How the fashion world cashed in on the Kardashians in 2014
If 2013 was the year that the fashion world officially and unabashedly embraced Kim Kardashian as one of its own, then 2014 is the year that it made her (and many members of her extended family) its go-to cash cow. Did you have a product, a magazine or a fancy dress to sell in the last 12 months? Then chances are you called the Kardashians to help you shill it - at least that's how it seemed.
As social media and digital influence become increasingly more important to brands when it comes to deciding whom to hire as a face - which helps to explain the rise of celebrity models over the past year - it's a no-brainer that both luxury and mass labels would look to the Kardashians as ideal marketing partners. On her own, Kim Kardashian boasts a built-in audience of 22.5 million Instagram followers and 26.7 million Twitter followers, and many of her Instagrams and tweets launch news stories of their own -- all of which could certainly help move the needle in terms of sales if she shouts out a designer or product. This, in conjunction with her husband Kanye West's reputation as an international tastemaker, makes her the dream commercial collaborator.
In 2014, it seemed like every activity the Kardashian clan partook in had some sort of fashion marketing slant to it. While the family had plenty of actual contracts in place with retailers (like Kendall and Kylie Jenner's PacSun clothing line, West's collaborations with A.P.C. and Adidas, or the family's collection with Kohls), other dealings were instead a symbiotic exchange of services: For example, the sisters would get high-end gifts from designers that they'd share on Instagram, ostensibly to boost sales, or be placed front row at top Fashion Week shows to help build buzz around collections.
In fact, some of the most talked-about moments of the New York, London, Milan and Paris fashion weeks in 2014 revolved around the family, including Kendall Jenner's surprise appearance on the Marc Jacobs runway in February, when Kim got tackled by a paparazzo outside of the Balmain show and North West's front row seat at Givenchy in September. This was no accident. While Jenner's modeling career has since taken off, proving that she was more than a mere "stunt casting," designers know that having the 19-year-old model walk in their shows will bring a whole new level of mainstream attention to their collections. The same goes for a Kardashian-West spotting in the audience - wearing pieces by the designer whose show they're attending, naturally. London-based label Ashish took the fascination one step further by sending a sweater embroidered with a sparkly portrait of Kimye down the runway for spring 2015.
Perhaps the biggest display of this industry tit for tat was the one event of the year that shouldn't have been: Kim and Kanye's wedding in May. The fanfare unofficially began in March, when the couple's first Vogue cover was released, to the surprise (and in some cases, dismay) of the public. As the initial shock at Anna Wintour's decision to put the reality TV star and her soon-to-be husband on the cover of her magazine wore off, the choice began to make sense: It boosted the glossy's sales 20 percent from the previous month's issue featuring Rihanna.
In the weeks leading up to the big day, our Instagram feeds were filled with selfies of Kardashian with top-tier designers like Balmain's Olivier Rousteing, Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci and even Valentino Garavani, all of whom ended up playing a huge role in her wedding. With a Balmain bachelorette and after-party dress, a Givenchy couture wedding gown and a brunch hosted at Valentino's Chateau de Wideville, fashion took center stage at the couple's nuptials - providing these high-end houses with lots of product placement.
Since the wedding and a whirlwind Fashion Month in the fall, the spotlight on the couple and their family has shown no sign of waning. Not only has Jenner signed on as the face of Estee Lauder - one of the most lucrative beauty contracts out there - she's a spring 2015 face of Marc Jacobs, was featured (alongside her mother Kris Jenner) in Love's Advent calendar and was honored with three covers for Dazed's winter issue. Kardashian nearly succeeded in breaking the Internet when her full-frontal cover and editorial in Paper magazine dropped in November, and Balmain just unveiled that she and her husband are the stars of its menswear campaign for spring 2015.
With Fashion Month right around the corner, we're betting that the family will once again be out in full force, from the runway to the front row to our social media feeds. Plus, Kardashian is fronting Elle UK's January issue, bringing her 2015 magazine cover count to one before the year has even started. Yes, you might be tired of hearing about this family - trust me, we often get sick of writing about them - but with their proven track record of creating buzz, a loyal following of millions and penchant for all things high fashion, be prepared to see a lot more of them in the new year. There's plenty of cash left to be made, and brands can count on the Kardashian clan to make that happen.
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