The Genteel
October 20, 2020



Whether it was Elvis' pelvis, Spice Girl wannabes or "Bieber Fever," most of us will - reluctantly - admit to being a minion of teen fandom in our youth. Seemingly harmless, right? But these days, teen idols have saturated pop culture and are steadily seeping into the fashion world. Is it possible for these wunderkinds to gain clout amongst the fashion elite?

Disney-manufactured triple threats are nothing new and have been around long before the days of High School Musical and Hannah Montana. But youngins such as Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Jaden and Willow Smith and even Gisele Bundchen's five-year-old niece, have all dabbled in design. With even just a modicum of fame, many of these young celebrities have an immediate product following (à la anything with the their name on it), which serves as an unarmed vault for mass marketers looking to boost sales. 

Even scarier is that people will actually pay for designs branded by wee ones younger than ten years of age.

However, popularity and profits, don't translate into true fashion expertise - which is why so many tween celebrities have partnered with established fashion designers who have impressive pedigrees to create generic and unimaginative clothing sold at big box stores. But lending their names to labels without true fashion inspiration tows the marketing-ploy line; belittling the creative and technical ability garnered by established fashion houses along the way. 

For instance, Miley Cyrus, A.K.A. Hannah Montana, collaborated with Max Azria for Walmart. Will and Jada Pinkett Smith's offspring, Willow and Jaden, were rumoured to be working with Rihanna's stylist, Mariel Haenn, to ultimately create their own line. The Biebs' girlfriend and Disney alumni, Selena Gomez, has a line called Dream Out Loud, which too was realised with help from industry experts. Although, Tony Melillo, the former Generra designer who signed on to be Gomez's creative, was pleasantly surprised by Gomez. "It was surprising as I've never worked with someone so young, and never really expected her to be that smart," he said. He added that nothing goes out without Gomez's approval - who herself admits she never thought she would venture into fashion.

While Selena might show promise, knowing that there is a customer base for designs branded by wee ones, younger than ten years of age, is disconcerting. In 2010, when Noah Cyrus (the sister of Miley Cyrus) and her best friend Emily Grace Reaves were 10- and 8-years-old, respectively, they launched a line of tutus for Ooh! La, La! Couture which was likened to Betsey Johnson on LSD. More recently, Gisele Bundchen's niece, five-year-old Duda, landed a gig designing a line for Brazilian children's clothing company Brandili Mundi this past April. Struggling designers and starving artists alike would probably have an axe to grind with the toddler, who also signed on to model for the company, which certainly takes the notion that "it's all about who you know" to a whole new level.

Selena Gomez's fashion line "Dream Out Loud."

Kindergarten designers aside, tweens have launched an all-out affront on bona fide fashion inspiration. The majority of their labels are next to cleaning supplies and groceries on the floors, in stores such as Walmart, Target and Kmart - not exactly where we would expect to find the future fashion elite (we'll make the exception for Max Azria). Rather, big box store lines appeal to the masses - in other words, the commonplace, generic styles being produced.

That is not to say that ready-to-wear and affordable lines can't have a legitimate footing in the fashion industry. Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs and Jean-Paul Gaultier have had success in the ready-to-wear department, while widely-marketed shops such as H&M and Zara have successfully conceived designer diffusion labels. But it takes a keen eye, fashion sense and years of technical experience to produce a line that can hold its own on a runway - or next to the grocery aisle, for that matter.

It is obvious that these so-called kid designers are riding the coattails of their fame, rather than seriously pursuing a career in fashion. Lending their name to a label boosts sales and popularity but it falls to the seasoned designers to channel their inner tween and translate that onto a mannequin. Think: a twisted Wizard of Oz, man-behind-the-curtain scenario.

For better or for worse, as long as the culture of teen celebrity exists, there will be a place, of sorts, for them in the fashion realm. We can only hope that wunderkind designers will grow into the industry, as Victoria Beckham (ahem, Posh Spice) has done, and, eventually, create a worthwhile contribution to the fashion world.



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