Today, Givenchy released the first campaign under new Artistic Director Clare Waight Keller, and to everyone's surprise, there was not a celebrity (or celebrity child) to be seen. Unlike CWK's predecessor Riccardo Tisci - who was one of the first in the business to give Kendall Jenner her start back in 2014 - this set of ads opted for decidedly newer faces, arguably shifting the focus from the models back to the clothes.
At a time when just about every headline on Vogue.com references a Jenner, Kardashian, or Hadid, there is something refreshing (and even rebellious) about bringing fashion back to its roots. Since the genesis of social media models, and then the subsequent rise of celebrity models, most major brands have cashed in on the opportunity to grab consumers' attention by swapping anonymous faces for more recognizable ones. And who can really blame them? In 2016, Puma saw it's sales rise 11% (cresting over $1B) thanks to the starpower of ambassadors like Rihanna and Kylie Jenner, and Calvin Klein has consistently used its #MyCalvins ads to exhibit celebrity faces from Justin Bieber to Bella Hadid, to Frank Ocean, Kendall Jenner, Abbey Lee Kershaw, and others, and has caught a considerable number of headlines while doing so. The opportunity is a win-win for both parties - celebrities increase their visibility and their credibility (oh, and make bank) while brands raise their profile by capitalizing on their models' fanbases and increasing their "it" factor.
But fashion is cyclical, and the time for widespread celebrity visibility might soon be coming to an end, ushered in by a combination of overuse and PR disasters. Kendall Jenner, for one, has had a comparatively slower year than normal; after booking more than a dozen major campaigns in 2015 and 2016, Jenner has only leant her image to 3 fashion brands in 2017 so far - La Perla, Penshoppe, and Fendi. Also considering her starring role in the disastrous Pepsi ad (you know, the one where she stops police brutality by being good-looking?), the discontinuing of The Estée Edit (for which Jenner was the main ambassador), and most recently, the controversy over the line of t-shirts in which she and her sister had their faces superimposed over beloved rap icons like Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G.; these blunders could indicate that whatever clout Jenner offered to clients in her earlier modelling days may now have been tainted by a sour taste in audiences' mouths. Much of this may not be her fault directly, nor can we assume that she isn't just taking a temporary break from modelling, but maybe - just maybe - it means that, like skinny jeans and flower crowns, Kendall Jenner and her cohorts just aren't "in" anymore.
The shift is about more than just a matter of tastes changing, though, and more accurately, is a reflection of how buyers are more savvy than ever these days. Thanks to social media and the Internet, consumers - especially those belonging to Generation-Z - are far more media literate and better at decoding which endorsements are authentic and which ones are not. While celebrity influencers can still be successful at raising a brand's profile, they may also now risk associating that brand with inauthenticity. If we can learn something from this era of star-studded marketing, it is that although fashion will always be profit motivated, brands are at their best when they interest consumers with artistry, originality, and innovation, first and foremost.
Main image via @kendalljenner