Louis Vuitton recently announced the new face of their womenswear line and the model is everything you'd expect for someone repping a high-end fashion label: Tall, thin, glowing, effortlessly cool, unique. Oh, and he's a he. Jaden Smith, the son of famed actors Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, is the face of the LV Spring/Summer 2016 women's campaign.
On one hand, this is a great way to blur the gender lines in fashion. Men should be able to rock womenswear, and women should be able to rock menswear. (And you've got to admit he's killing it in that black-and-white outfit.) Still, I can't help but think this is problematic for some women's body image. I love the strides we've made in terms of gender fluidity, but I don't love the fashion industry's history of hiding women's curves.
Celebitchy summed up my unease in their coverage, writing, "My first thought was 'It was only a matter of time before the fashion industry just got teenage boys to model women's clothes anyway.' Today's women's fashions are already made for that kind of figure—slim-hipped, small-breasted, all legs and arms. So why not just admit the obvious and get a teenage boy to model those styles?"
As a woman with enough curves to likely preclude me from ever wearing couture (not that I could afford it anyhow), it feels like this is just one more way fashion is telling us that our bodies aren't good enough. It's not enough to be a woman with the proportions of a teenage boy. Now to be considered beautiful you actually have to be a boy? That seems like the opposite of what women have been working for—for decades.
It gets even more uncomfortable when you consider the current plus-size debate around couture. While several fashion houses have included the (very) occasional larger-size woman on the catwalk or in an ad, never has one been picked to front the campaign. So just to be clear: A man gets to be the face of LV Women before a plus-size woman? Okay.
I can hear you saying now, "But there's room for everyone in fashion! Just because Jaden is pretty doesn't make the rest of us less pretty!" And you'd be right. Just because a dude has a great body image doesn't mean we can't. My problem isn't that a man is wearing or even modeling women's clothing. (Go Jaden!) It's that so many women are still excluded from women's fashion.
But fashion has never promised to be equal or fair. At its best, it makes us think about how we view ourselves, and forces us to question and expand our idea of beauty, which can certainly be empowering in its own right.
To that end, Jaden had this to say in a statement he released about his new job: "I like wearing super-drapey things so I can feel as though I'm a superhero, but don't have to necessarily wear superhero costumes every day." I love that. I just wonder when we're going to stop telling girls that superheroes need to be men.