Hands up if you've heard of these names: Jude Law, Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee, David Beckham and Will Smith?
Household celebs, right? Okay, how about these names: Rafferty Law, Gabriel-Kane Day-Lewis, Brandon Thomas Lee, Brooklyn Beckham and Jaden Smith?
Yup, you guessed it: They're the progeny of their celebrity parents. They might not have the same top-of-mind recall as their olds, but their famous last names have already translated to — in this crazy digital age that we live in — a large social media following; all without having to really do... anything. However, this combination of great genes with covetable social currency has proven to be all too tempting for fashion brands (eager to make the most noise) enlisting these young guns to front their advertising campaigns and walk their runways.
Generally speaking, we're more familiar with famous celebrity daughters. Consider, for example, Lily Rose-Depp (daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis) closing the recent Chanel haute couture spring/summer 2017 show in January and stalking us in airports, with her image plastered across billboards, as the new face for Chanel No. 5 L'Eau. Or Lourdes Leon (daughter of Madonna) leading a new fragrance campaign for Stella McCartney. Wherever you look, it seems that celebrity daughters are dominating the women's beauty market of late. But what about the boys? The celebrity sons?
Well, let me introduce you to the future...
DOLCE & GABANNA: RAFFERTY LAW, BRANDON THOMAS LEE, PRESLEY GERBER AND GABRIEL-KANE DAY-LEWIS
At the Dolce & Gabanna fall/winter 2017 menswear show in Milan last month, the runway was hijacked by 51 digital influencers — a genius marketing move by Domenico and Stefano, although generally disliked by attendees for its inherent commercialism (cf recruiting real Sicilian men to walk their spring 2013 show) — that included 20-year-old Rafferty Law (son of Jude Law and Sadie Frost with 24.9K Instagram followers); 20-year-old Brandon Thomas Lee (son of Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson with 53.1K Instagram followers); 17-year-old Presley Gerber (son of Cindy Crawford and Rande Gerber with 224K Instagram followers); and 21-year-old Gabriel-Kane Day-Lewis (son of Daniel Day-Lewis and Isabelle Adjani with 54.4K Instagram followers).
And, as you might have already seen on various websites and magazines, these celebrity sons also feature in the current Dolce & Gabbana SS17 advertising campaign shot by Franco Pagetti in Capri.
BURBERRY: BROOKLYN AND ROMEO BECKHAM
Over at Burberry, Chief Creative Officer Christopher Bailey invited the then 16-year-old Brooklyn Beckham (the now 17-year-old son of David and Victoria Beckham with 9.2 million Instagram followers) to photograph the Burberry Brit 2016 fragrance campaign — a decision that angered professionals, including fashion photographer Chris Floyd, who labelled the move as "sheer nepotism".
Brooklyn's younger brother, Romeo Beckham (now 14 years old with 45.4K Instagram followers) has also modelled for Burberry; most recently, in the brand's Christmas 2014 and 2015 campaigns.
LOUIS VUITTON: JADEN SMITH
And at Louis Vuitton, 18-year-old Jaden Smith (son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith with 5.2 million Instagram followers) recently rocked a studded skirt in the luxury maison's spring/summer 2016 womenswear campaign (yes, womenswear).
CELEBRITY SONS: RATE IT OR HATE IT?
So what does all this mean? That we're infatuated with celebrities? Clearly. That social media has empowered a new generation of celebrities like never before? Definitely. And that nepotism is fashion's latest trend? Let's discuss.
That last question comes pre-loaded with prejudice. There's something about people getting gigs, landing lucrative deals, or generally getting a leg up in life through contacts and relationships that really gets up our goat. It's our ingrained belief in meritocracy over kakistocracy — a term that has enjoyed a revival since Donald Trump's election to the Oval Office.
Floyd hits the issue on the head when, referring to Brooklyn Beckham's engagement as a fashion photographer for Burberry, he told The Guardian:
"David and Victoria Beckham represent sheer willpower and graft. Especially her, she's climbed that mountain all by herself. They represent hard work and then their 16-year-old year son comes along and it's sheer nepotism. He hasn't done it from hard work, which is counter-intuitive to what his parents represent."That's it, isn't it? Did these celebrity kids really work for it? Did they deserve it? What have they really done?
When it comes to celebrity children, should they undergo a more rigorous recruitment process to justify their engagement? Maybe. However, in my opinion, these kids lend an air of legitimacy over the pure digital influencer that just takes photos of him or herself (or increasingly, has someone else take photos for them). At least these celebrity kids are famous because their parents have an identifiable talent. Hard work has been applied somewhere in the past. Someone has cut his or her teeth on something beforehand.
In an age where social currency transacts at a premium to credibility, it is unnerving to see some people and companies value a person's worth solely based on their number of followers instead of considering their matrix of skills. As male model and social media star, Luka Sabbat (19-years-old with 331K followers on Instagram), aptly noted in an interview with Complex magazine:
"Being a kid, there are only two ways you can go: You're either an influencer or you're influenced. You're either a leader or a follower."
This is the world we live in. I get it. Get up to speed or fall behind. But there is something reassuring about a digital influencer that is also a stylist, photographer, actor, singer, host or even a basket weaver. Someone that has interests and skills other than knowing his or her best angles, and how to filter the crap out of an image using a combination of Touch Retouch, Snapseed and VSCO. Do you feel me?
Ultimately, only time will tell if these celebrity kids will still be relevant years down the road. Will they back up their favourable start in life with hard work and talent? Will we remember them for something other than their famous last name? But, on the same token, just imagine the pressure on these kids. All this fame, fortune and favour, and they still stuff up? Let's just hope they don't pull a Britney.