This is a risky, and always hot, topic. It was brought to my attention again after it was announced that Beyonce and Giuseppe Zanotti were collaborating and then I started thinking about whether I should write about it or not. It is a topic that I’ve touched on quite a few times but never really gone into much depth about. Perhaps now is a good time to do so.
Celebrities as fashion designers is not a new thing, although it does seem to be a bit of a trend at the moment for everyone to be a slash something; by that I mean a model/actor/designer/singer, or something along those lines. People can’t settle for honing just one craft and have to get involved in every opportunity that is presented to them. I mean, I can’t blame them. If I were a celebrity and had the chance to become involved in a wide range of exciting projects whilst making money off of doing so, I would. However, I often wonder if the celebrities who act as designers actually care about what they are doing, or if they’re doing it for a little bit of exposure and a chunk of cash.
Kanye West, for example, truly seems to care about fashion, but he is an anomaly. He has a passion that is unrivalled by most other celebrities who design lines. His most recent attempt was not his first. Kanye designed a couple of collections back in 2011 and 2012, both of which were met with little critical acclaim but were, nonetheless, attempts to break into fashion. Then for the Fall 2015 season, Kanye designed the most viewed collection on Style.com of the entire season. He beat out Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Saint Laurent, and even Valentino who pulled the Zoolander stunt. Now, I personally didn’t like his Adidas collection and I still think that it is completely overpriced (you know, he claims that he is bringing fashion to the masses but the masses can’t afford his prices), but I have to admit that he has done a good job. He has gained more attention for this collection, even outside of the fashion world, than most designers could only dream about. But is that all he has to offer? Most of the attention was probably due to the hype that he had built over the past few months, his wife, and his brilliant front row crowd. But I do think that I’m being a bit unfair in criticising him like this. Kanye cares. He hired graduates from top fashion schools to work on this collection, he claimed to have done a bunch of research, and he is trying to bring fashion to regular kids who can’t afford all the designer shit that he and his wife clothe themselves in. I appreciate that, and people who try to democratise high fashion deserve to be lauded because we all know that it is so elitist. However, Ye designed astreetwear line which is traditionally cheaper anyway. Enough about Kanye though, it is celebrities in general that is the issue.
My problem with celebrity designers is that they have no formal training and just seem to waltz into jobs. Now some top fashion designers didn’t go to fashion school or just dropped out and they have been successful because they worked hard to get to where they were, so I can’t use that in itself as a criticism. The main thing is that they don’t care, they haven’t worked for it. It is just an extra project, a side project. Whilst a celebrity is launching their own brand and becoming an overnight success, young talented designers fresh out of fashion school are struggling to get by and can’t launch their own collections. If they’re lucky, they’ll get a low-paid job in a fashion house that can hopefully help them branch out eventually. If they’re unlucky, they won’t be able to follow their passion and will end up doing something completely unrelated to make some money. And formal design training does still matter. Without knowing how to properly construct a garment, how to make your ideas go from your head to paper to fabric, you will be considerably less skilled than those who do and often are just a glorified stylist. You have to have real natural talent to be able to succeed as a fashion designer without any training. Celebrities rarely have this training and rely on a design team to create the collections for them, yet their name still gets put on the label at the end and they are the ones who get all the credit. That sucks.
Some celebrities are probably a lot more involved with the design process than I’m giving them credit for, and many do care about it more than I’m suggesting (I hope), but I still think that jobs of fashion designers should be left to those who have trained for them. You wouldn’t let anyone plumb your bathroom or do root canal on you without knowing they’d trained for it, no?
Going back to the Beyonce collaboration, she is said to be very involved. It is only one pair of shoes that is getting made, so it’s not the same as a whole collection. She’s meant to have a very strong idea of what she wants, so let’s give her credit for that. Beyonce has also secured a deal with Topshop to design an activewear collection that she is also meant to be heavily involved in, calling it a “partnership”. I hope Beyonce truly does care about these collaborations and is involved from start-to-finish, not just giving it final approval. But then again, Beyonce doesn’t seem like the type to do something half-assed so I’m not worried about her.