By Astrid Zulhaime

Fashion’s Nepo Babies: Off- and On-Runway

A glimpse into nepotism in the fashion industry.

The famous children of celebrities is a topic of endless discussion on social media. It all started with the 2022 issue of New York Magazine, “The Year of the Nepo Baby”’ with the ruthless heading, “She has her mother’s eyes. And agent.” Featuring a cover with the heads of celebrities charged with nepotism (pasted onto the bodies of babies, no less), they were the first to get the ball rolling.

Not surprisingly, the celebrities in question were quick to comment, though it would have been wiser not to. Nepo babies Gwyneth Paltrow and Maude Apatow stated that it was admittedly “easier for them to get their foot in the door” but they always had to “work twice as hard and be twice as good” in order to make up for it. You can imagine how well these tone-deaf statements were received by social media.

An Old Practice

fashion nepo babies
Devon Aoki returning to the runway for Moschino‘s 2017 Resort Show

Much has been said about nepotism in Hollywood. But what about the barrage of nepo babies in the fashion industry? Even with its many overlaps, fashion is far less mainstream than its acting counterpart, not inviting the same level of vitriol. With the exception of some notorious comments, of course. We’re looking at you, Lily-Rose Depp.

But don’t be fooled—children of successful models choosing to follow in their parent’s footsteps is nothing new. Case in point: 2000s It Girl and fashion icon Devon Aoki is actually a nepo baby. This successful model and actress who walked for top fashion houses like Chanel, Versace, and Balenciaga is the daughter of Benihana restaurant magnate Hiroaki Aoki. When you’re born into riches the way Devon was, it doesn’t matter that you’re only five feet five—down the runway you go.

Another fashion nepo baby of the older generation is American actress Brooke Shields. It’s no wonder she started her modelling career at the extremely tender age of 11 months; Brooke’s mother Teri Shields (née Schmon) is herself an actress and model who prepared her for show business literally as soon as she was born. At 14 years old, Brooke was and remains the youngest ever model to cover Vogue, proving that it’s easy to find success at a very young age. When you’re related to someone famous, of course.

Behind the Scenes

It takes a village to create art. Why focus only on the people front and centre? What about the people off stage, running the show far from the blinding lights? There’s one thing both these groups share: keeping the business in the family.

Artistic director Maria Grazia Chiuri has been the visionary behind the iconic fashion house, Dior, since 2016. Her role requires a little help from Dior’s cultural consultant who just so happens to be her only daughter, Rachele Regini. Regini has been a constant creative presence at Dior since her mother took up the post, even modelling in an editorial for Dior’s Lady 95.22 bag campaign. 

Dior is also owned by luxury business juggernaut LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) which oversees over 75 different high-end brands including Sephora, Fendi, and Tiffany & Co., and this empire is run by French investor Bernard Arnault. Arnault is known for placing all of his children in high places within his kingdom, none higher than his daughter Delphine. The CEO of Dior since early 2023, Delphine also holds a high post at Louis Vuitton, another subsidiary owned by her father. Shiv Roy, is that you?

It comes as no surprise that some children of key players in fashion would rather be in front of the camera than behind. Take model and makeup artist Benedetta Piccioli, the daughter of Valentino’s creative director, Pierpaolo Piccioli for example. In 2021, Benedetta was signed on to Women Managements Milano which manages top models like Naomi Campbell, Behati Prinsloo, and Coco Rocha. Clearly, for every self-made person working in fashion, there’s a nepo baby to match.

The Nepotism Conundrum

The truth is, nepotism exists in every industry, not just the hyper-visible ones. Undeniably, it’s unfair to elevate a member of your family over other candidates who are typically more deserving. Since the practice will always exist, however, we’re led to believe that it’s the attitude surrounding the topic that matters more. As expressed by top model Vittoria Ceretti in response to Lily-Rose Depp’s controversial comments: “I know it’s not your fault, but please, appreciate and know the place you came from.” So calling all nepo babies, own up to your privilege—that’s what counts.

It has to be addressed that nepotism in the fashion industry admittedly has its perks—for businesses, anyway. It’s easier to sell products when they’re worn or endorsed by famous nepo models like Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid. Their massive platforms and star power provide the brands with wider coverage and more visibility, for no extra charge. Since money makes the world go round, don’t expect a reprieve from fashion nepo babies invading the runway, magazine covers, and our screens anytime soon.