Are Kendall and Kylie Jenner's Designs Aspirational or Problematic?
Kendall and Kylie Jenner are undoubtedly two of the most gorgeous teens on the planet. Not only do they have the flawless complexions, thick hair, and statuesque physiques that come from teenager-hood and good genes, but they've got the money to enhance it all. They frequently appear on Instagram in full-face makeup, blown-out hair, and designer heels, jet-setting around the world with Louis Vuitton luggage and hot little friends. But it's not all party all the time for the Jenner girls; like their big sisters before them, Kendall and Kylie have started designing their own clothes. They released a jewelry line called "Metal Haven" with Nordstrom that hit stores last week, and just debuted a collaboration with PacSun, called "Kendall and Kylie."
Naturally, the whole sisters/design partners vibe is getting them compared to Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who began with a line for Walmart and are now a serious presence in the high fashion world. But Mary-Kate and Ashley were always a little more closed-off and mature, even as teenagers. Sure, the Olsens grew up in an age before Instagram, but after their explosively popular tween years, they holed up to do their own thing, eventually getting very serious about design. Kendall and Kylie, Lord love 'em, are on display all over social media — their legs, their bikinis, their pouty self-portraits, and their expensive cars. No surprise, given that Kim Kardashian is their big (half)-sis, but the fact that millions of people are watching their every beach selfie is a little gross when we remember that Kylie just turned 16.
Like many celebrity-endorsed lines, their clothing and jewelry are nothing special — a spike cuff, a wing necklace, some crop tops, and some skinny jeans. The most unique item in their PacSun collection is a droopy shirt that spells out "Kalifornia" — kind of a genius little commentary on the queendom of their celebrity. But this is a line created by baby celebs, not intuitive fashion icons. The Jenner sisters grew up in a world steeped in image (remember how cute they were on early episodes of "Keeping Up with the Kardashians"?) and are now channeling that image into items that are supposed to help tweens with their image. But is it healthy?
There's obsession with celebrities and then there's a very specific obsession we have with young celebrities — like, really young celebrities, people who promise to crash and burn in extremely visible, possibly sexualized ways. Britney. Xtina. Miley. Amanda. But kids are obsessed with celebrities, too, especially celebrities that they can look up to, relate to, or get inspired by — celebs exactly like Kendall and Kylie. Online articles about the Jenner sisters are awash with comments that range from angry to jealous to wistful, like these reactions to a tiny news blurb about a Jenner shopping expedition, all of which focus on the Jenners' physical appearance:
Of course, this particular mix of adoration and disgust, of body image dissection and self-loathing, is very particular to celebrity culture in the internet age. But it's really sad that the people who are Keeping Up with Kendall and Kylie are preteens and teenagers, hating their lives while they stare at these girls' Photoshopped ones. Because of this, a Kendall and Kylie clothing line may cause more damage than it's worth. Instead of instilling its wearers with confidence and playfulness and Kalifornia sunshine, it may be just another way to take preteen celebrity obsession to the next level, by selling them objects that promise to give them a glamorous, older-than-I-look image if they purchase them soon enough.