why are we so ready to buy into celebrity endorsed fashion collaborations?
Nothing sells better than celebrity, and with 24/7 access through social media is it any surprise that brands are queuing up to get that exposure too?
"I've got the brains. You've got the looks. Let's make lots of money." That's what the Pet Shop Boys sang back in 85 - a song that satirised mass consumerism in the Thatcher era. It's a line that seems to spell it out particularly well too, when we look to fashion's current obsession with celebrity endorsement. It's been just over a week since Kanye debuted his collection for adidas Originals - yet it still doesn't seem to be departing from my news feed anytime soon. The same happened last December when Rihanna was handed the reigns of sportswear giant Puma, as the brand's new creative director. And it's not just the ranks of Roc Nation that are being recruited. Alexa Chung, Chloë Sevigny and Kate Moss are just a few celebs that have tied the knot with some of our favourite fashion labels in the last few years.
The question that those pairings pose however is simple: Why? Particularly so, when very rarely are those collabs met with critical acclaim. Just last week ex CFDA President Fern Mallis criticised West, claiming she was "over him", and that his foray into fashion was a "total disaster". Ouch. That's gotta hurt. And hurt it did, with the Bound 2 singer taking to Twitter in violent defence. It's a predictable reaction from Yeezy and the fashion pack. As a system, fashion is one that rewards talent and innovation, and so it's difficult to jump to a celebrity's defence if they have very little education or experience to back it up. Particularly so when the two parties in question are solely relying on the might of their own image for success.
However, outside of those ivory fashion towers, those brands are actually on to a winning combination, because nothing sells better than celebrity. It's not Prada or nada for the mass consumer of fashion. Instead, they choose to buy into something that they can't be, and those celebrity-endorsed products give them the power to do just that. Who cares about a new hemline or silhouette if you can look like Kanye West? Realistically, many will of course favour the latter.
But that's where the difference fundamentally lies - between the consumer of fashion and the consumer of clothing. Fans of celebrities will always race to buy into their lifestyle. That's perhaps what's most upsetting about celebrity-brand endorsements. It makes sense, and it's commercially viable. But think of the talent that those pay cheques could employ if actually handed over to the people that most need it. At London Fashion Week, right now for example, there's a big gaping hole in the schedule where revolutionary designers Meadham Kirchhoff should be. That's solely down to the financial difficulties of being that creative. Culturally, it's crucial that funding to those types of designers is facilitated for us to move fashion forward and get us out of that latest fad mentality.
That shift in value from fashion to clothing is certainly one that seems to have come about in the last year. It's why those brands like Meadham Kirchhoff have fallen by the wayside (hopefully only temporarily), and credible fashion collaborations like Chloë Sevigny for Opening Ceremony have come to an end. Granted, the prior Brit design duo have previously worked with Topshop, but no sooner had they done their job, than the next big name was being shipped in.
The rise of reality television and social media apps have also given us 24/7 access to celebrity culture, and what brand wouldn't want that exposure for themselves. That's why celebrities are mostly linked to accessible, buy-through product. Make-up. Underwear. Perfume. Sportswear. Jeans. That's where brands are most likely to make their money. It's quick, affordable stardom for the masses.
Is it a question therefore of brands exploiting celebrity or embracing commerciality to stay alive? Well, on the scale of adidas and Puma, it's difficult to think that it's little more than making money. But, just as it was in that Pet Shop Boys song, the brain and brawn combination is always a little doomed to failure. Because with fashion, as good old Heidi Klum drummed into us, one minute you're in - and the next you're out. Perhaps if big businesses that can afford to invest in something with a little more talent do just that, they won't have to rely so heavily on that celebrity conveyor belt to make lots of money - or something even greater.
Text Greg French