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From skulls and chokers in the 2010s to suits and slingbacks in 2023, it seems a new Kylie Jenner era is upon us.
The hold that Kylie Jenner had on teenage girls in 2016 truly cannot be understated. Sporting a stack of Cartier bracelets (at approx $7,000 a pop!), a rotating roster of neon wigs, and an impressive collection of colourful body-con dresses, Jenner was an early social media It girl. If she wasn’t posting to Instagram, she was documenting her makeup on Snapchat or sharing snippets of her life via Vine (RIP) — and on each platform, millions gathered to watch. All this elusive coolness was bottled up into her novel Kylie Lip Kits, which came in distinctly of-their-time packaging, adorned by plumped lips dripping with a matte makeup substance. It was a special time in pop culture, and for many a high schooler, Jenner — nay, King Kylie — reigned supreme.
But in 2023, things look different. Matte finishes have been traded in for glazed donut glossiness. Bright logomania has taken a back seat to quiet luxury and minimalism. And the Kardashians aren’t exactly the undisputed trendsetters they once were. Enter: a Kylie Jenner fashion rebrand.
Lately, the 25-year-old has been going through something of an image change — and the internet has noticed. On a recent trip to Paris, Jenner leaned into a black-and-white colour palette, clean lines and minimalist accessorizing. From a Bottega Veneta halter dress with pointed Lanvin pumps to a Maximilian Davis skirt suit with Chanel sling-backs, her monochrome wardrobe had surprisingly old-school silhouettes and uncharacteristically conservative tailoring. It’s a complete 180 from her 2016 style. And it’s not the only vibe shift to recently come from Jenner.
Another piece of this puzzle is her widely speculated relationship with Timothée Chalamet. It’s a pairing that seemed unlikely to some, but the evidence increasingly points to it being legit. Case in point: On June 1, paparazzi pictures — albeit of “bigfoot sighting quality” — show Chalamet and Jenner together at a barbecue (?). Because everything the Kardashian-Jenners do is shrouded in PR speculation, some view this unforeseen coupling as part of a larger intentional image refresh. And if that’s the case, it’s a trick that Jenner is especially well-versed in. She kind of needs to be.
Since Keeping Up With The Kardashians premiered in 2009 (when Jenner was just nine years old), the youngest sister’s every style era has been publicized. In 2012, she walked Sherri Hill’s tween runway in voluminous tutus and platform pumps (below). The following year, she switched gears with a California flower girl aesthetic for a collaboration with Pacsun.
But the advent of King Kylie — and her established individuality — can be traced back to 2014. Her lips mysteriously got plumper. She started wearing dark makeup. She embraced edgier aesthetics, with an affinity for skulls, chokers and defiant blue hair.
By 2015, Jenner had owned up to lip filler and launched her makeup empire, now Kylie Cosmetics. Her influence during this time period can be summed up by the highly regrettable “Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge,” which found young girls attempting to DYI the look of inflated lips. Importantly, the adoration over Jenner’s injections stood in contrast to women of colour, who have long been discriminated against for having naturally fuller lips. Still sporting futuristic bodysuits, skin-baring separates and bright hairstyles, Jenner’s pop culture prominence was arguably at an all-time high in the mid-2010s. To paraphrase Mean Girls, everyone just knew stuff about her: she really loved pomegranate seeds; she drove a matte black Range Rover; Terror Jr’s song “3 Strikes” was her unofficial anthem.
After going through a private period with the birth of her daughter Stormi in 2018, the access that defined King Kylie was gone. But over the past few years, she’s subtly surfaced a new mature taste for suited sets and minimalism. And now, along with an even more obvious style switch-up, aspects reminiscent of King Kylie are coming back too, via cheeky OOTDs and casual dancing-in-the-car videos.
After all, nothing indicates reinvention quite like a wardrobe overhaul. Anne Hathaway’s refreshed outfit formula quickly cemented her as a fashion icon. Zendaya’s transformation after partnering with Law Roach made her a defining red-carpet star. And of course, Sofia Richie Grainge is now firmly in the zeitgeist thanks to her unmistakably “old money” style.
Jenner, it seems, gets this. She has always been good at switching things up, and she’s at it yet again. We may never relive the quintessential cool factor that made 2016 so magical. But her wholehearted embrace of a new era feels very King Kylie indeed.