Nicki Minaj: Feminist Fashion Statement or Attention Seeking Wardrobe Malfunction?

Part of me sees the irony in even mentioning Nicki Minaj’s latest clutch at the limelight; on one hand, by the mention of her name on paper, I’m giving her the attention she definitely doesn’t deserve. On the other, I’m so outraged that her one-in-one-out attire made in into Bazaar’s list of fashion week highlights that I think a full-scale rant is due.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for female body empowerment, and I don’t want to give off any impressions of body-shaming. Of course, women should feel just as little shame in taking their tops off as men evidently do (if they so wish). I don’t think wearing a low-cut dress is always a sign of asking for male attention, and that’s not what I’m accusing Minaj of either. 

But I am, when it comes to the catwalk, a little more of a traditionalist. It’s no surprise that the audience, fashion conscious as ever, will want to try and steal some of the designers limelight. And who can blame them? What better place to try a new, chic look than with the paparazzi all over you, and an audience who understand that art is fashion, and fashion is art.

But picture this: a catwalk show, watched in awe by a barely covered audience. If the women can go (pretty much) topless, then the same goes for the men, and if a few do it, then a few more will, until the audience consists of a half-assembled bunch of fashion critics who look like they didn’t have time to finish getting dressed that morning. Catwalk attire, to me, should be on a similar line to interview outfits, or wedding gear, or the sort of dress you wear to meet your mother-in-law. Maybe there is a time and place for the free-the-boob look, but it certainly isn’t in the catwalk audience.

The obvious follow-up question is, of course, why not? If Paris Fashion Week isn’t the time to try something risky, then where is? It’s a fair point. But not in light of the hours and hours of time designers put into a show; from the masses of stitching to prepping models for their five minutes of fame. Nobody, when watching a musical, joins in the singing. Nobody stands in Le Louvre holding up their latest painting for approval. It’s about respect. It’s about appreciation.

Without a doubt, Nicki Minaj’s single boob got more media coverage than any of Haider’s actual collection. I’m sure many would’ve had a hard time concentrating during the show. As a designer, I can’t think of much worse than a member of the audience trying to steal my limelight like that. 

The runway is, and should always be, the designer’s vision. If a designer pictures a catwalk strutting down a banquet table (Dries Van Noten S/S 2005 for the reference), so be it. If they envisage, like Viktor and Rolf, a single model wearing every single piece of a collection, then why shouldn’t they? The catwalk is their canvas, the models are their paint. This is what infuriates me most about Minaj’s statement. For a celebrity, with basically no real knowledge of the fashion industry, to wonder in and hit the headlines, seems like the world’s gone mad. I mean honestly – the outfit’s not even anything special. 

Don’t wear white to a wedding. Don’t wear hotpants to an interview. And don’t, whoever you are, turn up half naked to someone else’s fashion show.

You are not the artwork today, Nicki. 

Lydia Varney

Image: Pinterest