Have we suddenly forgotten that Kim Kardashian has been in bed with the fashion industry for years?
Monday night, naysayers lost their wigs and clutched their pearls when the Keeping Up star waltzed into the 2018 CFDA Fashion Awards looking like a Grecian goddess—albeit one that perhaps could have benefited from an extra 20 minutes of glam time.
She was there to collect the non-profit organization’s inaugural Influencer Award, and influence she did. The second she hit the red carpet in an off-white Rick Owens two-piece with a matching set of gold Christian Billets bangles, social media feeds erupted with waves of critics (experts and amateurs) furiously Tweeting and posting, all unable to determine whether Kardashian’s honoree look deserved all the #FashionQueen praise or could have found a better home at the Salvation Army.
(If you'll recall, this is the same awards show that Rihanna arrived at in 2014 wearing nothing but thousands of Swarovski crystals delicately strewn on a pink gown by designer/magician Adam Selman. The fashion bar was high, to say the least.)
The CFDA Fashion Awards are where celebrities, designers, models, and fashion superstars come to flex, each showing off in sparkly off-the-runway pieces that are yes, designed to be worn, but also stitched together to illustrate the industry’s pecking order. Some people get to wear Raf Simons, others aren’t so lucky.
For Kardashian, Owens is a wise choice. Like her, the Paris-based designer is better known for going against the grain, not waiting for the jury’s approval. Yes, the look is unremarkably simple, but it’s precisely what we’d expect from Kim, who regularly wears crop tops, flashes her midriff, and accentuates every single curve she can.
But of course, the look got plenty of hate on Twitter. People compared the white pieces to sloppy bedding, towels, something you’d wear in between finishing loads of laundry. Some called it “horrible,” saying the only pleasurable part of the outfit is the fact that “at least she’s wearing clothes.” Largely, the haters also couldn’t get over the fact that Kardashian was receiving the award in the first place. Jennifer Lopez was suggested as an alternate.
Fashion insiders reportedly weren’t so thrilled about seeing Kardashian at the awards show, either. Many believe that only designers should be given recognition at the ceremony, not digital superstars or even designers who don’t call themselves designers, for that matter. (Supreme's James Jebbia won for Menswear Designer of the Year, saying the brand's not a "fashion company" and he's not a designer.)
“I’ve never woken up in the morning and wondered, ‘What is Kim Kardashian doing today, and how is that going to affect my industry?” publicist Kelly Cutrone told the New York Post.
Unfortunately for Cutrone, the reality is that Kardashian’s 172 million combined Twitter and Instagram followers are affixed to her style—something CFDA Chief Executive Officer and President Steven Kolb recognized. “By connecting to someone who has that great of influence, it also brings more attention to what we’re doing,” he told WWD. Kardashian was given the trophy with the intent of bringing the event more media coverage, and it worked.
She's no stranger to the comments section, and she made fun of herself as she accepted the award, saying she was “kind of shocked I’m getting a fashion award when I’m naked most of the time.” As New York Times Fashion Director and Chief Fashion Critic Vanessa Friedman suggested, her award was less about the impact she herself has had on fashion, but rather more about the impact she can have on certain fashion brands. It’s business, after all.
Not everyone hated her look, and loyal fans took to Twitter to compliment her, explain why she deserves the award, and even outline her complete style evolution, plus the ways her looks affect culture.
Fashion folk have snubbed their noses at Kardashian for years, neglecting to dress her for major events and choosing not to be associated with anyone in her wheelhouse. Burberry Creative Chief Officer Riccardo Tisci (formerly at Givenchy) has said that his peers “killed” him after her dressed Kardashian for her wedding, and stylist-designer Nicola Formichetti has pointed out that dressing her early on in her career was difficult, calling the whole thing “fashion snobbery.”
There's value in both sides of the coin here. Kardashian’s not a designer, and she’s not rewriting the rules of the game with her husband’s Yeezy merch, either. But still, designers kill to dress her, and she’s surrounded herself by industry luminaries like Tisci, Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing, and Donatella Versace—all of whom would benefit from a photo and red carpet moment from Kim.
If celebrities like Rihanna and Lady Gaga have taken home CFDA Fashion Icon Award wearing just nipple pasties and bold teal hair, isn’t there room for the world’s most famous woman to show up in a Rick Owens wrap?