They definitely hold a lot of sway over what millions of people buy. But can the Kardashian influence on youth change fashion?
By Arwa Lodhi
20 minutes. That’s the exact time it took for Kylie Jenner‘s $29 orange hued, vegan friendly lip kits to sell out. We’d like to think it’s because people are simply super keen to buy cruelty-free makeup. But let’s face it – these flew off the shelves thanks to Kardashian power. That the lipsticks were vegan friendly is practically an afterthought. But is that such a bad thing?
There’s no doubt of the Kardashian influence on youth. In fact, celebrities have influence over what many of us buy, and even how we think. Whatever Instagram stars like Alexis Ren or actresses like Selena Gomez wear in their social media feed pics sells out in hours.
But imagine – rather than wearing mainstream fashion labels like Ren and Gomez do, what if celebs banded together to draw attention to the very serious issues facing the planet right now – such as the damage done by industrial animal husbandry and fast fashion?
Right now, it seems the biggest influencers in the world are the collective Kardashians. With over 500 million collective social media followers, these women are powerhouses that are arguably more able to sway opinion than any politician. So, what good are they doing with that power?
Are the Kardashians vegan? Um, not really
So far, Kylie Jenner is the frontrunner in terms of Kardashian influence on youth. But she does send out an awful lot of mixed messages.
On the one hand, she has her vegan makeup and skincare lines. No animal products used, woohoo! It would appear that Kylie may have a consciousness about animal rights….until you see what she wears. Not only is she not shy about wearing leather – even exotic skins – but she is also a fan of wearing feathers and fur. Not cool.
A much better role model would be her half-sister, Kourtney. In her actual life, she’s a vegan – and she also feeds her kids a vegan diet. She has launched a range of vegan skincare, and even a healthy lifestyles site, POOSH. Her blog discusses clean beauty, relationships, and nutrition, amongst other topics. As far as I could tell, she’s never seen in fur or feathers, though I can’t guarantee her entire wardrobe is vegan.
But in any case, there can be little doubt that Kourtney is leaps ahead of her sisters Kim, Kendall, Kylie and Khloe in terms of ethics (although Kim claims her kids are now all eating ‘plant based’ diets). But can you imagine the impact on the planet of each of these women followed in her footsteps?
All about the money
Imagine if any Kardashian was hired to wear some ethically made, eco friendly clothing, with a little hashtag about how it feels good to #makeadifference or something. That would certainly work to make ethical fashion du moment. But the problem is that most truly sustainable and vegan labels are really small – and the ones you find in malls and on the high street almost always put profits before people. And most celebrities’ egos are big.
Given the Kardashians charge a fortune for even a fleeting Instagram promo, having them tout a small clothing label for a reasonable fee is highly unlikely. The reason Kylie made her beauty lines vegan was clearly because that’s what rakes in the dough – not because she believes in animal rights per se.
So, how can the Kardashian influence on youth be more positive?
Remaking views on fashion
Remake, a company founded by Ayesha Barenblat, is one ethical fashion label that’s trying to use the power of social media to make fast, unethical fashion uncool. They know that behind the $1.2 trillion dollar industry, there are horrendous human rights and environmental issues that few want to discuss. Indeed, the Kardashians themselves are guilty of not only promoting cruel fashion, but even of using sweatshop labour in their fashion lines. But this barely makes headlines.
Remake challenges celebrities with their own labels to source their fabrics from sustainable fibres and to pay the people who put their ranges together with Fair Trade wages. Since it seems every celeb worth their salt, from Beyonce to the Weekend, is launching a collection of some kind, we need to ensure those influencers are leading by example and make their eponymous lines more ethical.
Because generally, they are so not!
Sweatshops and superstars
For example, Beyonce’s Ivy Park label has not only been accused of using sweatshop labour, but she’s also in cahoots with Topshop to sell the line. If you’ve been following Eluxe’s articles, you may know that Topshop boss Philip Green not only avoids paying taxes by residing in Monaco, stole over £500m worth of pension funds from employees of his BhS store, but has also been accused of using sweatshop labour to make clothing for his Arcadia group.
Clearly, we here at Eluxe are very happy to name and shame companies that pretend to be ethical but aren’t. but Barenblat aims to keep it a bit lighter: “we want the next generation of designers to see that they’re part of something bigger than seasonal collections, that their designs have the power to positively impact consumers and makers’ lives. The aim is based on the understanding that when we come face to face with the makers, empathy and a sense of responsibility grows. And when we bring these stories back home, positive change begins,” she says.
These stories need to be told to Millennials, mainly. There are 80 million of them in America alone, with $200 billion in yearly spending power. And the best part? 75% of them say they’d rather shop brands that make a difference by giving back to society or being gentle on the earth. And Gen Z is even more concerned about animal welfare and the environment.
Personally, I think that’s one reason Kylie’s vegan lippies sold out so fast, as opposed to, say, the (apparently sweatshop made) Kardashian fashion line. Ethics do matter. And given the Kardashian influence on youth, they could make them matter even more.
Whilst Kim seems to care only about Kim, and Kylie, Kendall and Khloe have drunk deeply of the fashion Kool Aid, Kourtney seems to at least try to be ethical. So why not shift that caring into her associated products?
If Yeezy can successfully move an Adidas collection of boring $300 hoodies that look like they come from Walmart, just think of what Kylie could do for a gorgeous ethical fashion brand, in just one selfie.
Yes, there IS hope
So yes, we do have hope. We know millennials are scared of a future full of conflict over resources and increased pollution. We know they want to make kinder decisions when they shop, but need better information.
This info may not come from a Kardashian, unless they’re paid. Or care. Soft spoken Kylie has been named as having the strongest Kardashian influence on youth, because apparently she’s ‘the most relevant’. So come on Kylie, educate yourself on animal and retail ethics, and get out there and spread the word through an ethical vegan fashion line. You’ll make more of an impact than you can imagine!
Images: @kimkardashian on Instagram, Kylie Jenner Lipstick