“Disgusting! These two are the epitome of VULGARITY. You will never recover from this low …” “RIP Vogue” “Anna Wintour … it’s time to step down …”
The comments posted on US Vogue’s Facebook page this weekend have not been kind. The magazine’s crime? Putting reality TV star Kim Kardashian and her partner, the rapper Kanye West, on the cover. The internet exploded with vitriol, as commenters declared that Kardashian and West were the opposite of chic: they were gauche and tacky, they lived distastefully lavish lifestyles, they even – gasp! – had a child out of wedlock. #BoycottVogue started trending on Twitter and many proudly announced that they were cancelling their subscriptions.
Cripes. Whatever you think of Kardashian and West, the rage seems disproportionate. And, while the couple’s achievements do not rank beside those of, say, Peter Higgs and Francois Englert, this is a Vogue cover, not the Nobel physics prize.
Still, who knew that the readers of Vogue were more exacting than the magazine’s famously demanding editor? Because Kardashian has been popping up in high fashion circles for a while now, making friends with former French Vogue editor, Carine Roitfeld, sitting front row at Givenchy’s fashion shows and dining at Anna Wintour’s home. When West and Kardashian’s daughter was born, designers from Phoebe Philo to Alber Elbaz sent gifts. Last month, Givenchy creative director Riccardo Tisci described her as “the Marilyn Monroe of our age,” while Andre Leon Talley – the acid-tongued former editor-at-large of American Vogue – deemed her “one of my favourite muses and one of my enchanting angels”.
All the while, Kardashian has undergone a fashion transformation, plugging away at cracking high fashion now for a very long time. This is how it happened.
This is Kim in 2010 before her fashion makeover. The look is pure reality TV: all about accentuating curves, lengthening legs and looking obviously hot, which is definitely not high fashion.
And then something odd occurred. Almost as soon as Kim started dating Kanye in 2012, he went all Gok Wan on her, encouraging her to throw away her entire wardrobe on the promise that he would replace the clothes, while saying: “It’s like, I’m getting on best-dressed lists now, I’m stepping all into this territory.” It’s a bit worrying to see a makeover of this kind, captured on video here thanks to the joys of reality TV, although not unprecedented for one half of a couple to play the leading role in their combined style (see: Victoria and David Beckham).
So Kardashian started dressing very differently, indeed. This – from the front row of the Givenchy show at Paris Fashion Week – is a case in point. The hair is sleek, all flesh is covered and, what with the suits being totally matching, it’s all very yin and yang – and slightly spooky.
Being invited to the Met Ball is a very big deal in fashion circles, but the reaction to Kardashian’s outfit – floral Givenchy and, yes, she was seven months pregnant – was pretty mean. Some compared her to a sofa, others to Mrs Doubtfire, after which Robin Williams himself tweeted: “I wore it better.”
She’s back at Givenchy, this time having been styled by Carine Roitfeld. Around the same time, the former French Vogue editor featured her on the cover of her fashion handbook, CR Magazine, for which she was shot by Karl Lagerfeld. Some said that the shoot, which featured, well, jam smeared over Kardashian’s face, was a little weird. But it was pretty far from Keeping Up with the Kardashians by anyone’s standards.
And so Kardashian developed her new signature look: a huge, expensive coat (this is by Max Mara) a pencil skirt and a cropped top. It’s very fashion but very feminine and simultaneously very Kardashian. It’s working.
More of the Kardashian trademark look. In this case the voluminous coat is by Celine and the colours are Spring’s biggest trend: pastels.
For even more alpha fashion points, she wears a teddy-bear fur. Which is louche and cool, and really not very reality TV at all, as is her slicked back hair. In other words, in fashion terms at least, she’s totally made it – and this was four months ago. If only somebody had warned the readers of Vogue.