Written by Jake Nevins
With her fingers, or rather derriere, firmly on the pulse of popular culture, Kim Kardashian has executed a near seamless transition from curvaceous fashion exile to paradigmatic industry insider. Culminating in the nuptial Vogue cover that shook the fashion world upon its release, Kim’s journey has been unconventional, to say the least. Fashion has long perpetuated its own hegemonic exclusivity, reserving its membership to the stylistically savvy twigs that occupy the pages of every major publication. These are size uber-zero girls with distinct cheekbones and indistinct personalities, at least as portrayed through the camera’s lens. They nosh on kale with the same metronomic consistency as they obsess over their thigh gaps, yet they seem, as their bodies would suggest, empty.
Enter Kim, a bombshell beauty reminiscent of Elizabeth and Marilyn. She rose to social ubiquity alongside Instagram and Twitter, utilizing the media to establish an unbreakable bond with her adoring fans. With an infamous sex-tape with Ray-J that you’ve most certainly heard about, she conquered society not unlike peer Kate Upton, who cat-daddied in a barely-there bikini for a YouTube video that your father discretely watched as he pretended to obsess over the 18th hole of the Master’s. The two are undeniably gorgeous, but not the gorgeous the fashion industry typically opens its heralded doors to. Yet, against all odds they have conquered it, appearing in the glossy pages of Vogue with Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld serving as ardent supporters. Kim has ushered in a new era, one where clothes are an avenue of showing off the vivacity of one’s body, rather than a way to cover its flaws. Considering fashion’s previous wholesale rejection of the reality-TV star, it’s worth considering how she’s found herself where she stands today, posing in the industry’s equivalent of Versailles.
Kim recalls, in this month’s issue of Vogue, a time when she was utterly confused by the word “Alaia.” Flashback to 2008, when the Keeping up with the Kardashians’s star religiously abided by a uniform of body-con dresses and chunky Louboutins, soaking up the never-ending flash of paparazzo cameras as she perused red carpets as fashion’s anti-Christ. Now, of course, she sits front-row at shows in monochromatic Celíne and on-trend Max Mara. Her ascension from “bootylicious” to brilliant is emblematic of the 21st-century celebrity, someone who you just can’t escape from, but sort of don’t want to. Whether she’s Instagramming a mirror selfie that her fiancée claims is incomparable to that of Michelle Obama (strictly hypothetical, of course because the first-lady wouldn’t Instagram in her bikini anyways), or getting divorced after 72 days, Kim, in spite of incessant criticism from naysayers with deflated behinds, embodies exactly what it means to be a celebrity today. She exhibits a genuine superficiality that is utterly confounding to a society that prefers talented go-getters to trivial narcissists. We are consumed with analyzing the veracity of the gossip that creates a constant whirlpool of attention around Kim, and, if you aren’t admitting it to your peers, you’re hooked on the woman who named her daughter after a direction.
So naturally, the time’s come for Kim to conquer the only realm that had previously issued a restraining order against her: fashion. Her union with Kanye West didn’t hurt. Not only did he unsurprisingly redo her entire closet, a renovation that wasted thousands of dollars worth of bandage Hervé Leger and Kardashian for Sears collections, but he inculcated in her a bit of his artistic ingenuity. Kim couldn’t escape the front covers of OK and the National Enquirer, but her credibility rose exponentially with features in CR Fashion Book and front-row seats at Givenchy couture. Kim does deserve some credit of her own, though. A by-product of our fascinatingly social-media obsessed civilization, Kim created a place for herself on the newsfeeds of our Instagrams and the glow of our flat-screens. She committed wholeheartedly to establishing a persona that innocuously garnered the obsession of fans across the world. That persona, to the dismay of her long line of critics, is also entirely genuine. She looks skinnier with flash on and isn’t afraid to admit it. She unapologetically kept her last name when marrying Kris Humphries for branding purposes. And, believe it or not, she’s incredibly smart, circumnavigating the media to a T, never photographed drunkenly stumbling out of clubs or assaulting law-enforcement officials. Her peers can seldom say the same. Consequently, with fashion priding itself on its social pertinence and cutting-edge approach, why wouldn’t the ever-so-glamorous Kim Kardashian, with twitter followers in the 20+ millions, grace the cover of fashion’s bible, Vogue.
Or, perhaps it’s simpler than the vociferous reaction would suggest. Fashion’s behemoths seem to have decided, rightfully so, that their readers find little resonance with the archetypal covergirl, an Amazonian beauty with a laser-cut jaw line epitomizing all we try to be. From a strictly aesthetic point of view, what exactly is wrong, if anything, with Kim being admitted into the highly- preferential institution? The barricades erected by the industry regarding race, shape and gender are slowly but surely being diminished. If cover stars like Lena Dunham, Mindy Kaling and Kim herself signify the ascension of not only beautiful but effervescent and controversial personalities, it appears we’ve over-sensationalized the issue entirely. It’s been said “to be in Vogue has to mean something.” Thus, if anything at all is decipherable from the magazine’s latest, most vilified cover, it is this: Anna Wintour, Kanye West and Kris Jenner have formed a triple entente ripe for world domination. Can you “keep up” with the Kardashian-Wests?