By SHARVARI JOHARI ’17
Vogue’s April cover featured Kim Kardashian and Kanye West posing in wedding attire, not a surprising sight for people who follow either person’s life in the tabloids. The sheer number of parodies, such as Seth Rogen and James Franco’s spoof, was expected. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are both popular and polarizing figures whose antics and actions often result in derision from the media.
What was surprising to me was the backlash genuinely criticizing this cover for its relevance to Vogue and fashion. Most notable was Sarah Michelle Gellar, an actress famous for her role in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” who tweeted “Well … I guess I’m cancelling my Vogue subscription. Who is with me???”
Some critics have argued that while West himself deserved to be on the cover, Kardashian pushed her way on with him. Others protest that neither Kardashian nor West have paid their dues to fashion enough to deserve a place on the cover. The first criticism was plainly corrected by Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintor, who said, “[It was] entirely our idea to do it; you may have read that West begged me to put his fiancée on Vogue’s cover. He did nothing of the sort.”
The second criticism brings up a more interesting point: How much fashion street cred do you need for Vogue? This question became more complicated since Anna Wintour took over the magazine in 1988. She put forth a concerted effort to make Vogue’s brand more appealing to its younger audiences.
While Vogue has historically been the high-end fashion magazine of America, the cover has been more about cultural than fashion influence since Wintour’s leadership. During special events such as the Olympics, Vogue puts America’s most famous athletes on the cover, athletes who don’t have much significance in the fashion world. Actresses who have a cultural significance are often featured. Most recently, the magazine featured the actress and writer of “Girls,” Lena Dunham, on the cover. While she is one of the most talked about women in Hollywood right now and is a famous spokesperson for female body issues, she does not have a particular eye or sense for fashion. When accounting for cultural significance, it is clear that Kardashian and West deserve a place on the cover of Vogue as much as any other celebrity.
However, say Vogue was all about the experience in fashion. I would argue that both Kardashian and West have this experience as well. Kim Kardashian, while she makes polarizing choices, frequently appears on best and worst dressed lists. She is an influential celebrity when it comes to current trends and is the guest of many runway shows during New York and Paris fashion weeks. The Kardashians own a clothing boutique named “Dash” and have released clothing lines for retailers like Sears. One might argue against the merit or style of these clothes, but there are people who care about what Kim Kardashian is wearing. This makes her fashionable and important in the fashion world.
Kanye West, while primarily a rapper, has even more indisputable fashion merits. He debuted a women’s fashion line at Paris Fashion Week 2011. This accomplishment is the pinnacle for a designer, giving him undebatable legitimacy in fashion. Although his couture line was not popular, West also designed a small casual womenswear line in collaboration with the French brand A.P.C., which proved to be a huge hit. It seems undeniable that these two celebrities should have a place on the Vogue cover.
The true reason people don’t want West and Kardashian on the cover is that people don’t like them. While both receive plenty of critcism individually, together they receive genuine scorn. The fact is that being on Vogue is a definite sign of celebrity legitimacy. It elevates people from tabloid fodder to true stars. While Kim Kardashian has been a tastemaster for some years now, being on Vogue makes her more than just a reality television star. Kim Kardashian has managed to build an empire based on a tawdry past, and her cover on Vogue further emphasizes that empire.
There seems to be no true criticism about the quality of the cover. Vogue covers are traditionally one solitary woman. This cover breaks both of these rules, having a male and featuring two people. Vogue trationalists might take issue with that. While people can complain that West and Kardashian don’t deserve it, they have no thoughts on the actual artistry. A legitimate criticism would be how it deviates from Vogue’s traditional covers. Supermodel Naomi Campbell was quoted as “unimpressed” with the cover. As a supermodel, she truely knows what makes Vogue special, but her criticism has very little to do with who is on the cover and more to do with the artistry. Criticizing West and Kardashian’s Vogue cover should be about the artistry and concept of the cover and not the celebrities themselves.