Louis Vuitton’s Creative Director Nicolas Ghesquière announced yesterday via his personal Instagram, that 17-year-old Jaden Smith is the new face for Louis Vuitton’s SS16 campaign … but for womenswear. Bruce Weber photographed the slightly controversial campaign, which showcases Jaden, the son of Will and Jada Smith…in a skirt. This has furthered added fuel to the fire of what is heteronormative in our society.
The first photo shows a close-up of Jaden wearing a leather jacket with a black and white fringed top underneath, paired with a long black skirt. The second image is an editorial in the same outfit, this time with models Sarah Brannon, Rianne Van Rompaey, and Jean Campbell (in his same outfit). At first glance, it’s easy to assume that Jaden, in his androgynous swag, is just another female model; a look he’s become semi-known for. The free-spirited, outspoken teen is an admitted fan of wearing, “girl clothing.”
Wearing a skirt is nothing new for Smith. He has been flexible and gender fluid in fashion for a few years now. Last year, he went to prom with Hunger Games actress, Amandla Stenberg, wearing a black blazer, a long black tunic, and a midi-length white skirt. In 2013, his clothing line, MSFTSrep featured gender neutral tops and skirts. Not even a legal adult, Jaden’s clothing and collaboration choice challenges thoughts of fashion and definitions of sexuality within the black community.
Fashion houses have been capitalizing off the gender-neutral and androgynous trends, but it’s usually featuring white faces. Cara Delevingne was featured in the 2015 DKNY menswear campaign with a bare face, tousled hair, in a black suit and tie. The fashion runways are straying away from the ‘typical’ looks, featuring men with more feminine features, like longer hair and women with more masculine looks.
Nevertheless, the Black community has been less eager to take on this trend. Anyone remember when 50 Cent called out Snoop Dogg for having a french manicure? How about when Omar Epps wore a leather skirt over jeans on The View?
Women wear ‘boyfriend jeans’, mens suits, and loafers with no raised eyebrows. However, when Black men challenge gender norms with skirts and manicures, people are not exactly accepting.
Jaden is wearing a skirt – why do we find this so ‘offensive’? Louis Vuitton is being innovative by not directing consumers in a particular direction and simply showcasing the collection. We don’t want girls and boys toys to be separated, BUT we want clothing separated. Can we stop micromanaging each others lives? So much psychological and emotional damage is done when we create these stringent boxes. Why can’t we just decide for ourselves what we enjoy wearing … and wear it?
When Kanye, well…Kanye’d…and wore a skirt to fundraise for Hurricane Sandy at the 12.12.12 concert, everyone was focused not on his good deed, but on the fact he was wearing a skirt. Hurricane Sandy caused $128B in damage, the only storm that has ever caused more in the United States was Hurricane Katrina. It was shocking that a skirt overshadowed his overall message. It even led to Brand Nubian member, Lord Jamar to call Kanye, “queer” and criticize his fashion choices.
Instagram, Black man lookin’ half a f*g / With a blazer and vest, I’m just amazed at the mess / Pioneer of this queer s**t is Kanye West/He introduced the skinny jeans to the rap scene / Then he wore a f***ing skirt on the video screen / Then he wore it again at a memorial / I can’t pretend that this s**t ain’t deplorable / I bet this n***a thinkin’ he lookin’ adorable / Your music’s good but your ego is horrible…
~ Lift Up Your Skirt, Lord Jamar
Even with stars like Frank Ocean and Jussie Smollet discussing their homosexuality, there is still a huge stigma around masculinity and what it looks like. Hip-hop fuels the anti-gay sentiments that are embedded within our community. There are numerous rap lyrics criticizing homophobia and gender-bending fashion choices, leading to social pressure that limits style, fashion, and ultimately…creativity. People aren’t born with polarizing views. However, the stereotypes we see in gender-marketing play heavily on the inequalities of everyday life. If more brands marketed in a gender fluid manner, like Louis Vuitton and DKNY, would seeing a man in a skirt still be so shocking?
Today, Willow Smith came to the defense of her brothers’ campaign.
Continue to live free, Jaden.
What do you think? Do you think Jaden should be able to wear what he wants? Or are you uncomfortable with the campaign? Share your thoughts with us below.