Kanye West and Irina Shayk are “casually dating,” according to reports. Accompanying photos published last week showed the pair jetting off to a luxury French hotel for the rapper’s birthday—as casual daters are wont to do. The new couple, whom TMZ described as “friends with benefits,” might not exactly be serious, but the outfits Shayk has worn for the ensuing paparazzi pictures sure are.
First there was the $200 DMX tribute T-shirt she wore to honor the late icon, who passed away in April. It was designed by none other than West’s label Yeezy, in collaboration with Balenciaga. According to The Daily Mail, that product placement was the first sign for tabloid super sleuths that the two might be connected.
Then Shayk stepped out in New York City after the trip to France in a black jumpsuit unbuttoned to her navel. Page Six ever-so-helpfully identified the one-piece, shoes, and purse as Burberry. Her accompanying bra was from Intimissimi, and her glasses were Celine.
Conspiracy theorists, get out your string theory boards: Burberry’s creative director is Riccardo Tisci, a close friend of both Shayk and West, who collaborated with the rapper on multiple art projects. It’s all connected!
And so another famous coupling raises a question as old as the internet: are these two for real, or just together to sell us stuff?
“For me, it’s all part of the whole machine of celebrity,” Mario Abad, the fashion editor of Paper, told The Daily Beast. “If we see Irina out and about waiting for the paparazzi, everything is going to be orchestrated and calculated, much like if she were stepping out for a big movie or award show.”
Shayk has certainly earned her keep as a top model. She grew up poor in rural Russia, telling Elle this year that she remembers going hungry when her coal miner father’s salary “was delayed.” She’s since been the face of Guess, Victoria’s Secret, Lacoste, and walked on runways for Miu Miu, Givenchy, and Versace. Celebrity Net Worth clocks Shayk’s fortune at $25 million, so she’s clearly not a nobody. But she might be better known for her relationships.
She’s dated Cristiano Ronaldo and Bradley Cooper, with whom she had a daughter in 2017. These romantic entanglements have made Shayk a tabloid staple, though she’s not a household name. A Kanye West connection thrusts her once again into the spotlight, and this time she’s got a wardrobe fit for the attention.
“I thought her jumpsuit was very poignant,” Abad said. “It was very revealing, but also powerful and kind of dark. She’s not stupid—Irina knows the world is watching her every move now, so she’s going to really think about how she presents herself for the paparazzi.”
Shayk might be the current case study of how celebrities leverage paparazzi attention to market clothes, but she’s hardly the only one. Megan Fox hired a new stylist, Maeve Riley, to recharge her looks after her relationship with Machine Gun Kelly began dominating gossip rags.
Riley has worked with Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Hailey Bieber, and Grazia noted that most of Fox’s outfits came from “this season’s most sought-after pieces” like Bottega Veneta bags and shoes made by the Italian influencer Amina Muaddi.
“Brands milk it in any way they can,” Abad added. “They’ll reach out to editors and say that Irina, Megan, or whoever the hottest celebrity is right now and say she’s worn something so minor as a pair of earrings you can’t really even see.”
Abad noticed this especially during the pandemic, when celebrities had less projects to promote and no in-person events to dress up for. All they could do was walk around their neighborhoods wearing designer clothing.
“I’d never heard of Ana de Armas before the pandemic,” he said (although many film fans may have, thanks to her breakout role in Knives Out). “All of a sudden, she’s dating Ben Affleck and I’m getting emails from Saint Laurent and Celine trying to make it seem like [she wore them] in a casual moment, when we all know that 90 percent of the time she was gifted that bag.”
Now Affleck and de Armas are done, and the actor is back dating his old flame Jennifer Lopez. The pair has been spotted working out together and engaging in exactly one public makeout, and Lopez seems to have her clothing ready. She’s recently “run errands” in designer dresses—as one does—by Brunello Cucinelli and A.L.C., respectively.
The fashion writer José Criales-Unzueta remembers when Shayk broke up with Cooper in early 2019 and was photographed leaving the mansion he shared, dramatically pulling an Away suitcase down the steps. “She was plugging yet another Burberry jumpsuit [then],” Criales-Unzueta said.
Indeed, Shayk was spotted that day wearing a very similar silhouette to the one-piece she wore this week. Does she bust out Burberry jumpsuits to coincide with big life events? Or maybe Shayk just understands a universal truth: relationships come and go, but a fabulous outfit lasts forever.