Commentary

What Kylie Jenner's Deleted Instagram Video Means For Luxury Brands

Every American generation brings a convulsion in attitudes about conspicuous consumption. The excesses of one decade are counterbalanced with tamer periods of austerity; shifts in consumer sentiment drive economic cycles.

Kylie Jenner, the world's youngest self-made billionaire, according to Forbes, last week summed up the current mood when she removed an Instagram video that flaunted her luxury sports car. The 22-year-old cosmetics mogul apparently was shamed into deleting the video after some of her 148 million followers chided her for being insufficiently woke.

"How can people justify buying more cars then they possibly need when there are people out there who can’t eat!” an Instagram user raved, according to The Blast's account of the deleted post.

Someone else piled on: "Oh yay! Another new car! Meanwhile, there's ppl struggling to make ends meet and feed themselves. I'm happy for her but damn when is enough enough?"

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Yes, and Jenner also needs to eat all her vegetables and floss her teeth after every meal because that's exactly what makes for compelling Instagram video.

The whole point of her social-media existence is to flaunt a fabulous lifestyle drenched in luxury and gauche displays of wealth.

To do otherwise is to stop being Kylie Jenner, the influencer who last year lopped off $1.3 billion from Snapchat's value with a single tweet.

If people want to "like" pictures of nuns scooping out ladles of broth in a soup kitchen, Instagram isn't the place. I can confirm that after searching for "nuns, broth, #inspiration" in the image-sharing app, enterprising reporter that I am.

While I don't think it's necessary for Jenner to change her image, the negative reaction among her followers highlights how luxury brands need to weigh their well cultivated images of exclusivity against social issues that are more significant among Generation Z.

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old environmental activist, is emerging as a key spokesperson for this younger group of consumers. In August, she demonstrated the commitment to her cause by sailing to New York on an emission-free boat to attend a U.N. meeting, triggering anxiety among airlines as the phrase "flight-shaming" entered the lexicon.

Unless she's caught on a Gulfstream jet wearing more Chanel accessories than brand-obsessed pop star Billie Eilish, Thunberg demonstrates a sincerity and sense of purpose that's lacking among most luxury brands.

Perhaps there's room for Jenner's conspicuous consumption to co-exist with Thunberg's pleas for sustainability as Generation Z emerges as a major economic force.

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