They say the devil works hard, but that Kris Jenner, the Kardashian-Jenner ‘momager’ works harder. Everyone has their own opinions about the Kardashian-Jenner clan, who are notorious for a number of reasons. You can think what you want, but their ability to monetise literally anything, big or small, is beyond impressive.
For those who don’t know, just last month, Kylie Jenner, entrepreneur, founder of Kylie Cosmetics, and one of the world’s youngest billionaires released a video tour of the Kylie Cosmetics office, at the end of which, she sang three words to her baby—“rise and shine.” The internet is a bizarre place where things like that can become huge in no time. In less than a few days ‘Rise and Shine’ became a viral meme. It has since been turned into a remix and the #riseandshine hashtag has been shared on TikTok over a billion times. Now, as one of the world’s most influential and famous people, and the world’s youngest billionaire, what do you do if something you’ve said turned into a viral meme? You try to trademark the phrase and capitalise on it, of course.
Jenner managed to turn the internet meme we have created into money—just after one week since posting the video, she has already applied to trademark (the entire family has filed 716 trademarks so far) the phrase in order to put it on “belts, bottoms as clothing, coats, dresses, footwear, gloves, headbands, headwear, jackets, loungewear, scarves, sleepwear, socks, swimwear, tops as clothing and undergarments,” and completely sold out of the $65 ‘Rise and Shine’ hoodies listed on her website. And while a big part of the internet envies or even hates Kylie for it, it is important to ask ourselves one question: aren’t we the ones who let this happen in the first place?
The Kardashian-Jenners are certainly one of the most famous families in the world, but they’re also one of the most hated ones, be that for the many ways in which they’ve acquired their wealth or their impact and influence on our society. Perhaps best known for their reality TV show Keeping up with the Kardashians, they are living and breathing pop culture—they are on television, they are talked about in the media on a daily basis (ironically, I am also contributing to this right now), and they are in major fashion campaigns. Somehow, over the last decade, the family has exerted so much influence, that they are able to monetise almost all aspects of their lives.
Every single drama of the Kardashian-Jenner world, from family feuds and affairs, business ventures, PR disasters (the internet will never let go of that Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial) to near-death experiences, and robberies feed the celebrity news cycle. Driving people’s interest in the reality TV show Keeping up with the Kardashians brings viewers, which then bring an ever-increasing number of sponsorships and brand deals. The common saying ‘there is no such thing as bad publicity’ seems to really apply to their family—they can do anything and just air it on their show. For example, last February, following a family drama where Jenner’s best friend allegedly had an affair with Jenner’s half-sister’s partner, Kylie decided to drop the price of a lip kit dedicated to her best friend by 50 per cent, selling out instantly.
The thing is, the influencer is only as good as those who get influenced by them. The Kardashian-Jenners would not be able to thrive on the hype created around them, if we didn’t create it in the first place. To say that every single person with even a slight engagement in pop culture is responsible for this would be a stretch, but every single time anybody speaks of them, be that praise, intrigue or criticism, we instantly make them even more relevant. Whether you hate or you love the Kardashian-Jenners—if you are involving yourself in the conversation in any way, shape or form, you could easily be making them even richer. And their fan base is especially responsible for that.
Yes, what the Kardashian-Jenners are doing here can be seen as borderline exploitative, but it’s also savvy, and in many ways entrepreneurial and creative. How many of us can say that we wouldn’t do the same for money, were we given the option? At the end of the day, Kylie isn’t forcing you to buy a $65 ‘Rise and Shine’ hoodie or a lip-kit—she is simply using her influence to sell, and we have given her and the rest of her family this influence. Of course, there are way better things to use your influence on than selfishly monetizing on it, and in Kylie’s case, her influence and power is immense. In 2018, after she tweeted “sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad,” Snapchat’s stock lost $1.3 billion. Jenner only tweeted what everyone was already thinking.
In the same way that Jenner could be using her influence for the greater good, so could we. If you have a problem with either member of the Kardashian-Jenner clan making money off of something you deem as ridiculous, think twice before starting a conversation about it and feeding into the cycle. Otherwise, you’ve played yourself.
