September Issues are a big deal in the fashion industry. They usher in a season of newness and re-invention as trends shift. They are characterized by a year long preparation, with an aim to make statements with covers and editorial spreads. A lot of work goes into them (See: ‘The September Issue’ documentary). They’ve become popular and mainstream over the years and their significance is widely recognized by the fashion community. An avid fashion and pop culture enthusiast like myself waits in anticipation every August for major fashion publications to reveal their September cover stars and this year was not any different. I have to admit though; 2017’s September Issues did not enthuse me as much I had hoped for, apart from Kirsten Stewart’s enchanting effort at Harper’s Bazaar UK. Much to my dismay, because the year has been quite an eventful one in fashion, pop culture and moreso in politics – which makes for enough material to produce groundbreaking September cover issues.
One person who showed up, superlatively, is Kim Kardashian-West. With two September covers under her belt this year and appearances in two other major fashion publications. Mrs West is no ordinary woman and when she cosplays it is no ordinary characters either. In the various publications she is channeling different famous women, whom like herself, are known for being trailblazers in their respective lanes, secure in their sensuality and even in the opposite – modesty.
It wouldn’t be a Kim Kardashian-West project if it does not actuate meltdowns and evoke heated clashes of personal opinions. She is this era’s single most polarizing figure in pop culture afterall – her ability to create schisms and elicit the ardent moralist in many is – her talent. She absurdly does so with little to no effort.
On her debut cover issue for Interview Magazine, Kardashian-West is in character as she channels the iconic Jackie Onassis. A task that the likes of Katie Holmes and Natalie Portman have previously described as ‘intimidating and scary’, but Kardashian-West is no timid person. The interview is conducted by transgender activist and author Janet Mock who gets Kardashian-West to opine on much deeper issues, like the current political climate and her consciousness about raising biracial kids. On the cover she is photographed alongside her adorable daughter North West, who also scores herself her first fun-nterview.
The concept and the spread is flawlessly executed. It’s thought-provoking and enthralling. It elicits feelings, whether it is the feeling of being offended by Kardashian-West being transformed into the indomitable Jackie Onassis – or the “America’s New First Lady” title given to her – or her unusual modesty, presented in signature Jackie O-sque clothes and accessories that cover almost every inch of her skin – a departure from her usual sexy looks.
This cover and spread makes a glaring statement, it prompts conversations (and spurs meltdowns on Instagram blogs comment sections, Twitter and the likes) – whether around her personhood or American pop culture. Is she worthy of channeling Jackie O?. Did she do it well?. How does her quintessential sexual image and Jackie O’s subdued, modest image juxtapose?. Either way this cover and spread achieves what makes a September Cover – spellbinding, evocative and chasmic. It’s controversial and gets the people talking.
Acclaimed photographer Steven Klein describes his model and long-time collaborator as a “chameleon” and in a series of riveting images Kim exudes femininity, modesty and the charm of Jackie O. It is exactly the direction which Steven Klein was going for, “to capture feminine beauty as an expression of empowerment and self-respect” he says. Contrary to what dissidents claim, Jackie O and Kardashian-West are not polar opposites – they are both captivating and influential global icons of their eras – and, as Mock aptly describes: “underestimated, misunderstood and undeniably fascinating”.
Harper’s Bazaar Arabia also revealed the ‘KUWTK’ star as their September Cover star on its biggest issue ever with 420 pages. Kim’s sensual spirit comes alive as she pays homage to the pop goddess and mutual fan Cher, in a glamorous fashion spread laden with gorgeous beaded dresses with sashaying fringes and poses reminiscent of the pop star’s past shoots.
With buttock-grazing raven hair, white eye-liner and long eyelashes, the 36-year-old is a Cher doppelganger as she transforms perfectly into a modern version of the global music star in each stunning image. She is not new to cosplaying for the masthead – she paid homage to her other idol Elizabeth Taylor, in 2011.
Shot by Mariano Vivanco and titled ‘Iconic Spirit’, the issue’s cover “Pays tribute to another Armenian woman at the vanguard of style” Louise Nichol of Harper’s Bazaar said, “Cher, a woman whose fashion choices 40 years ago must have caused as much furore as Kim’s provocative selfies do today”. The work that Kim did on the cover issue is so GOOD that she received praise from Cher herself, who gushed like a proud big sister on Twitter by posting one of the spread pictures with a sweet caption saying: “My Little Armenian did us both proud”.
Inside the issue Kim raves about her obsession with Cher’s “sickest style” that she often emulates in the form of sheer feathery gowns. She defends her sexiness as a mother of two. She is comfortable in her sensuality and wants other mothers to feel the same way. She also mentions that she is a feminist – who does not feel the need to claim the label to be regarded as one. Politically, she wishes to make more meaningful contribution to the discourse and she reckons her daughter North West can do a much better job than Donald Trump. Ouch!
In other September Issue appearances, the celebrity mogul emulates and celebrates rapper Lil Kim and bombshell Pamela Anderson in the CR Fashion Book Issue 11. She also poses climbing a tree in nothing but black combat boots and her breasts covered by black stars in the new Mert & Marcus book. Both books hit newstands on September 7th.
The conventionally talented of this world are judged by the art they create – actors for films they star in, musicians for the songs and albums they make, dancers for their execution of choreography – theirs amongst other art forms is respectable art as the world since its inception has accepted. The closest to art-sy that Kim gets to is certainly in her modelling abilities which Steven Klein describes as ‘her gift’. “She can easily change accordingly to the set intention and with little effort” he raves, “Her innate relationship to the camera. A muse of the modern times”.
She may not be 5”11 as per height requirements but she is a delight in front of the lens and her wondrous editorial and cover portfolio attests to that. She gives many high-fashion models a run for their money. And she wins September 2017.
Subject to ignorant criticism for having no talent, as if conventional talent is the only means to success, she has carved her own lane in pop culture and defined her own talent through indefatigable hard work. As September Issues call for transformation and re-invention, Kim is well within her evolution too – whether in her provocative and semi avant-garde fashion choices or her newly found commanding attitude and ownership.
”You can say a lot of things about me” she proclaims “but you cannot say I don’t work hard. I don’t sing. I don’t dance. I don’t act. But I am not lazy”. After a decade of humorously accepting being underrated, Kim Kardashian-West is ditching the modesty, demanding credit and recognition – as she should.