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Kate Bosworth at the 2017 CFDA Awards.
Kate Bosworth at the 2017 CFDA Awards.
Photo: Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

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Why Is Fashion Still So Obsessed With Kate Bosworth?

Fifteen years after ‘Blue Crush,’ an investigation of the style star's lasting appeal.

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What do Diane Kruger, Camilla Belle, Jamie Chung, and most celebrities named Olivia have in common? They’re all famous, sure — but more specifically, they’re fashion famous, which is a decidedly different strain of celebrity.

Often spotted on red carpets and seated front row at runway shows, fashion celebrities are easy to identify. They’ve typically starred in at least one major movie or TV show (see: Camilla Belle in When a Stranger Calls, Diane Kruger in Inglourious Basterds), but are better known for their “style star” status than their onscreen work. They’re slim enough to fit into designer samples, though they’re not models by trade. And they’ve got booming Instagram presences, essentially making them influencers who just happen to have IMDb pages.

And while fashion celebrities tend be both interchangeable and easily replaceable (remember when having Mischa Barton or Tinsley Mortimer at your show was the ultimate sign of success for a new designer?), there’s one in particular who’s displayed remarkable resilience over the past decade: Kate Bosworth. Below, an extensive breakdown of what makes Bosworth the quintessential “style star.”

Michelle Rodriguez, Kate Bosworth, and Sanoe Lake in Blue Crush.
Michelle Rodriguez, Kate Bosworth, and Sanoe Lake in Blue Crush.
Photo: Universal Pictures/Getty Images

The Breakout Role

In 2002, Bosworth snagged the leading role in Blue Crush, a fact that’s still included in nearly every story about the star 15 years later. Sure, Bosworth also starred in 2004’s Win a Date With Tad Hamilton! and 2006’s Superman Returns, but Blue Crush still stands as her most memorable work to date — and chances are, you can’t name one of Bosworth’s films from this decade. (Do Big Sur, Amnesiac, or Before I Wake ring any bells? Thought so.)

Kate Bosworth at Calvin Klein’s Fall 2017 show.
Kate Bosworth at Calvin Klein’s Fall 2017 show.
Photo: Matthew Sperzel/Getty Images

The Street Style

For celebrities, dressing up for the red carpet is part of the job — but fashion celebrities need to look perfectly put together while off the clock, too, and Bosworth’s style has made her an industry favorite on par with the mythical French girl. A search for Bosworth’s name on Who What Wear, one of the first sites to actively cover the star’s every fashion move, calls up 2,668 posts with titles like “All the Style Lessons Kate Bosworth Has Taught Us” and “Kate Bosworth’s Secret Airport Style Tricks.”

Elsewhere on the internet, Bosworth’s sartorial aesthetic has been heralded as “impeccable,” “effortlessly cool,” and “so good, it's fair to say that it has eclipsed her actual career,” the latter of which is sort of the point.

“One thing I’ll admit is that Kate puts things together in really interesting ways using things you might already have in your closet, so it’s not intimidating,” explains InStyle fashion features director Stephanie Trong, who’s profiled Bosworth in the past. “I remember this photo of her at a Burberry show where she’d tucked her sweater into her pencil skirt; that’s a tiny twist on everyday dressing that feels new. You’re like, ‘I have a sweater and a pencil skirt! I could try that!’”

Kate Bosworth at an event in 2014.
Kate Bosworth at an event in 2014.
Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

The Look

Most fashion-famous stars have at least one defining physical feature that makes industry types swoon; Camilla Belle’s eyebrows, for example, have earned ample coverage on Glamour, The Cut, InStyle, and Self, to name a few, while Olivia Palermo’s hair has over a million search results and counting. In Bosworth’s case, it’s her heterochromia iridum — the condition responsible for her different-colored eyes — that seems to make her particularly irresistible to the fashion set, and (conveniently) a dream to photograph up close.

Bosworth’s body type, too, works to her advantage when it comes to gaining access to straight-off-the-runway clothes and scoring editorial spreads. “Let’s face it: She’s thin,” Trong says. “Clothes hang well on her. But I think her height [Ed note: Bosworth is 5 feet 5 inches] maybe makes her a little more identifiable to the shopping masses, and to girls who love her style. She’s aspirational, but not too aspirational. She’s not Gisele.”

Orlando Bloom and Kate Bosworth in 2006.
Orlando Bloom and Kate Bosworth in 2006.
Photo: John Sciulli/WireImage for Bragman Nyman Cafarelli

The Love Life

Nothing boosts a celebrity’s profile better than a high-profile romance; as such, it’s no surprise that most fashion celebrities have famous significant others. Both Camilla Belle and Olivia Culpo have been linked to a Jonas brother, for instance, while Jamie Chung’s married to One Tree Hill’s Bryan Greenberg.

