why jaden smith’s louis vuitton campaign matters
Looking beyond click-bait headlines and comment curiosity, we cut through the hype and celebrate this season’s smartest casting choice.
As soon as Nicolas Ghesquière introduced the freshest Louis Vuitton spring/summer 16 face, the internet awoke from its festive slumber and attempted to make sense of the surprising recruitment. After falling down the rabbit hole of Daily Mail's comments section, I sought the thoughts of fashion's most opinionated by tying myself up in one of the many The Fashion Spot threads. Often so hard to please, its most vocal members were divided. But those who were negative were united in their reasons. "So Nicolas is living for the hype now," one user, Creative, succinctly stated. "Indeed trying to create a hype, but totally failing at it," added Nymphaea, holding little back. "I'm sad to see how they used Jaden. I find always interesting to see mens/boys in womenswear and i've always liked to see boys in his clothes but with Jaden wearing a skirt instead of one of the beautiful pant from the collection, it makes it look gimmicky and try-hard", noted Lola701. "So Smith and an animation? Can't get more gimmicky than that..." proclaimed Anlabe32. Gimmicky? Maybe. Provocative? Possibly. Game-changing? Potentially. Hype generating? Undoubtedly.
Thanks to Jaden's star power and the ground-breaking nature of this gender fluid Bruce Weber shoot, this move guaranteed widespread coverage (and even Ghesquière's most devoted disciples can understand this point of view). But for me, this criticism fails to see how perfect the match is. From the chameleon-changing ability of Korean actress Doona Bae to the perfect avatar for a global, heroic woman, Final Fantasy's Lighting and youthful vitality of Ghesquière's girl-gang, each component of the Series 4 triptych expresses a powerful point of view about the muses of a new era. It picks up precisely where the house's "post-cyber" vision left us in October.
"We are all living with this new post-cyber dimension," Ghesquière revealed backstage after the show as Moderat's "New Error" faded into applause and appreciation. "We are all managing how to integrate these new notions of digital, virtual, and cyber with our real life. We're all confronted by the digital world in a good way and we're influenced by the images that make us a dream or judge. But at the same time we have this real life. And we're all managing to have this real dimension. And that's exciting. It's a real reality influenced by the virtual world."
While his every move is documented and duly scrutinized on social media, Jaden Smith understands this hyper real reality better than most. "Nobody can tell you what you can or cannot do. With no rules to follow, this adventure is up to you..." These words from a Minecraft trailer introduced the Louis Vuitton spring/summer 16 show in Paris and echo throughout its multi-faceted ad campaign. But they could quite easily have been uttered by Generation Z's philosopher.
"Why does Jaden Smith star in this campaign? He represents a generation that has assimilated the codes of true freedom, one that is free of manifestos and questions about gender," Ghesquière proclaimed in the press release. "Wearing a skirt comes as naturally to him as it would to a woman who, long ago, granted herself permission to wear a man's trench or a tuxedo." It's true. For Jaden Smith, modeling a womenswear collection by a major fashion brand feels natural. From shopping declarations on Instagram to wearing a black and white shift dress to Amandla Stenberg's prom, he highlighted his flair for gender neutral dressing throughout 2015.
"I'm just expressing how I feel inside, which is really no particular way because everyday it changes how I feel about the world and myself", Jaden revealed in an interview with GQ last year, before being crowned one of the world's 20 most stylish men alive by the same publication. "He's found an instinctive balance that makes his extraordinary attitude a new norm. That really inspired me in the creative process for this collection", Ghesquière added. From Freja Beha Erichsen to Fernanda Ly and Rianne Van Rompaey, Ghesquiere doesn't cast clones but rather chooses captivating characters to continue his narrative. "At Louis Vuitton individuality plays a role," he stated to the Telegraph in an interview conducted in the aftermath of his debut season. Jaden, like those before him, is the latest individual chosen to chronicle the current chapter. The timing couldn't feel any more natural.
Fashion mirrors wider-society and throughout culture, 2015 was defined by a widespread move toward re-evaluating static, binary gender constructs. Alessandro Michele pioneered his own breed of gender-fluid romanticism from the first moment of his Gucci reign by unveiling bespectacled boys and girls in pussy bow blouses, berets and bling. Jonathan Anderson won Designer of the Year in both the men's and womenswear categories at the British Fashion Awards. We saw Selfridges' genderless pop-up concession Agender, & Other Stories' transgender fall/winter 15 campaign, as well as the continued rise of gender-blurring labels including Vetements, Hood By Air, Eckhaus Latta and Gypsy Sport. "I think to people, not to gender", Miuccia Prada revealed after mixing menswear with womenswear throughout her spring/summer 15 menswear show. As Nicolas Ghesquière echoes these sentiments, here's hoping others will follow.
Text Steve Salter