The Symbiotic Relationship Of Celebrity’s Children And Legacy Brands



What is in a name? Or rather, what is in a surname? Well, for some it could mean the difference between fame, opportunity, and obscurity. Fashion brands have long understood the power of children with famous parents, tapping into it as a reflection of their own link to heritage. While the perception of opportunities given to children with famous last names may be deemed as an undeserved privilege, it could also be a two-way path to success (and succession).

Building a “Brand”

For the Beckhams, branding is part of a family business. David Beckham has long been heralded as the “male essence of British-ness”. The English football legend is considered a British cultural icon. His wife — Victoria Beckham — was a member of one of the most prolific British girl groups of the 90s, successfully shifting her “Posh Spice” persona from performer to the creative director of her eponymous fashion label for the modern woman. It is, therefore, no doubt that the children of the British “power couple” would be seen as an extension of this familial “brand”. Few brands convey the international notion of Britishness as well as Burberry. In 2014, 12-year-old Romeo Beckham was tapped to star in Burberry’s four-minute Christmas TV advert dubbed entitled “From London with Love”. The global festive campaign was the second to Romeo’s Burberry debut for the label’s Spring/Summer 2013 print campaign. 

Where the Burberry brand leverages itself on “Britishness”, Versace honed in on the power of supermodels and how they infiltrated pop culture. The late Gianni Versace was a pioneer in the 90s for this, bringing together Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer and Christy Turlington for his shows. Upon his passing in 1997, Donatella took on the reigns and continued his legacy. For the Versace Spring 2018 show (also the 20th anniversary of the murder of Gianni Versace), Donatella united Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Helena Christensen, and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy to close the show.

Kaia Gerber, daughter of 90s supermodel Cindy Crawford also walked the same show. In Donatella Versace’s mission to do a “past meets present” runway showcase as a homage to Gianni’s adoration of the 90s supermodel, she also has the wherewithal to pave the way for the next generation of the “supermodel”. Donatella Versace exemplifies how branding goes beyond a referential touchpoint but rather also encompasses using it to think of the next stage of the brand.

Can’t Put a Price On Exposure

For children of famous parents, visibility and brand association are arguably more valuable than a large payday. However, this is very much a symbiotic relationship for both brand and talent. Children can leverage the exposure of being featured in a global campaign or runway while having the child of a famous parent alone would make headlines without any aggressive forms of advertising and marketing. What better way to make your introduction to fashion than to walk in the footsteps of your parent? Kate Moss’ daughter Lila Moss did this (quite literally) for the 2021 “Fendace” showcase in Milan. The joint collaboration between Versace and Fendi saw the 18-year-old model walk the runway after her famous mother for the one-of-a-kind event.

The collaboration saw fashion powerhouses Donatella Versace and Fendi’s Kim Jones and Silvia Venturini-Fendi unite in a showcase of design and ingenuity. “It’s a first in the history of fashion: two designers having a true creative dialogue that stems from respect and friendship,” said Donatella Versace. “It led to us swapping roles to create these two collections.” While Kate and Lila Moss walking the runway together made headlines in itself, it is also interesting to see how fashion brands leverage the power of celebrity (and a famous surname), particularly on a momentous occasion like the Fendace collaboration.

The choice to feature both Kate Moss and Lila Moss and Cindy Crawford and Kaia Gerber in a runway show is something akin to the passing of the proverbial crown from famous mother to “ingénue” daughter.

Profits Over Investments

Romeo Beckham made the transition from child model in Burberry’s 2014 Christmas advert to staring in the Saint Laurent fall 2022 campaign

Putting the child of a famous face on a campaign or runway is seen as something of a “low-risk investment”. Instead of investing in new talent which may or may not deliver a successful return, carrying a famous surname not only brings media attention but garners a higher social media engagement and has the potential to draw a larger attendance at brand events. Besides this, a successful collaboration can pave the way for long-term partnerships between the brand and the celebrity family. Long-term partnerships could include multiple campaigns, product endorsements, or exclusive collaborative collections. Much like how a first runway or first campaign booking is the entryway to a fashion house, the inclusion of a famous son or daughter can also be the gateway to including more famous family members in upcoming campaigns.

The “Nepo Baby”

Recently North West — the daughter of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, sparked debate and criticism online when the 11-year-old made her Hollywood performance debut as Simba in The Lion King‘s 30th Anniversary concert. Criticism grew online after a viral clip of North singing, “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” emerged whereby social media users questioned the validity of North’s casting in the role as her performance did not match up to her fellow singers and dancers.

I’m sorry but casting North West as Simba when there are hundreds of properly trained theatre kids with voice coaches, dance skills, and experience was a HORRIBLE choice. It definitely makes you question the credibility of the casting director. You let Kim pay to ruin your show.

— (@_RichieDinero) May 26, 2024

In 2016, Brooklyn Beckham left leading photographers in a row after his debut as the photographer for the Burberry Brit fragrance campaign. One photographer referred to it as the “devaluation of photography” stating “Burberry’s decision to employ a teenage star with millions of Instagram followers was very clever, but said it had nothing to do with producing good photography,” according to a report from the Guardian. One could argue that this was not so much about expert photography as it was about honing it to Burberry’s future target market.

Criticism towards nepotism and Hollywood’s “Nepo Babies” gained momentum after Vulture’s 2022 “An All But Definitive Guide to the Hollywood Nepo-Verse” article which 2024’s “Blockout Movement” only further stirred calls against celebrity culture and elitism.

Read More: Opinion: Collective Consciousness is Not The Final Solution in Solving Global Issues

Critics aside, as a society we have created an atmosphere for celebrity culture to thrive purely for the fact that we choose to watch, click in and comment on their various (paid) engagements. If the saying of “no publicity is bad publicity” is true, then “nepo babies” will invariably have a head start because of the media value attached to them.

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