The Fashion Peacekeepers: How Can Lily Allen Not Be Chanel’s Muse?

There’s kind of a random op-ed in the Femail section of The Daily Mail today called “How Can Lily Allen Be Chanel’s Latest Fashion Muse?” that bemoans Karl Lagerfeld’s apparent fascination with the singer, whom the writer refers to as looking “worse for wear” in the past. It’s curious for several reasons: The paper is known for publishing as much as it possibly can about the real girl vs. models debate–they’re always quick to lay it on thick when it comes to busting airbrushers and acquiring quotes from magazine editors who vow to fight too tiny sample sizes, and they even have a regular feature where they photograph their writers trying on designer clothes worn by celebrities to see how they translate in real life. So why would they bother with a piece by a writer who’s all pissed off about Lily Allen being the latest Chanel girl because she’s not fashion enough? It’s also just kind of ranty and pointless–fine for a blog, not a paper (then again this is the tabloidy Daily Mail we’re talking about not the NYTimes). It’s not that I expect so much more from them, but as misguided as the Femail section can be, when it comes to fashion they consistently champion the realway instead of the runway and they’ve been doing a fairly good job covering the revolutionary changes the industry is currently experiencing.

Anyway, writer Nicole Mowbray thinks that the pairing of Lily Allen and Chanel is a total disaster. She writes that the word Chanel “evokes images of glamour, luxury and understated French chic,” and that the label “embodies class, which goes to explain the allure for the label’s iconic poster women over the years – Audrey Hepburn, Catherine Deneuve, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor. And now – Lily Allen,” which she means to emphasize as some kind of record scratch. Sounds like someone is a ‘lil stuck in the past. Mowbray is awfully concerned about Allen’s reputation, but compared to most of the other women in the brand’s heritage, Allen is hardly scandalous. And alongside some of her modern-day peers, the 24-year-old is positively squeaky clean. But there’s more…

Is she not stylish enough? Yes, apparently, Mowbray may poo-poo the prom dress with sneakers look Allen wore back in the day, but she was a teenage pop star for christssakes! Besides, it was a cute look that spawned a huge trend across the US and UK, her style has certainly grown more sophisticated with age, and seeing as how she’s a very young woman yet, she’ll no doubt have many more sartorial incarnations, like um, her current Chanel phase. So what’s the real issue here?

Could the problem have something to do with the idea that Allen is a bit too real because her figure more closely resembles the average woman (well, more closely so than say, Keira Knightley, another Chanel spokesmodel)? Read the editorial and it’s hard not to read between the lines. Maybe Lily Allen isn’t as elegant as the more modelesque celebs Chanel has favored in the past, but she does look more like some of my girlfriends. And during a time when the old school fashion labels are desperately struggling to stay relevant, casting someone as accessible and yet edgy as Lily Allen in the new face of Chanel role is pretty freakin’ brilliant if you ask me (and just as smart as Chanel leading the way when it came to that H&M collaboration back in the day–Lagerfeld may be mouthy but he’s no fool). Unlikely fashion heroines such as Beth Ditto and Lily Allen not only bring a breath of fresh air to the stuffy old table, they help reposition fashion as offering something for everyone, which stylish women of all shapes and sizes have always known despite diversity in the display being limited. Wonder if Mowbray was truly upset about that whole Dove Campaign For Real Beauty moment? She probably wished they had used Victoria’s Secret models instead. [The Daily Mail]