This week, Nicki Minaj debuted her neon, metallic, spandex-heavy Kmart clothing line and most reactions involved the word crazy — which is actually a sign of success, since crazy is an appropriate adjective for Nicki’s cartoon superheroine style.
The problem is that Nicki says she “definitely didn’t want people to think, oh, she’s only going to have crazy stuff in her line.” As she unveils cropped metallic bustiers paired with skintight leggings patterned to resemble Lisa Frank pencil cases, Nicki describes her line as “rich stuff, quality stuff. My big thing is that it cannot look cheesy or cheap.” It’s like someone accidentally handed her Martha Stewart’s old Kmart PR scripts. “Comfortable equals confident,” a woman who once paired a sheet-metal peplum with mechanized pasties says.
“Crazy” is what Nicki does best, and Kmart’s willingness to go there with her — and with the club girls who want to look like her — is why the troubled Kmart still manages to provide a more entertaining shopping experience than competitors like Kohl’s. Kmart is where celebrities get down with their bad selves and (arguably) bad taste. Kmart is where Sofia Vergara sells leopard-print shapewear. Kmart is where Jaclyn Smith sells cork wedges to moms who miss the seventies. Kmart is where Selena Gomez sold flower crowns to teen spring breakers before she joined Spring Breakers. Kmart’s celebrity clothing is the most honest celebrity clothing in America.
For the purposes of mass retail, a celebrity’s presence in an eponymous clothing line is often reduced to a label in an otherwise nondescript product, plus a handful of promotional appearances. These bland-ifying forces have neutered the tacky and tasteful alike. In the hands of Kohl’s, Jennifer Lopez’s famously oversexed style turns into modest Sunday school clothing. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s J.C. Penney line Olsenboye is similarly unrecognizable. Everyone knows how the Olsens dress. From the clothing lines they devote most of their energy to — CFDA-winning the Row and slightly less pricey Elizabeth and James — we also know how the Olsens think others should dress. But when we look at Olsenboye’s schoolgirl plaids and twee embellishments, we see J.C. Penney, not Olsens.
If Nicki Minaj, Sofia Vergara, and Jaclyn Smith had not achieved fame— if they had not become the pampered playthings of professional stylists and makeup artists — they would still be the flashiest women in your apartment building, PTA, or work carpool. And they would wear the clothing they sell at Kmart. Nicki Minaj’s crazy clothing line is a democratized version of Nicki Minaj’s crazy style. That’s the point of a celebrity clothing line, isn’t it? Maybe this clothing line is not to your personal taste, but you must acknowledge that it is, at least, correct. There is virtue in accuracy.