Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
We have seen the face of the new fashion week front row and it is young. Ten years ago, when Jennifer Garner dreamed of being 13 Going on 30, Fashion Week was an event where front row seats were reserved for the middle-aged editors of popular women’s magazines. Back then the youngest person you’d catch a glimpse of was a twentysomething Chelsea Clinton. But political family scions have long been replaced by bloggers. Then by younger bloggers. And now, the front row isn’t even 13. It’s going on three.
Take the new front row it-girl Harper Beckham. Harper is four, which means that an appropriate accessory for her would be less a Birkin slung over her arm, and more a pacifier clutched between her teeth. That has not stopped her from, according to ET, "stealing the Burberry Fashion Show" (where she sat front row) "with her angelic face." And her opinions, insofar as they can be formed, do matter. Glamour UK ran an article on her wardrobe, claiming, "she’s already got more style cred than your average fash-obsessed 20-something." The Harper Beckham Fashion Blog keeps a running list of her outfits.
To her credit, Harper seems like a very well behaved four-year-old. That’s more than can be said for North West, the two-year-old daughter of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. The toddler attended the Alexander Wang show, where she was seated, along with her parents, next to Beyonce and Nikki Minaj. North West had a widely reported on temper tantrum halfway through the show. This was after the temper tantrum she threw at her dad's Adidas show, where, again, she was front row. This could have been because North really hates minimalism and sneakers (it is not entirely impossible to imagine, say, Karl Lagerfeld just screaming and screaming and refusing to stop if something displeased him on an aesthetic level).
Or, more likely, it could be because North is two, an age when children are supposed to be terrible.
Sophia Ecclestone, who is a literal baby, at least insofar as children under the age of one can be considered babies, sat front row at the Julien MacDonald show with her mother Tamara. Did she like it? Well, she did not scream or wail with wild abandon.
There are pretty obvious downsides to this, such as toddlers and infants having a terrible ability to control or predict their emotions.
According to Radar Online, Anna Wintour — who was supposedly extremely un-amused by North West’s antics — is considering a ban on toddlers at fashion shows. They claim, "Anna doesn’t think fashion shows are appropriate for very young children such as North West. The loud music, the lights from the show, along with flashes from all of the cameras, and of course all of the people, is just overwhelming to a toddler."
Yes, Anna. Yes, to all of this.
Obviously, it goes without saying that these children don’t really feel invested in fashion week. They are not getting themselves into their Little Tykes car and driving themselves over to The Dock at Skylight Moynihan Station because they’re just so jazzed about what August Getty is going to get up to. They don’t really care about the fashion yet, because they are tiny, small children. Their concerns are, very understandably, whether or not play-doh is a good thing to eat.
When Jennifer Lopez brought her four-year-old daughter to the Chanel fashion show and dressed her in $2,400 worth of Chanel accessories — an experience any one of us might envy — her daughter looked as though she wanted desperately to fall asleep.
So why, when their parents can certainly afford a babysitter for the afternoon, and there is a very real risk that their toddler might have a meltdown in the middle of the show, do parents continue to bring them? Why, for that matter, do designers allow them to show up?
Most likely because, while they may not be able to actually formulate opinions on the show, babies and toddlers make for spectacular photo-ops. As The Knockoff, by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza, aptly notes, Fashion Week today has two front rows. On one side, there are the famous faces. On the other side are the bloggers with hundreds of thousands of followers. They are there to snap pictures of the famous faces seated directly across from them with their phones and upload them instantly to the Internet.
They, understandably, have no interest in snapping photos of middle-aged editors of fashion magazines whose names they do not know.
So having a front row filled with recognizable celebrities is good for the bloggers because it shows they have glamorous lives and access to events their readership is interested in. It's good for the celebrities because they are photographed in a very pre-meditated way, when their hair and make-up and outfit is all nicely planned out. It's good for the designers because it shows that beautiful, influential celebrities love them and wear their clothing.
So, theoretically, a blogger should have a prime seat to photograph, say, Nicki Minaj. But a picture of Nicki Minaj is simply not all that interesting anymore. If Nicki's fans want to see her, they can go directly to her own instagram (it's @Nickiminaj).
But what they probably can't see is Nicki cooing over Kim Kardashian’s baby — unless Nick's very good at holding her selfie-stick at a weird angle. Bringing a child or toddler may do absolutely nothing but frighten the child, but it makes the celebrity parents look invested in their infant — at least, if you buy that the reason they brought the child is that they cannot bear to be parted with it for even an hour. It also makes all of the other celebrities seated next to that child cooing over it look really, really good. Everyone looks good smiling adoringly at children. Anna Wintour even looked a little softer than usual as she smiled at Harper Beckham.
Does this translate into any kind of clothing sales for the designer? No, not really. But it means that pictures of the shows’ celebrities attendees more interesting than Nicki Minaj sitting calmly will emerge. Offbeat images from the show — even if it’s just North West having a temper tantrum — translate into more press about that show. The toddlers presence and the seemingly candid pictures of other celebrities cooing makes the shows memorable, and worth writing about in the papers.
Of course, when all of this has been done enough, some other, even more photogenic group will take their place in the front row. Which would make this a great year for some celebrity to bring any 90-year-old relatives who might want to attend.