Love her or hate her, Kim Kardashian West is an inescapable media presence, one whose influence is particularly felt within the fashion industry.
And while it was only a few years ago that the idea of Kardashian West’s ability to move into the highest echelons of fashion would have been incredible, she’s had the last laugh. The girl who was once best known for being the closet-organizing element of Paris Hilton’s entourage is now part of the elite—and when it comes to fashion clout and social influence, few can compete.
Kardashian West’s skill is her ability to turn the mundanity of her life into headlines. And for the more dramatic moments, whether she’s posting topless selfies with top models or appearing in advertising for luxury brands, fashion is a powerful tool within her attention-seeking arsenal. When what you’re wearing—or not wearing—serves as a consistent talking point within the media, aligning yourself with designers is a savvy business move.
Balmain doesn’t design collections in Kardashian West’s honor simply because she’s pals with Olivier Rousteing; the relationship provides each party with the ultimate currency—exposure. The second another reality star learns how to leverage their fame into that kind of omnipresence, fashion will come calling. But who will it be?
One-time reality TV stars like The Simple Life’s Nicole Richie, The Hills’s Lauren Conrad, and The City’s Olivia Palermo have all used a combination of public interest and personal style to shape their careers and emerge successfully as style experts with loyal followings. Still, the list of reality stars who’ve been able to successfully enter fashion beyond the mass market remains small. Despite what Keeping Up With the Kardashians might suggest, fashion has been historically slow to embrace those who make their living off of sharing their private lives with a TV audience—even in the ages of Snapchat and Periscope! So who will be the next reality star to follow in Kardashian West’s very lucrative footsteps?
Photo: Getty Images
The most obvious successor is Kylie Jenner, whose rise from background KUWTKplayer to the pouty-lipped queen of social media has made her almost as infamous as her older sister. Already appearing at New York Fashion Week shows like Alexander Wang and Prabal Gurung, Jenner has taken more than a few pages from her sibling’s playbook.
All images via Galore Magazine
Other contenders include RuPaul’s Drag Race star Milk (aka Dan Donigan), who’s front and center in Marc Jacobs’s latest ad campaign—making him one of the first male reality stars to land a prestigious fashion ad. Love & Hip Hop’s K. Michelle boasts both Kardashian West’s extreme proportions and her oversize follower count.
Castmate Cardi B’s outspoken personality has made her a potent source of meme-able moments, and style-obsessed Real Housewives stars like NeNe Leakes and Erika Jayne have provided just as many golden TV moments. All of these people are entertaining, popular, and ostentatious in a very specifically reality TV way—but are they fashion?
Well, not really—but neither was Kardashian West, at the beginning. One thing is for certain: The next Kim is coming.