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Naomi Campbell’s Risky Business: Exploring the Controversy Surrounding Her New Clothing Line

Mmesooma Ejike
Staff Writer

Naomi Campbell was one of the first black models to reach supermodel status. When you take the “Big Six” supermodels of the 90s, she is one of one in terms of models of color. That is no small feat. It is hard to describe how much representation matters in the fashion industry. Not only was she a model of color, but she was a woman of darker complexion at that. Seeing Campbell make a path for herself in an industry as competitive as this one, communicated to all the little black girls of the 90s that they could step into the world and find spaces where they could thrive. Being the first black woman to grace the covers of Vogue France and Time Magazine conveyed to those young minds that they, too, were worthy to occupy these spaces.

A common misconception in the world of modeling is that it requires no talent, no skill. It is assumed that all it takes is to walk around and look beautiful. While that is a large part of it, many models pursue modeling alongside other passions. In Campbell’s case, this additional passion is the ability to create. Her desire to design her own clothes has dual motivations. Her new line came to be through passion, yes, but also through the motivation to keep her name—her legacy—alive.

Naomi Campbell announces collaboration (Photo courtesy of Drapers)

Campbell is 53 years old. So, in order to connect with a generation of girls who didn’t grow up when she was most active, she would need to continue her work in the industry to bridge that gap. This endeavor equally provides her with the opportunity to learn as well as impart her wisdom. Fashion is many things, but stagnant has never been one of them. Through her collaboration with Pretty Little Things, she is able to familiarize herself with the ebb and flow of trends in fashion.

The line, “PrettyLittleThing x Naomi Campbell Spring/Summer 2024,” debuted at New York Fashion Week on September 5th, 2023. The launch did not have a completely smooth landing. There have been critiques on the means through which this partnership came to be. Questions arose as people looked at the collaboration through the context of Campbell’s close friendship with PrettyLittleThing’s former CEO Umar Kamani. Kamani and Campbell have a strong, friendly professional relationship. This close working relationship is the reason the supermodel chose the platform to launch her brand. However, people found it difficult to accept that she would opt for an online platform that specializes in “fast fashion.” The company “creates short-lived, fast fashion products.” To produce products in such a manner would require extensive labor—labor which, revealed through substantive investigation, is performed by exploited workers, making less than minimum wage. Fast fashion is beneficial to consumers’ pockets, but it has detrimental environmental and social impacts. As of last year, it was widely recognized that the company was guilty of all these things. With the ethicality of this fashion retailer in question, is it easy to understand why Campbell, a new associate, would be under fire.

Campbell pictured with Kamani (Photo courtesy of BFA)

PrettyLittleThing entered the new year with a goal of improving on its practices. Seemingly in response to the backlash, it has statements, on its US sector page, attesting to its growing focus on sustainability.

As previously mentioned, critics spoke up, fearing the icon was risking her reputation. Yet, Campbell spoke up in defense of her recent promotional and executive decisions, saying, “fashion shouldn’t discriminate.” She hopes to invoke positive change in the industry. The question, now, is whether these are changes regarding garment designs or ecology.

As for the featured pieces themselves, it is important to note the inclusion of plus-size models in this campaign. Alongside Campbell herself, there is a wide range of models, in both size and complexion, that can be seen modeling the clothes. It is important to note that many of the pants, skirts, and gowns featured in this collection were tailored to be fairly long. Campbell, like most models, is quite tall, standing at approximately 5 ft. 10 in. It is just interesting to note that her line factored in the struggles taller women face when shopping, a strife which other brands have notoriously ignored. The idea seems to be that clothes should work for taller women, while anyone who may need them tailored can do so.

All in all, this collaboration is still in its early days. Campbell likely has much more to offer, as the trailblazer she is. The hope is that this recent venture does not do anything to tarnish the legacy she has spent decades building for herself. One day at a time, goals like Campbell’s help break age-related stereotypes and promote a more inclusive beauty standard.


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