Welcome to our column, "Hey, Quick Question," where we investigate seemingly random happenings in the fashion and beauty industries. Enjoy!
While accepting the first-ever CFDA Influencer Award on Monday night, Kim Kardashian West quipped, "I'm kind of shocked that I'm winning a fashion award when I'm naked most of the time."
And boy, she sure wasn't the only one.
Ever since it was announced that the CFDA would be honoring the reality-star-turned-beauty-mogul with a new honor — dubbed the "Influencer Award" — the fashion industry has been, shall we say, divided on the issue. According to WWD, the initial idea was floated by CFDA member (and noted Influencer Fan) Tommy Hilfiger; CFDA CEO Steven Kolb noted that West's presence would be highly beneficial for the awards ceremony itself.
"By connecting to someone who has that great of influence it also brings more attention to what we're doing," he told WWD's Jessica Iredale. "There's great value in acknowledging her, but also for the event itself and the exposure it brings."
Despite what Kris Jenner may believe, not all exposure is good exposure. First came the surely-inevitable NY Post article full of bitchy "fashion insiders" ready to take West down a peg or two. "It's ridiculous. I'm just completely baffled. What is she influencing? People to have a very false sense of beauty and body?" asked one anonymous insider. "A fashion [influencer] is someone who really inspires you, and who you want to be like. What has Kim done? Sell a bunch of cosmetics online? It’s a joke," said another.
PR maven Kelly Cutrone even went on-record to say, "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?'"
But the pile-on didn't stop there. After Vogue posted a photo of West to Instagram to promote a story about West's award, model Doutzen Kroes apparently took to the comments to "sub-like" (a move similar to subtweeting in which a user likes negative comments but doesn't leave any themselves) any negative feedback. Sample likes include comments such as, "How much did the award cost?" and "Sick of having this family forced down my throat." Yikes.
Then (we're not done yet!) model Winnie Harlow posted a photo to her Instagram with West by her side praising her for being "[o]ne of the realist and most down to earth people in any industry I've ever been around." Fellow model and activist Adwoa Aboah apparently disagreed, taking to the comments to ask, "Is this a joke babe[?]"
"In what world has she inspired women to be themselves?" Aboah continues. "She is no icon nor an Influencer and I find it completely crazy that anyone would think she was."
Of course, it was Vanessa Friedman's critical review of the CFDA Awards in the New York Times that got to the real heart of the matter. "Was her prize really about her influence on fashion, or using her influence to get a lot of people to pay attention to fashion at that moment? Probably the latter, if we are being as honest as she was."
That, ultimately, is the crux of the issue: The fashion industry is more than happy to slap West on its covers, sit her front row at its fashion shows and award her its honors if it means getting just one more eyeball from her 111 million Instagram followers on its products — and, usually, it works. "[The board] all agreed that Kim was someone who has really impacted the industry and has changed the way brands are presented," Kolb told WWD. "She's a friend of a lot of the designers and has had great influence on fashion globally."
"I think Kim's an influencer in that she has a huge social-media following, so everything she wears or buys, whether it's clothes or a vacuum cleaner, will sell out, because her reach is so far," one "fashion insider" admitted to the Post. (Perhaps Cutrone should wake up and wonder what West is up to after all.)
In other words: Much of the fashion industry would like to have its cake and eat it, too. It wants to use West's reach without being "sullied" by her reality TV roots, her surgically enhanced features or, more recently, her husband's increasingly controversial opinions (this last one is not unreasonable). But West is as much a creature of fashion's making as she one of E! and Kris Jenner — it's too late to put the genie back in the bottle.
So, we just have one question (picture it delivered in an extremely Kristen-Bell-as-Gossip-Girl-voice): Why so salty, fashion industry?