You may know rapper and actor Jaden Smith from his famous (or infamous) tweets. You may also know him because of his famous family (dad Will Smith, mother Jada Pinkett Smith and sister Willow Smith). Or perhaps you know Smith for his recent expansion into the fashion world. Many times, Smith has walked the line of androgyny and has established himself as a trendsetter. From sporting skirts and wild patterns on the streets to red carpets, Smith does it again, but with a little help this time.
Nicolas Ghesquière, the artistic director of the House of Louis Vuitton, has positioned Smith as the face of Louis Vuitton’s women’s wear. Yes, women’s wear. Now, this isn’t the first time young men have appeared in women’s fashion campaigns. High-fashion brands like Burberry have featured many males for their women’s wear ads. Yet, unlike many campaigns, Smith is featured as himself in women’s clothing.
In the Louis Vuitton spring/summer “Series 4” campaign, Smith is seen wearing a leather jacket with a low-cut knit top, a gladiator-like metal embroidered skirt and loafers. The chic look compliments the other female models: Sarah Brannon, Rianne Van Rompaey, and Jean Campbell.
Many are curious as to what the motivation is to have a young male be the face of this well-renowned fashion house. Publicity for both Louis Vuitton and Jaden Smith could be at hand. Not only does Smith broaden Louis Vuitton’s audience to a younger crowd, but Smith is also a name now correlated to experimentation with fashion trends.
Through Smith’s 5.73 million followers on Twitter and 2.5 million followers on Instagram, this controversial campaign could influence Smith’s fans to become Louis Vuitton’s newest customers. Not to mention the increase in circulation of gossip and curiosity surrounding this situation. But the fashion house and the new “cover-guy” seem to be more focused on the societal impacts.
In an interview with GQ, Smith states, “I like wearing super drapey things so I can feel as though I’m a super hero.” Smith has been seen wearing a flowered t-shirt dress to Coachella and a white skirt and black tux to prom. He also quoted on his Instagram, [sic] “Went to TopShop To Buy Some Girl Clothes, I Mean “Clothes.”
In addition to his prophetic statements about gender fluid clothes, Smith posted on Ghesquière’s Instagram after the campaign launch stating, “Thank You So Much @louisvuitton And @nicolasghesquiere For The Opportunity To Impact This World.” Smith has created the option for this campaign to be focused on broadening gender fluidity in the fashion realm.
Ghesquière even stated that Smith “represents a generation that has assimilated the codes of true freedom, one that is free of manifestoes and questions about gender,” and continually, “Wearing a skirt comes as naturally to him as it would to a woman who, long ago, granted herself permission to wear a man’s trench or a tuxedo.”
The question of gender fluidity and “impacting the world” seems to be on everyone’s mind. But keep in mind this campaign is gender exclusive. The clothes are dubbed “women’s” and the only thing that has changed is the person wearing them. Even if Louis Vuitton’s campaign was focused on the growth of gender fluid clothing, the public seems to be outraged and confused. Statements regarding Smith’s appearance in women’s clothing have swarmed social media. Comments directed towards Smith have referred to him as “gross” or “fruity.”
A pubescent boy in a skirt seems to rub everyone the wrong way. But why? The media praises David Bowie, an androgynous glam-rock star, for not only his steps towards gender-bending, but for his several other accomplishments. Prince and Marilyn Manson are other stars to expand the boundaries of gender in fashion. People have also forgotten about the appropriation of men’s wear into women’s wear that was once illegal. Yet women are now praised for wearing a provocative tuxedo and classy pantsuit while a teenage boy is flamed for wearing a skirt.
Perhaps the vastly different speed of change in men’s and women’s wear is a factor of public reaction. Since women have dominated the fashion world for quite some time, products are geared toward that specific gender, which encourages shifts in trends. From the giant shift in the 1960s with the introduction of the mini skirt to present day fashion with the small constant flip between bootleg and skinny jeans, women’s fashion is constantly changing. Men’s fashion has remained somewhat consistent, only slightly changing with the introduction of denim and hipster fashion. Maybe, just maybe, men’s fashion is finally catching up to women’s appropriation with gender-bending trends.
Whether or not the Louis Vuitton campaign intended to focus on gender fluidity, publicity or widening men’s wear, the question of what is in store for not only men’s fashion, but women’s as well, has been raised.
Photo courtesy of Jaden Smith’s Instagram