Is There a Deeper Meaning Behind Kim Kardashian’s New ’90s Chanel Obsession?

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 28: Kim Kardashian is seen on September 28, 2023 in New York City.  (Photo ...
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Kim Kardashian once credited Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing, former Givenchy creative director Riccardo Tisci, and Balenciaga’s Demna as the designers responsible for what she categorizes as her three distinctive high-fashion eras. Now, it appears the designer behind her current aesthetic is one from an entirely different decade. Increasingly, Kardashian has been out and about this year flaunting rare archival pieces from Karl Lagerfeld’s reign at Chanel. Often (but not always) her choices are accessories, and she’s shied away from head-to-toe looks, often mixing pieces with other labels while letting those famous interlocked ‘C’s punctuate her outfit.

Sure, any woman with Kim’s economic blessings may be tempted to splurge on some iconic Chanel now and again, but this is Kris Jenner’s daughter we’re talking about here. If she’s curating a recurring aesthetic, there’s likely some reason behind it. Or, at the very least, a fashion strategy.

A few years back, Kim was almost exclusively wearing Balenciaga—but in 2023, she’s been a full-on fashion freelancer. You can still spot her in an occasional Balenciaga piece, but she’s also the current star of Marc Jacobs’s ad campaigns and recently co-designed an entire collection with Dolce & Gabbana. No single designer had a monopoly on her recent wardrobe—that is, until the Chanel started creeping in.

At first, it didn’t seem intentional. Kardashian, of course, has been spotted with Chanel purses from time to time even before the fashion world took her seriously. She even flaunted the notorious Chanel micro-kini, designed by Lagerfeld, back in 2018. But since spring, her choice of Chanel bag has seemed both more pointed and more frequent.

She signaled the beginning of the era back in April while out in New York City. Kardashian paired a Chanel crop top with three choice accessories from the ’90s: monogramed lambskin gloves, a quilted vanity bag, and some iconic chained sunglasses from 1992.

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A few days later, she’d show up at the Met Gala held in honor of Lagerfeld; while she wore a custom Schiaparelli gown, she clearly had Karl on the mind. The accompanying museum exhibit was questioned by some for its lack of focus on Lagerfeld’s contributions to accessories—perhaps Kardashian was inspired to assemble her own museum-worthy collection.

In July, she stepped out in Miami with a tiny vintage vanity case in bronze.

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There was the matching velour beach set she wore with a coordinating vanity bag from 1996.

She teamed up with the NFL to help announce Usher’s Super Bowl halftime show wearing a vintage Chanel necklace from 1996 (one Margot Robbie also wore in the Barbie movie).


On Instagram, she showed off another crop top paired with a vanity bag and a pair of Chanel sunglasses.

She’s now incorporating runway pieces from Lagerfeld-era Chanel into her wardrobe, too—both with daughter North West and on her own.

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Kim has experienced moments of obsession with vintage wares from particular labels before. She’s had her micro-eras with Versace, Mugler, and Jean Paul Gaultier’s archive, but something about this time feels different. While the other instances often came with assistance from those houses, she appears to be buying most of these Chanel pieces herself. She even documented a shopping trip at a vintage store in Japan on Instagram where she picked up multiple Chanel pieces.

While Kardashian often credits a photoshoot with Lagerfeld as a milestone on her pathway to acceptance in the fashion world, she’s never actually attended a Chanel show (the celebs there are often, but not always, exclusive ambassadors for the house). Might she be trying to warm her way into Chanel’s good graces? Maybe. It could also be a display of her own economic might and independence: why sign a contract with a fashion house to dress you when you have more than enough money to go out and buy what you please? And what woman isn’t pleased by Chanel?

Perhaps the source of Kim’s money may be part of the equation. Her increasingly successful Skims line has expanded well beyond shapewear into everyday pieces. She’s not always pairing her Chanel with Skims basics, but many of her looks could be easily duped with products from the brands. Perhaps the message is “splurge on designer accessories and a few select vintage pieces, but come to Skims for your basics.”