It was always too big an ask for Kim Kardashian-West – an entrepreneur, influencer and occasional campaigner who has built considerable financial, social and cultural capital on the back of publicity – to wear something unremarkable for Wednesday’s meeting with Donald Trumpat the White House.
But few would have predicted she would wear a black suit by the French fashion house, Vetements, with the brand’s name stitched across her crotch, just visible above the top of Trump’s desk in the Oval office.
Crotch-logo aside, the label is a savvy choice. Vetements is a hip fashion collective, overseen by Demna Gvasalia, a Georgian designer who is well known within the industry for creating meme-friendly clothes at surprisingly high prices, heavily imbued with irony . Just as his famous 2016 DHL T-shirt seemed to be a comment on global capitalism but went viral as an image, the choreographed image of Trump and Kardashian-West behind Trump’s always-empty desk will likely do the same.
Secondly, there would always be two sets of photographs. The paparazzi one, Kardashian-West’s preferred genre, and the official Oval Office shot with Trump, ready to be splashed across newspapers. Blink and you’d miss the logo in the pap shots (a style of photograph the fashion house enjoys subverting) but in the second, with a zoom, you can actually see the words across her trousers. Once you’ve seen them, the joke lands squarely on Trump – it is, arguably, the sartorial equivalent of doing bunny ears behind his head.
She is said to have meet with the president on Wednesday to discuss prison reform, and the possibility of pardoning 63-year-old grandmother Alice Marie Johnson. Johnson is currently serving a life sentence for a first-time non-violent drug offence. It’s not her first campaign bid. In 2015, she criticised then-president, Barack Obama, for not using the word “genocide” to describe the deaths of as many as 1.5 million Armenians in 1915. Kardashian-West’s great-great-grandparents left Armenia in 1914.
Kardashian-West paired the oversized suit with neon heels thought to be designed by Yeezy, her husband’s label – a bid, perhaps, to signal solidarity with Kanye West who was decried by the left for professing his love for the president and stating they “are both dragon energy”. Getting approval from rightwing news site, Breitbart, it claimed she was channelling Melania Trump, although in truth, the ‘pant suit’ was closer to the sort of thing Hillary Clinton would wear.
It would be cynical to assume that Kardashian-West was using the meeting as a stunt or a joke. It would also also be cynical to suggest she was attempting to distract from the true nature of the meeting, throwing a crotch-shaped flare in the other direction. What is apparent, though, is that one reality TV star was more adept at the art of self exposure than the other. Only Kardashian-West could use a meeting at the White House to trump Trump. And judging by his face, he had no idea what was going on next to him.