In a recent interview with Laura Craik for The Telegraph, Manolo Blahnik discussed his love of the muse and the way that they should be a representative of their era. Talking of Kim Kardashian as the muse of the moment, Blahnik said: ‘Jean Shrimpton, Twiggy… these kind of girls were idols. I don’t even know who is what any more. And there are so many. So famous. Celebrities – I hate that word “celebrity” – because in my time, people did things. They used to be copied because they were doing something.’ But the question is, are the celebrities of today really muses in the way that Hollywood actresses and supermodels of the past were? Is it even fair to make a comparison in this moment of hyperactive, all-intrusive social media?
First of all we have to think about our understanding of what a muse really is. The muse of the twentieth century to which Blahnik is referring, Twiggy, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Coco Chanel, were beautiful women who were more than just beautiful. They were actresses, designers, models and socialites. Those lucky enough to meet them talked of their charm and their effortless style. They were the women men loved and women wanted to be.
So, how does Kim K compare?
First of all, I have to admit that I am not her biggest fan. If I were to pick a muse for our era I would look to Keira Knightley, Rosie Huntington-Whitelely and Lilly Collins. To me they have that effortless style and beauty that we see in the muses of the past. Kim Kardashian is just a little more try-hard, her look is more synthetic. Although this look is certainly current in this moment of Instagram filters and photo-shopping, I don’t think that it lends itself to the near-mystical allure of the muse. Kim Kardashian and other socialite, reality TV stars are too close proximity to the mass produced goods that the high-street is churning out. They make promises of aesthetic beauty and a glamour that is attainable, but that in itself is the problem. A muse is not supposed to be easily attainable. Designers want to create for someone who is unique and who will only wear their clothes if they want to.
What is the point of designing for someone who follows every trend?
Times have changed and trends are appearing every couple of weeks. There are now pre-season shows and mid-season collections and trends are being forecasted a year in advance.
No longer is the muse meant to inspire the designer to create as with models such as Twiggy. Instead, the modern day muse is meant to inspire the consumer to buy.
Images of these women in looks that can easily be replicated by online stores and high street shops are plastered across every social media platform, they tell us that these looks are original and beautiful and we can be original and beautiful too – if we just ignore the irony of wearing the exact same thing as the other millions of girls and women who are also following the Kardashians on Twitter.
The role of muse has been turned on its head. No wonder a traditional designer feels disillusioned by the celebrities that claim the title of muse nowadays.
The muse is no longer there to inspire, they are there to sell.