From Britney Spears at Kenzo and XTina at Versace, to Rihanna at Dior and Balmain
It’s no secret that getting a pop star to wear your designs – whether you’re an emerging creative or someone who’s long been established on the fashion scene – is a stroke of gold. Whether they’re sitting front row at fashion week, or storming the runway like J.Lo did at Versace this season, their presence is guaranteed to garner column inches and double-taps, and bring the brand a whole new audience in the form of said celeb’s fandom in the process. What’s that sound in the distance? It’s the sound of tills ringing, duh!
There are plenty of brands going one step further than just the frow, though, by enlisting pop stars to get involved with the creative process and debut their own collaborative collections. Remember that time JW Anderson worked with A$AP Rocky or when Karl Lagerfeld recruited Pharrell for Chanel? 2019 alone has seen Billie Eilish join forces with MCM, Honey Dijon drop a Comme des Garçons collab, and Nicki Minaj team up with Fendi on an offering which even came with its own soundtrack.
And then there’s the celebrity fashion campaign, which caught on in the early 00s when Christina Aguilera became the face of Versace. In the years since, we’ve seen Miley Cyrus for Marc Jacobs, Madonna front Louis Vuitton, and Britney take an iconic turn for Kenzo for SS18. With that in mind, here we take a look back at the times fashion campaigns went pop.
XTINA FOR VERSACE (AW03)
In 2003, six years after taking the helm at her late brother’s brand, Donatella Versace enlisted Christina Aguilera to star in the Versace AW03 campaign. With her oh-so-Y2K bottom lip and nose piercings, the iconic images show a then-22 year-old Xtina wearing a series of corseted looks, as shot by legendary photographer Steven Meisel.
At the time, Donatella told People “I watch the videos of Christina and I always die. She is a great dancer, a great singer, her voice is amazing. I always hoped I could do something with her, but I wanted to be friends first – that is the most important thing for me.”
RIHANNA FOR BALMAIN (SS14)
Long before Rihanna launched Fenty and began her domination of every part of the fashion industry, the Bajan singer was already heavily involved in the world of fashion. Her first appearance as a model was in 2011 when she was featured in an Emporio Armani and Armani Jeans campaign – before she became the new face of Parisian luxury house Balmain’s SS14 campaign three years later.
Shot in New York by Dutch photography duo Inez and Vinoodh, the campaign marked five years of Olivier Rousteing’s reign at Balmain, and was styled by her personal stylist Mel Ottenberg.
LADY GAGA FOR VERSACE (SS14)
One thing we all know is that Lady Gaga is a chameleon. She has the ability to transform herself into anyone or anything she wants to be – and in 2013, she became Donatella Versace. Soon after she dropped her song “Donatella”, the third track from her studio album Artpop, the eclectic singer appeared as the embodiment of the Italian designer for the label's SS14 campaign.
Lensed by Mert and Marcus, Gaga appeared in the campaign sporting dead-straight, extremely long blonde locks, looking uncannily similar to queen Versace herself.
RIHANNA FOR DIOR (SS15)
Yes, Rihanna deserves to be on this list twice. Why? Because in May 2015, the iconic Ms. Fenty made history when she became the first black woman to front a Dior campaign. Shot as part of Raf Simons’ Secret Garden series, the project was captured after sunset at the Chateau de Versailles by American photographer Steven Klein. The accompanying film sees Rihanna walk through famous parts of the location, including the hall of mirrors, as she casually makes the castle her home.
The campaign was inspired by the designer’s Japan-influenced Pre-AW14 collection, which at the time Simons told Dazed was about, ‘this idea of the metropol and in this city’.
PHARRELL WILLIAMS FOR CHANEL (PRE-FALL 2015)
Throughout his career, designer Karl Lagerfeld had a bunch of muses he would draw inspiration from and collaborate with (remember when he went through that phase of being obsessed with Lily Allen?) The most enduring source of inspiration was probably Pharrell Williams, who over the years has appeared both on the runway and in a series of campaigns.
For the Pre-fall 2015 campaign, Williams starred alongside Cara Delevingne and Lagerfeld’s godson Brad Kroenig. The collection, which took inspiration from nobles in 19th century Austria, was shown in Salzburg, where Williams didn’t just walk the runway, but also featured in an accompanying fashion film called Reincarnation.
In the time since the passing of Lagerfeld back in February, Williams has debuted his first Chanel Pharrell Collection and debuted a short film featuring models Adut Akech, Adesuwa, Anok Yai and Alton Mason.
KANYE WEST FOR BALMAIN (SS15 MENSWEAR)
As part of a series entitled Army of Lovers, Kanye was joined by wife Kim Kardashian for the Balmain SS15 menswear campaign, as photographed by Mario Sorrenti. The couple were shot up close and personal against a backdrop consisting of a black sports car and strip lights, with the images marking the first time the two had appeared in a campaign together.
Since then, West has collaborated with Olivier Rousteing several times, including on the music video for his song “Wolves”, and a number of Balmain x Yeezy garments – as worn by the Kardashian-Jenners at the Madison Square Garden Yeezy Season 3 show in NYC.
BRITNEY SPEARS FOR KENZO (SS18)
Shot in Los Angeles, towards the beginning of last year, Britney Spears fronted the SS18 campaign for Kenzo’s La Collection Momento line – instigated by former Kenzo creative directors Humberto Leon and Carol Lim. The images marked Spears’ debut high fashion campaign and were captured by the late Peter Lindbergh, in a throwback 80s style. Appearing in a series of full denim looks, the pop icon cemented her status as the unofficial blue jean queen, as if we were ever in need of clarification.
BILLIE EILISH FOR MCM (AW19)
Within a few months of starring in a Calvin Klein Jeans campaign, teenage music sensation Billie Eilish appeared in her sophomore fashion campaign for luxury leather brand MCM, shot by Lea Colombo. A first for the brand’s new global creative officer, Dirk Schönberger, the campaign shows Billie as we all know her – looking cool, in oversized clothing.
“For me, she’s a bit of a role model for younger generations, even though she would probably hate the word. I’ve seen her play concerts and she tells her fans to be themselves without holding back,” Schönberger explained to WWD of his partnership with Eilish. Not surprising, given that she’s made it crystal clear she doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks.
ARIANA GRANDE FOR GIVENCHY (AW19)
Earlier this year, Givenchy posted a few less than cryptic teasers of its latest campaign, featuring its new brand ambassador. It was pretty obvious to almost any human being that has been aware of pop culture in the last few years that the person in question was, indeed, Ariana Grande and her legendary ponytail. The full campaign dropped in the early summer months, with the series itself featuring a series of portraits of the star. Lensed by Craig McDean, there was also a mini film in which she broke into impromptu song. Iconic yes, but did it beat Yes, Egg? Hmmm... hold the line, caller.