Harry Styles, Dua Lipa and Kim Kardashian: Celebrity fashion designers or imposters?

By Jennifer Raymont

Published Jun 8, 2023 at 03:17 PM

Reading time: 3 minutes

Celebrity collaborations with high end designers are nothing new—a public figure with a huge fan base will only bring more attention to any brand, it just makes sense. In some instances, celebrity brand endorsements have even been known to bring previously cancelled labels back from the ashes. In recent years, however, celebs have taken it one step further and are supposedly designing collections themselves. Apparently, having millions of followers is the equivalent of years of gruelling over sewing machines at fashion school.

After Harry Styles announced his Gucci HA HA HA collection born from his friendship with then-creative director, Alessandro Michele, Harry’s House became Harry’s house of haute couture.

The collection wasn’t that far off from the singer’s previous work with the Italian fashion powerhouse. 70s-inspired suits and feminine silhouettes continued to blur gender boundaries and “liberate vanity.” Personally, I’d like Styles to join forces with a new designer, it’s starting to give Margot Robbie plagued by the Chanel curse.

 

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Aside from Styles’ questionable background in fashion design (he must have had his head down studying menswear at Central Saint Martins while on tour with One Direction), the campaign also faced some Balenciaga-esque backlash. Styles modelled the collection carrying a toddler’s mattress, making critics question what on Earth he needed it for.

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It’s not news that many question the Kardashians talent and rise to fame, but it’s also obvious that their number one skill is that they are excellent business women. When Kim Kardashian first joined forces with Balenciaga, we thought the partnership would never end as she relentlessly shoved her looks down our throats for the better half of two years.

 

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Then, the brand was infamously accused of endorsing child pornography and paedophilia, leaving the reality TV mogul with no other choice than to reconsider her relationship with the label.

By “reconsider,” we mean fashion’s equivalent to a very messy divorce, as she moved to the equally problematic Dolce & Gabbana (D&G) in 2022. Not only did Kardashian turn her back completely on Balenciaga, she went from mere brand ambassador to full-on D&G designer. Pulling looks from the Italian brand’s archives, Kardashian reinvented vintage looks and debuted her collection during last year’sSeptember Fashion Week. Somehow, we can’t imagine her heading into the rush hour rat race to help design this collection.

 

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That being said, Kardashian has proved her worth and success as a business woman with her shapewear brand SKIMS, which has a current net worth of $3.2 billion. When it comes to SKIMS, the celebrity had the experience and knowledge needed in order to make it so successful. At its core, the brand is curated around the aesthetics and body type that the Kardashian clan are renowned for. Never change a winning team, right?

More recently, pop star Dua Lipa collaborated with Versace for her own collection which debuted in Cannes last month. We’ll give it to her, from Met Gala looks to advertisement campaigns, Dua Lipa is the ultimate Versace girl. Her 80s synth pop music plays well into Donatella Versace’s vision for the brand.

 

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To put it simply, the collection was made for her fans. It was heavily Y2K and Barbiecore influenced, with pink and butterflies galore. The see-it-buy-it-now release model even targeted her public fan base… but the price tags were anything but public.

 

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From a business perspective, celebrity endorsements make sense. Not only do they bring a wealth of new fans to a specific brand but those potential customers also bring money. That being said, a butterfly print gown from Dua Lipa’s Versace collection costs a whopping €10,000, while the matching heels were just shy of a grand. My bank account is reluctantly yet certainly saying no to both Lipa and Styles, and so are those of countless TikTok users. Given that their livelihoods rely on the support, both financial and emotional, of their fans, shouldn’t these so-called celebrity designers consider that not all their fans can afford the prices they’re demanding?

@jasminedarya

screaming crying throwing up #cannesfilmfestival #versace #dualipa #dulapeep #barbiemovie #fashionnews #donatellaversace

♬ original sound - jasmine darya

While we understand the natural crossover between music and fashion, or in Kardashian’s case, jumping from one problematic brand to another, what authority do musicians and reality TV stars have on fashion design? The fashion industry is notoriously hard to break into. Many, myself included, go from one unpaid internship to another to even get their foot in the door, let alone collaborate with fashion’s key players.

On the other hand, Pharell Williams is one celebrity fashion designer that just makes sense after he was announced to take over at Louis Vuitton following the tragic passing of Virgil Abloh. Despite Williams’ background in music, the man has impeccable style, created the brand Billionaire Boys Club and has partnered with major brands like Adidas and Moncler in the past. Now, that’s an enviable CV. Abloh himself also bounced between creative industries and took the time to develop expertise rather than exploiting his peers to make money.

Styles, Dua Lipa and Kardashian aren’t the first, nor will they be the last to join forces with luxury fashion brands. The high price points and name dropping all boils down to a lot of false advertising and a touch of patronising publicity. We can only hope that the future of celebrity designers brings more conscientious collaboration and fashion-forward trends than they do controversy.

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