Bosworth has dated both Orlando Bloom and Alexander Skarsgard, which kept her name and face in the press throughout the entirety of the aughts; now, she’s married to indie filmmaker Michael Polish (the two met on the set of the aforementioned Big Sur). And when Bosworth and Polish tied the knot in 2013, outlets ranging from Vogue to Martha Stewart Weddings enthusiastically covered both the event itself and Bosworth’s Oscar de la Renta dresses (yes, plural). After all, the only thing fashion people love more than a celebrity romance is a celebrity wedding.

An image from Kate Bosworth’s September 2016 Fashion Magazine cover shoot.
An image from Kate Bosworth’s September 2016 Fashion Magazine cover shoot.
Photo: Yu Tsai

The Magazine Covers

Magazines sure do love to feature Kate Bosworth. From Vogue and Elle to indie titles like Nylon and BlackBook, she’s fronted more mags than most stars, regardless of whether or not she had a film to promote at the time. (Typical fashion-first cover lines include “Kate Bosworth: Style Star” and “Kate Bosworth: From Style Icon to Cool Stepmum.”)

But does Kate Bosworth actually sell magazines? Perhaps: According to the Alliance for Audited Media, the March 2015 issue of Elle Canada starring Bosworth was the publication’s second-highest seller of the whole year. The only issue that beat Bosworth’s? September’s, incidentally covered by another fashion celebrity: Diane Kruger.

An image from Kate Bosworth’s January 2017 Tory Burch campaign.
An image from Kate Bosworth’s January 2017 Tory Burch campaign.
Photo: Margaret Zhang

The Modeling Gigs

You’ll still find Bosworth in plenty of magazines even when she’s not on the cover, because the star is a staple of fashion campaigns. She’s served as an ambassador for beauty brands like Revlon and SK-II; posed for Calvin Klein Jeans, Tory Burch, and Shopbop; and even (literally) sung the praises of cotton, to name a few. Considering how much such endorsements can pay, it’s no surprise that Bosworth doesn’t need to lean on film work to make ends meet.

But why not just cast, well, a model? “Kate’s got this following of women who want to dress like her, so she’s got built-in selling power,” Trong points out. “And because she’s constantly being featured on fashion blogs and style sites, of course that’s going to make a company look at her as opposed to a big-name model that most women don’t know. I think Alexa Chung is very much in this camp too: They’re half model, half real girl. [That’s the perfect package] to sell clothes and start trends.”

A press image for Kate Bosworth’s Jacques Marie Mage collection.
A press image for Kate Bosworth’s Jacques Marie Mage collection.
Photo: Jacques Marie Mage

The Fashion Collaborations

Of course, real-deal fashion celebrities don’t just pose in clothes: They help design them, too. Capsule collections and brand ambassadorships are an important part of the game, and Bosworth has plenty under her belt. In 2010, she and stylist Cher Coulter launched the affordable accessories brand JewelMint to much fashion-media fanfare.

“Editors were always so excited to cover JewelMint and to cover Kate,” says a fashion publicist who’s worked with Bosworth several times (including on JewelMint’s launch) and requested to remain anonymous. “Even for print editors, there was never a moment when they were like, ‘You know, we’ve covered Kate a little too much lately.’ And the pieces that she wore herself [in photoshoots and campaigns] always sold better, I remember that.”

In 2012, Bosworth teamed up with Topshop for a holiday campaign; two design collabs soon followed. In 2015, she helped create a footwear capsule with Matisse, and this year, she designed some sunglasses for Jacques Marie Mage.

Asked to explain what might draw brands to working with Bosworth, Trong points to the star’s personal style. “There’s a certain taste level, and it’s approachable,” she says. “She never goes too trendy; she never wears anything too over the top. It’s all very thoughtful and chic and consistent. And if you look at it from a brand’s perspective, that makes her a good translator of trends for girls who want to shop.”

Topshop, Matisse, and Jacques Marie Mage all declined to offer sales data for this story; however, WWD reports many of Bosworth’s Matisse designs sold out within 48 hours; and the star’s first Topshop collaboration similarly sold out in a matter of hours.

Kate Bosworth at Coachella 2015.
Kate Bosworth at Coachella 2015.
Photo: Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Coachella

The Festival Presence

Music festivals are second only to fashion weeks when it comes to key events on a fashion celebrity’s calendar, and for good reason: They’re a perfect opportunity for both brand-building and brand-shilling. Bosworth, a Coachella regular since 2009, often shows up in expensive designer outfits (we’re talking $3,000 Etro jackets and $1,250 Roger Vivier sandals) and has made a habit of debuting her latest fashion collaborations on the festival grounds; her first Topshop range was even inspired by her Coachella style.

Bosworth has insisted in interviews that she doesn’t overthink her festival attire. Still, “the rise of festival style really helped Kate stay relevant,” says the anonymous publicist. “It helped her pivot — and she really did pivot from being an actress to more of an It girl.”


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