, can overshadow the clothing, no matter what brand she’s modeling for. (Though I recognize that this can also be true for the likes of Karlie Kloss.) If all the buzz is about the model, and not, for example, about the way a dress is cut or the way a designer seamlessly blends the old with the new, the point – and the beauty – of the collection is arguably lost in some way.
But, on the other hand, these models are also good for business, which is obviously good for designers. And these celebrity/models might actually help against the fight against fast fashion, too, which is good for those of us who aren’t ensorcelled by poorly made goods sold on the cheap.
With every runway that a model like Jenner graces, new eyes are focusing on fashion. Let’s face it: the people wrapped up in the Kardashian frenzy are not necessarily – and arguably are often not – the same ones who care about how Peter Copping will carry on the de la Renta empire or whether or not Alexander Wang will make for a good fit at Balenciaga. But perhaps when you merge the two – Jenner and runway designers – the end result is more interest in said designers.
There’s no doubt that some designers are relying on just this conclusion. Jenner has all the requirements to be a model on paper, but she also brings a certain hype – hysteria, even – with her to any given show. Maybe for every 9 out 10 Jenner fans who only look at a collection because she’s in it, or even only look at her look in the collection, that’s the end of the story. But for that one person, there might be a desire to buy what she’s wearing.
That’s a win, no? Fans are often wont to dress like the celebrity objects of their affection. Maybe it’s one dress, one pair of pants, one bag in a sea of Zara, but I’d still say there’s something positive there. I’m under no misconception that fast fashion will be beat overnight – if at all – or that the masses will suddenly decide to buy one garment instead of five. In fact, (depressing) articles frequently tell us that not only is fast fashion a thriving business, but it’s also growing very rapidly.
So, as more workers die, as more workers cry for help, and as more buildings crumble, it seems as though more people are either willing to ignore this, or are uninformed about the way their wares are made. Either way, the end result is hard to swallow, as it appears that there is no atrocity that will be too much to take down the likes of Zara. Sure, when something like what happened at Rana Plaza makes the news, people are temporarily engaged and enraged. But these reactions are just that: temporary.
Which leaves us to literally grasp at straws, or reality stars-turned-models, to be more accurate. If Kendall Jenner can turn a head and pique enough interest to change just one person’s buying habits – even if it’s for no other reason than to dress like her – we have to take note. The battle against fast fashion is surely an uphill fight, so we’ll take something potentially encouraging in any form.
What do you think? Does a model like Kendall Jenner have the power to influence buying preferences away from fast fashion?
JENNIFER WILLIAMS is a law school graduate who writes about fashion, the legal avenues available for protecting it, and the ways in which the laws are falling short. She is currently admitted to the NY State Bar. For more from Jennifer, follow her on Twitter.