Last month, British MPs rejected plans for a 1p per garment fashion tax albeit our climate crisis. At the same time, a Missguided £1 bikini appeared on the market—something that should be beyond concerning for everyone. The U.K. has the highest consumption of fast fashion in the whole of Europe, with over a million tonnes of clothing ending up in landfills each year. So how much power do we as consumers really have when it comes to sustainability and why is this discussion still going on?
The swimsuit sold out promptly, with 1,000 bikinis dropping everyday on the brand’s website, which further raises the question of how it is possible to produce and retail an entire set for just £1, free delivery included. Missguided presented an official statement claiming the production cost was of a higher value to the retail cost, and that the bikini was a “gift” to their customers, in the name of “empowering women to look and feel good without breaking the bank”. Interestingly enough, 78 percent of the brand’s employees are female, yet, they are a 46 percent median wage gap between men and women. The brand ‘excuses’ itself on its website by claiming that this is due to “having more women than men” in lower paid positions, and fewer in higher ones. The lower paid positions include the factory ones, where workers often make as little as £3.50 an hour—contrasting with the U.K.’s minimum wage of £7.83 for over 25s.
Despite being one of the U.K.’s leading retail brands, according to the statistics conducted by the House of Commons, Missguided is also the least environmentally friendly, rejecting the use of recycled or organic materials in their products, clearly avoiding the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) programme as well as the sustainable clothing action plan. The government has the most power when it comes to regulating fast fashion, and yet, British MPs have rejected numerous regulations on the industry.
Many of these dismissals include the 1p per item tax to raise £35 million for clothing collection and sorting, the ban on incinerating or landfilling unsold stock, and even making a law requiring brands to publically release a modern slavery statement. In addition to this, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has also urged to put lessons on designing, creating and repairing clothing into the school curriculum, as a means to end the era of ‘disposable clothing’ as well as for the MPs to explore a ‘sharing’ economy in which hiring and swapping would replace purchasing. The failure to implement these rules and regulations results in the continuation of unsustainable, disposable mass production, which ultimately affects the environmental crisis even further.
Marketing alone has so much power in influencing what the consumer chooses to buy, and fast fashion brands know this. The infamous swimsuit was advertised by last year’s Love Island contestant Ellie Brown, and being the official fashion sponsor of Love Island 2018, Missguided saw a 40 percent increase in sales. This year, another fast fashion brand, I Saw It First, secured a spot as the show’s official fashion partner, spending around £2 million on the partnership. With over 4.2 million viewers of Love Island’s first episode alone (57 percent appear to be 16-34 years old) the show has the ability to reach a huge number of potential consumers, and yet, it still decides to go for unethical brands.
Similarly, Emily Ratajkowski has recently launched a collection with Boohoo owned Nasty Gal, a brand known to be criticised for their mistreatment of workers while Kylie Jenner advertises for knock-off brand Fashion Nova via her Instagram with over 139.5 million followers. Celebrities and influencers make a conscious choice to promote these brands and in an age where Instagram seems to dictate all new trends, the choices they make allow us to feel a sense of relatability that we, too, can afford to dress like one of the Jenners. Although there is nothing wrong with that idea, influencers should also make a deliberate choice to promote more sustainable alternatives to their followers.
While it is the consumer who creates a demand for fast fashion, it’s unfair to entirely blame the consumer for the harmful environmental impacts or unethical working conditions of the industry. Of course, it’s true that spending £1 on a bikini could seem immensely appealing, but it is important to consider not only the impact this product will have on our planet, but also how the people who made it are affected by such low prices.
Affordable clothing is not only appealing but is essential too, and we consumers can help so much by simply buying less, shopping vintage or seeking other sustainable alternatives. Until the government or the brands alone begin regulating their carbon footprint, perhaps those with a platform should consider twice before encouraging impulse buying. Just putting it out there. In addition, Missguided has now changed the price of the bikini from £1 to £5—a feeble attempt at clearing their conscience or is selling a swimsuit for a literal pound not making enough profit? Either way, nice try.