Kylie and Kendall Jenner are yet again under the cosh in the fashion world for their controversial line of vintage T-Shirts including images of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls.
Lawyers representing ‘The Doors’ estate have filed a lawsuit against the reality stars over the T-shirts- despite Kendall’s apology post to Twitter and how quickly the shirts were pulled from stock.
The Jenner sisters released a new line of t-shirts for their clothing line that used pictures of some of the world’s most iconic music artists from Biggie and Tupac to Ozzy Osborne. However, controversy sparked over the sisters not asking permission from the representatives of the icons before they imposed their images on their t-shirts. Meanwhile, many were disillusioned and felt the t-shirts were disrespectful because Kendall and Kylie superimposed their own images (their most iconic photos from their Instagram accounts) on top of the faces of such renowned figures.
When the story first emerged, it was unclear whether the Jenner girls truly deserved the harsh criticism they faced. It does seem like we all enjoy watching the Kardashian and Jenner clan squeal for mercy at accusations of cultural appropriation and of imitating the business ideas of others; it was just last week that Khloe Kardashian was exposed for copying the designs of an up and coming African American stylist. However, we cannot ignore that this is a continuing pattern with the reality stars, and they never seem to learn their lesson.
Firstly, these t-shirts are problematic because they did not contact the estates of the celebrities whose images were used. This is something that is standard procedure when wanting to use an image in fashion. It is a surprise that the Jenner girls sought to ignore this vital step before designing their line, especially since they are quite experienced in the fashion world.
It was just in 2013 that Rihanna won a lawsuit against Topshop for using an image of her on a T-shirt without permission. This is standard practice throughout the business world, and yet a whole family who prides themselves on their business acumen did not feel that it would be necessary or even have the decency to ask for permission from the families of the artists – this strikes us as fairly strange considering the frequency of lawsuits in Hollywood.
Another bizarre detail in the story is that the Jenner girls put pictures of themselves on top of the images of the icons. The failed to tread with sensitivity. We can deduce from their actions that these girls see themselves as just as iconic if not more than artists that have shaped popular culture in the 21st century and perhaps they are but the disrespect they’ve exhibited will not be easily forgiven by the public.
The force of reality TV in the modern era is undeniable. We tap into the Kardashian-Jenner world every time we like a picture of them on Instagram, or watch their reality show. They are the celebrities that we love to hate and we hate to love. This gives them an enormous amount of power.
Lastly, we cannot discuss the actions of the Jenner girls without mentioning cultural appropriation which is something their family can’t seem to shy away from. Although, not all the images are of black artists, time and time again the Kardashian and Jenner clans are put under fire for it. For those of you who are not familiar with the term it is defined as the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of another culture.
However, we can take this definition further, cultural appropriation is the use of another culture by another group which in turn leads to the loss of ownership, rights and respect for those groups that created the culture in the first place. Whether people realise it or not, too many times, has this taken place towards the African diaspora in the western world. The community will create a culture for instance graffiti art in the African American community. When this community creates a new phenomenon, it is then looked down upon by the rest of society, yet when it is adopted by Europeans/Westerners it is deemed as something cool and edgy.
It is baffling how graffiti has become a leading world art yet the African Americans who began this cultural phenomenon were victimised and brutalised for the act of graffiti in their own communities. In relation to the Jenner girls, too many times have they worn African American culture like a sleeve. The use of Tupac and Biggie’s images underneath there’s speaks volumes about them and white American society and is a microcosm for the treatment of black culture in White America. It seems that black culture can be used by them whenever they feel like it, to benefit them, whether that is financially, in the political sphere or even just to look ‘cool’ with their friends. Yet, they can abandon this adoption whenever they feel like it.
However, the daily experience for many black and ethnic minorities of oppression and racism which has led to the flourishing of some of the most iconic culture’s in the world does not stop for them. They cannot one day just decide not to be black, to look black and be made to feel black.
Maybe the Jenner girls genuinely did not mean to offend anyone. However, as Sharon Osbourne rightly put it ‘girls, you haven’t earned the right to put your face with musical icons. Stick to what you know… lip gloss.’
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