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The latest wedding in the family became a walking ad for Dolce & Gabbana. Is this a new model for celebrity matrimony?
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Vanessa Friedman and
This weekend, Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker got married for the third time, following a just-for-fun ceremony in Las Vegas with Elvis presiding and an intimate legal ceremony in Santa Barbara, Calif.
But in every sense, this was the Big One — hosted at a castle in Portofino, Italy, and staged in front of a Gothic altar that looked as if it came from the set of Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet,” with almost the entire Kardashian-Jenner family in attendance.
And yet it was more than just a wedding. As photos from the Italian coast began trickling out, it became clear that one fashion brand had its fingerprints all over the weekend’s festivities: Dolce & Gabbana appeared to be dressing every member of the family, mostly in skintight outfits heavy on lace, tulle and drama, with multiple outfit changes each day. (This is the same formerly scandal-embroiled brand whose co-founder once referred to the Kardashians as “the most cheap people in the world” in an Instagram comment.) Let’s discuss the implications.
Jessica Testa We’ve seen brand partnerships play out at celebrity weddings before — usually in the bride’s outfits, or the Champagne served at the reception, or the hotel used as the venue — but never like this. The Milan luxury house effectively turned the weekend into an ad campaign in real time. Was it effective?
Vanessa Friedman Not only an ad campaign, but even better: an ad campaign created by other people! Together, the Kardashian-Jenners invited (and dressed) by Dolce have many hundreds of millions of followers, all eagerly consuming their every Instagram post: Kris (47.9 million followers) wearing leopard chiffon (presumably available now at the Dolce boutique) as well as Dolce makeup (ditto) lounging on leopard-spotted cushions (presumably part of Dolce Home) on a leopard sofa. According to Launchmetrics, which collects data on brand performance, the wedding weekend has already earned “$25.4 million in Media Impact Value” for Dolce, thanks in large part to Instagram posts from the Kardashian-Jenners.
It was the ultimate in sponsored social media, except the designers told the Business of Fashion that they were simply “hosting” the event, the way friends do for one another. And it is true, there is a long history of designers and celebrities scratching each other’s backs on special occasions (especially weddings), to the benefit of both. It’s just not usually this … all-encompassing. Or unabashed.
JT I did appreciate that many of the outfits were archival. It was a smart marketing move: The family gets style points for wearing vintage (like Kourtney’s pre-wedding sheer red gown from 1998), and Dolce scores some for proving it was one of the originators of the Y2K look dominating fashion right now.
And yet! The whole thing still felt like a brand-sponsored wedding, even if it technically (very technically) wasn’t. It was a little cynical and a lot gaudy. Perhaps that gaudiness was the point, but from what we saw on social media, it lacked any kind of self-awareness that would make that point clear.
VF I agree, though I guess we really shouldn’t be surprised, given the way the Kardashian-Jenners have managed to monetize their mere existence — and kudos to Kris for figuring this out long before anyone else, and effectively launching not just her family but an entire industry. (We can debate later what this has meant for the culture.) And certainly, it was foreshadowed by Kim’s marriage to Kanye West in 2014, which began with a Valentino Garavani-hosted brunch, to which Kim wore (natch) Valentino. It was followed by a ceremony in Italy to which she wore Givenchy couture designed by her “good friend” (to quote Harper’s Bazaar) Riccardo Tisci.
The celebration was followed by what was, until now, one of the most product-placed weddings of them all: Gwyneth Paltrow’s nuptials with Brad Falchuk, soon after which Goop published a “sourcebook” for every item involved. It does make me long for the days when Jennifer Aniston married Brad Pitt in pretty much secret, releasing only one tasteful black-and-white photo to the ravenous hordes. Or Jay-Z and Beyoncé, who kept the details under wraps until long after the fact.
JT There are certainly celebrities who still keep things private; consider Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas, whose 2019 wedding in the South of France was incredibly private — Sophie didn’t share behind-the-scenes photos on Instagram for two years. But then consider Nick Jonas, who married Priyanka Chopra months earlier and documented all of the endorsement deals leading up to the wedding, including vodka and scooters at his bachelor party (while she made content to promote Amazon’s wedding gift registries).
There is a real thirst for knowledge that underlies many of these deals, though. I keep thinking of another wedding, held last weekend — that of Chloë Sevigny, queen mother of New York’s cool girls, and Sinisa Mackovic. The content coming from that wedding wasn’t obviously sponsored, so people took it into their own hands. The Strategist published a guide to every item found at the wedding, including ice swans and silver cigarette cups. I clicked immediately! On some level we crave this information!
VF We’re as culpable as the celebrities in this cycle, it’s true. But something else strikes me about the Kardashian-Dolce relationship: It’s not just what the wedding families get out of it (a fabulous vacation, wardrobe, etc.), but what the brand gets: free advertising and the family’s blessing. It’s also the ultimate form of comeback after the canceling of the company after its China debacle in 2018, when they seemingly offended the entire country with a campaign that played to racist clichés. Not to mention the assortment of politically incorrect statements made by Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana.
Though other celebs have been wearing Dolce on the red carpet sporadically since then, including Kate Middleton, and though its couture shows have been well-attended by its loyal V.I.C.s (very important customers), this is really the cherry on top: a public, performative welcoming back in the ultimate ritual of affection.
One last question, though: What did you think of the clothes themselves?
JT Kourtney’s embroidered Virgin Mary tulle veil was remarkable, apparently inspired by a tattoo on the top of her new husband’s skull. I love when brides wear something unconventional that reveals their personality — though I’m really not sure what aspect of her personality she was revealing in her lingerie-inspired minidress. It all seemed less like a wedding and more like a costume party. The theme being Italian excess, maybe? (Khloe wore a gold halo crown befitting a saint in a Renaissance painting; Kendall Jenner wore a long skirt set similar to the dress Monica Bellucci fabulously wore to Cannes in 1997. You get the idea.)
What did you think?
VF Costume party is the right term. The trio of tiny Dolce corset dresses Kourtney wore at: first her Vegas wedding, then her pre-wedding Italian celebration (the black goth number from 1998 with a Virgin Mary embroidered on the front, worn with a sheer veil and opera gloves) and finally her actual nuptials seemed calculated to play to the smartphone rafters. Mssrs. Dolce and Gabbana can make elegant, lovely clothing, but this was the campy Sicilian widow side of their aesthetic. Here’s hoping this is the tipping point for both the styles and the whole branded wedding situation.
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