If you follow the Perime Instagram page, then you would know that one of our latest Hot Take Tuesdays covers Kim Jones’ debut for Fendi Haute Couture. If you haven’t seen it, then you should probably follow us at @perimemagazine. The controversy surrounding this show was sparked by its overwhelming use of nepomodels and their mommys instead of scouting real models. My lovely colleague and fellow writer Grace Bordage asked a very topical question at the end of the Hot Take, one which had my mind rolling. “Is nepotism a fixable problem in the fashion industry? Or is it too deeply rooted in the system?” Well, personally, I think it’s the latter.
Nepotism by definition is the practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs. From the beginning of time, with dynasties, monarchs and pharaohs, keeping power and wealth within a family has always been fundamental. The same applies to our modern democracy, as capitalism continues to thrive off of keeping the wealthy rich and the poor, limited. This concept is then inherited by their children, in all industries. Literally, every industry yields children reaping the benefits of their family’s status and association. From the Yale alum who gives generous donations ahead of their child’s enrollment, to the offspring of 90’s supermodels who have managed to grace a Vogue cover before their eighteenth birthday–it’s the same thing.
Notably, we’re seeing another generation of stars that have grown up with us, ones who have garnered large and long-lasting fanbases in their respective industries. To name a few: Tracee Eliss Ross, Dakota Johnson, Emma Roberts, Zoe Kravitz, Cara Delevigne, John David Washington, Lily Collins and Miley Cyrus. My point in listing all these names is that many of our favorite stars are products of nepotism. So, who is to blame when one of the biggest shows of the year, like Fendi, followed by the debut of the biggest designer, Kim Jones, is filled with superstar mommys and their nepo babies?
The fashion industry has bred many nepo stars, in all avenues. Multi-million dollar fashion brands (for example, the eponymous Stella McCartney) can secure copious resources via family clout (music legend Paul McCartney). Even beyond the status of his name, she has created a well known, luxury brand that is worn by many around the world. There is also Miuccia Prada, who has run both Prada and her own brand, Miu Miu, two successful luxury fashion brands worth millions of dollars. While Miu Miu was started by Muiccia, Prada is a family business that was handed to her. Stella and Miuccia are examples of nepo children with extremely large access to clients, materials and recognition based on their families, and it allowed them to make more money than their less privileged peers. However, there are still deserving, self-made brands that have earned their stripes, such as Alexander Wang and Marc Jacobs. These two designers are examples of a lengthy history in the fashion industry. They have both worked their way up through the industry, serving in various roles until ultimately becoming sole creators of their own brands. Traditionally, we’ve seen creatives branch out and create their own brand from the ground up, or have jobs within the industry, such as being a creative director, that brings them attention. It’s a small example of the fashion cycle where designers take on a role that allows them to share their vision for what a particular brand stands for and learn how to create the legendary out of the already famous. That hard work of capturing attention with an unrecognizable name is what makes designing so entertaining, competitive and ultimately creative.
Photography is a field of fashion that has also been infiltrated by the nepo babies.With a decent quality camera, and an interest in photography shared through Instagram magazines, a “professional photographer” is born. The exalted opportunity that is shooting magazine covers and editorial stories has lost its magic. Professional covers have been done by Brooklyn Beckham and Kendall Jenner. That doesn’t even sound right. These are simply people with no real direction or basic understanding of photography combined with a grand “opportunity,” which happens to put them in an incredible position to have their work shared. When it comes to deserving photographers gaining recognition, I have loved watching Renell Medrano, Tyler Mitchell and Gunner Stahl grow into their respective aesthetics and successful careers. They have used their lens to share creative editorials, covers and other forms of photography, all while coming up on their own. Renell’s aesthetic has been recognizable over the last two years, with highlights of black culture amplified through her photography. Past Tyler’s accomplishment of being Vogue’s first black photographer, he photographs elegant photos that capture raw emotion through soft palettes and silhouettes. Offsetting him, Gunner has used his craft to capture behind-the-scenes candids of musicians, most of whom rarely share their own day to day moments. Each has their own niche and place in the photography world. Their growth over time is essential when comparing renowned photographers like these against quick-shot nepo photographers. True, some people have overnight success; however, most talent evolves over time. So, whether they’ve been in the field for one year or five, real expertise will stand out–and theirs has, without the already-famous family to back them up.
Historically, models were selected simply to emphasize design; however, after the rise of 90’s supermodels, the businesses of modeling and design became mutually lucrative. Popular models accumulated fans, campaigns all over the world, and expensive business deals. They were seen and known everywhere, and whatever brand they walked or campaigned received the same attention and subsequently increased their sales. This led to the modelling industry we know today: popular clothes benefiting off of popular faces. There are models who have made their way into the industry off of hard work and persevering despite tiresome rejections like OGs Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington, who spent years working while living in cramped apartments until they made it big. There are also discovered models like Adut Akech and Vittoria Ceretti, who have walked a significant amount of shows, covered major magazines, and worked on numerous campaigns. Their discoveries were on their own, and it took work on the models’ end to make themselves famous. However, when your parents are stars of their own, the spotlight shines quicker, evidenced by the countless nepo babies who have found overnight success in the modeling industry. With modeling no longer being confined to the runway, social media success has aided in their stardom. Children of stars such as Lila Moss, Kaia Gerber and Damian Hurley have benefited from their parents’ likeness, careers and name. No matter how many times they have tried to denounce their association by their “hard work”, it doesnt change the fact that their interests and opportunities come from their families. That doesn’t take away from hours in the studio, especially when models like the Hadids have surpassed their family’s fame with their modelling work. But in the end, it still takes away opportunities for others, and that’s not fair.
While I do believe nepotism runs deep in the industry, there are ways to encourage change in the industry despite its influence. More and more designers have used popular models to advertise their clothes, walk their shows and do campaigns. Throughout the pandemic, virtual fashion weeks bred full blown social media campaigns. Front row stars were sent outfits to be modeled in the comfort of their home, and brands were able to promote designs seen by thousands at once. This increased the need for popular models, as stars with the most social media following will garner the most attention for the brand at hand. If they were to use unknown figures, they wouldn’t be able to advertise their brand to the outside world and target audiences accordingly. Despite modern needs for celebrities, balance is essential within the fashion industry. It’s what keeps it exciting, as the creative world isn’t designed for one person. Every new person in the industry brings something that the next generation can feed off of, or recreate in their own way, and that’s what keeps it going. Marginalizing classes in an industry like fashion is disastrous and leads to other people doing the most work with so little credit, and it doesn’t leave many opportunities like the ones Marc Jacob or Tyler Mitchell have made for themselves.