REALITY TO RUNWAY – KENDALL JENNER’S METEORIC RISE TO SUPERMODEL STATUS

As model-of-the-moment Kendall Jenner’s first Estée Lauder campaign is released, we ask; how did this willowy member of the Kardashian clan ascend the gilded rungs of the high-fashion world so quickly?

What do you get when you put together a collective thirty million social media followers, Audrey Hepburn-esque beauty and 12ft long legs? Kendall Jenner – social media darling, reality TV It-Girl and thoroughly 21st Century supermodel. During the past year Kendall has come quite a ways, shedding her Kardashian shaped shadow just enough to be taken seriously by the high-fashion world.

And taken seriously, she is. During the SS15 circuit Kendall walked in thirteen shows including Chanel, Givenchy and Dolce & Gabbana, the latter of which saw her lead the models during the finale. More recently Jenner has been appearing selectively in magazine editorials, proving a hit at Condé Nast especially. Following her LOVE magazine cover, not only has she been featured in three American Vogue spreads (and their prestigious September issue) she was front and centre on the dual-cover edition of September’s Teen Vogue.

 

If one were to trace Kendall’s relationship with the fashion industry back to its origins, one needn’t look far. Only as far, in fact, as February, when Jenner walked her first ever runway in the Marc Jacobs show at New York Fashion Week. Unfortunately, Kendall’s debut was rather overshadowed by the surprise appearance of her nipples through the sheer shirt she was modelling, seen by many as a blatant publicity stunt by Jacobs, who only featured two sheer shirts in the entire show.

 

Nevertheless, the Marc Jacobs show sparked the beginning of an illustrious love affair between Kendall and fashion’s elite. Balmain’s Oliver Rousteing is an avid supporter, as is Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci. Whilst Kim and Kendall lead the way in Rousteing’s Balmain Army, Tisci designed Kim’s dress for her Spring wedding to Kanye West and featured Kendall heavily in his campaigns and runway shows. Riccardo’s Givenchy era aesthetic celebrates the dark and alternative, and earlier in the year he transformed Jenner into a sultry eyed, bleach-browed dissident for his AW14 campaign; “She has that dichotomy: darkness and sweetness at the same time” Tisci said of the usually innocuous model.

 

Now that Jenner has staked her claim on the runway, her focus is shifting in a slightly different direction – beauty. She was announced late last year as the newest face of the prestigious cosmetics giant Estée Lauder, a role usually reserved for Hollywood actresses with more wide-reaching appeal. Past faces of the brand include Gwyneth Paltrow, Elizabeth Hurley and Freida Pinto. For her first campaign Kendall will join current brand ambassadors Joan Smalls and Carolyn Murphy, to be shot by photographer Mikael Jansson. Its an interesting move for the company who traditionally cater to the successful woman in her mid-thirties and beyond.

 

The move could represent an entire image shift for the brand, featuring a campaign meticulously planned to target a younger audience from the beginning. You need look no further than Estée Lauder’s decision to let Kendall break the news herself. Pivotally, she announced the partnership on Twitter and Instagram to her many millions of followers, with a little added help from Vogue.com. And the theme of social media continued onto Estée Lauder’s US website, which became somewhat of a shrine to Kendall. Featured are links to Instagram’s and tweets about the announcement, even a shoppable edit of EL products, ‘Kendall’s Faves’ – these hardly seem reflective of the Estée Lauder woman’s priorities or interests.

Kendall’s first video promo for the brand, released on Wednesday, features a totally monochrome Kendall alternating between a chic tiled room, a wood-walled reception and a simple close up. Advertising their Little Black Primer (no, I don’t know what that is either) its a solid, if slightly underwhelming debut for Jenner.

Michelle Villett, the former Beauty and Health Editor of Elle Canada, said of the news “I think Kendall is absolutely gorgeous, but I don’t know how successful she will be in changing Estée Lauder’s image from an “old lady brand” to something teens and twentysomethings would want to buy. I think a strong social media presence can only go so far—the company would need to look at modernizing its packaging, colour selection and product offerings as well”.

 

Whilst the average Estée Lauder customer might not relate to a 19 year old reality star, many of Kendall’s thirty million social media followers undoubtedly will – the numbers are impressive, and certainly hard to ignore. The question is, will the brand alienate their long-standing, loyal clientele in their bid to reach a younger audience? Penny Fisher, 49 year old Estée Lauder Sales Representative, was surprised to learn of the partnership. “Kendall isn’t really a natural fit for Estée Lauder, but maybe they’re trying an image change; I think it will definitely alter people’s perceptions of the company. We do so many products but we don’t get a lot of young women who use it, despite the fact there’s lots that younger customers would probably like. I imagine it will be a good thing for the brand.”


Conversely, the announcement was welcome to my flatmate Alex, a makeup for fashion student and self-confessed Kardashian lover. “I’m looking forward to seeing how they advertise with Kendall and a younger customer in mind. I’m not going to go out and buy Estée Lauder’s make up just because of Kendall, but I would stop and look at their products because of the hype”. In fact, there seems to be a general consensus amongst the fashion students I spoke with that Estée Lauder does not hold much interest with younger cosmetics consumers, who view the brand as off-puttingly ‘mature’ rather than sophisticated. Increasing their social media presence is likely to pay off in the long run, but brand reputations aren’t changed overnight. One thing is for sure; if Estée Lauder are trying to reach a younger audience, Kendall Jenner could well be the social-media savvy force that drives them in.


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