This article originally appeared on i-D.
Like red baseball caps and Pepe the Frog, conspiracy theories have taken a dark turn in the past two years. Once associated with eccentric ramblings about the moon landing — of the type uttered by Richard Linklater characters in Slacker — conspiracy theories are thoroughly wrapped up in American politics (and vice versa) in 2017. Our current president claimed our previous president's birth certificate was a fake. And Alex Jones, a former Austin oddity beloved by Linklater, is now broadcasting conspiracy theories to a growing right-wing audience that includes Trump himself.
Now, the far-right has turned its attention to fashion. Earlier this month, Breitbart finance and economics editor John Carney tweeted his thoughts about Vogue's September cover. The image shows Jennifer Lawrence lounging in front of the Statue of Liberty in a red silk dress. "We're going to have to create a full #MAGA shadow cultural industry because the Opposition Media can't even do fashion without attacking us," Carney tweeted above an image of the cover on August 10. In a since-deleted tweet, he described the photograph of Lawrence as a reference to the August 2 debate over Trump's immigration policy in which CNN's Jim Acosta invoked the Statue of Liberty. One important flaw in Carney's flaw-riddled theory: it takes longer than eight days to style, shoot, and publish an Annie Leibovitz portrait of Jennifer Lawrence. "We shot this in June buddy," Vogue's communication director tweeted.
If a secret political message delivered via Jennifer Lawrence in a Dior dress sounds far-fetched, here are some other gems of fashion conspiracies from the depths of Reddit.
Outlandish theory #1: Marc Jacobs steals his designs from a Hungarian model.
In 2013, a then 21-year-old Hungarian model and designer named Angel Barta began leaving wild-sounding messages about Marc Jacobs in the comments sections of fashion sites. "Jacobs is the manipulator of the century. Jacobs has been copying Angel Barta's style and design for 7 years," read a comment beneath a story on i-D. A call to "read the truth" linked out to a blog called StyleAngelique, run by Barta herself and dedicated to proving that Jacobs has been reproducing her designs since the two met in 2008. Barta has also written a 500-page book elaborating on her theory, in which she vividly describes having a steamy love affair with Jacobs (who is openly gay). Jacobs isn't Barta's only target. According to Barta's blog, Rei Kawakubo has also stolen her ideas and Taylor Swift copied her beach look.
Allegations of plagiarism are common in fashion and occasionally result in successful lawsuits. But Barta's claims don't hold up. Jacobs and Barta have met at least once, according to a 2008 New Yorker profile of Jacobs. ("That's a girl who goes to my gym and she wants to be a model," Jacobs said of Barta). But the clothes in Barta's side-by-side photographs of her and Jacobs's designs are often visibly dissimilar and there's no proof that any of Barta's designs or images were created first. Frequently, Barta seems to accuse Jacobs of copying a presumably un-copyright-able pose. In this comparison of Barta and Elle Fanning, former face of Marc by Marc Jacobs, the main similarity seems to be that both women are outdoors and smiling.
Outlandish theory #2: Kanye West is part of a CIA mind-control experiment.
Or a clone. Because there are two equally bonkers versions of this theory, which emerged on Reddit last year. When rapper and Yeezy designer Kanye West was hospitalized in December 2016, shortly after canceling 21 concerts of his national tour, Redditors on /r/conspiracy suggested that West was simply being reprogrammed by the CIA. "Kanye West is forcibly hospitalized in the same institution where MK Ultra experiments were (are?) conducted," wrote one theorist, alluding to Project MKUltra, a real and unethical experiment into human behavior conducted by the CIA from 1953 to 1973. As Vocativ reported in December, there is very little evidence to suggest MKUltra experiments ever took place at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where West was treated for exhaustion. Nevertheless, fans argued that nothing but a nefarious government experiment could be responsible for West's erratic behavior in the two months leading up to his hospitalization. And the clone theory? On Twitter, users argued that "the government purposely made a clone of Kanye West bc kanye would *never* dye his hair blonde."
Outlandish theory #3: Claudia Schiffer stands for Satan.
In January 1994, Karl Lagerfeld apologized for accidentally embroidering three dresses with a passage from the Quran. As part of his spring 94 couture collection, the designer had recreated (in pearls) Arabic text that he found in a book about the Taj Mahal. "I was told it was a love poem in memory of a maharani," he later told Agence France-Presse, adding that he was "extremely upset" that he had offended Muslims. (The Indonesian Muslim Scholars Council had called for a boycott of Chanel.) While the chief executive of Chanel went to the Grand Mosque of Paris to apologize in person, and was pardoned by the mosque's rector, Claudia Schiffer, who modeled one of the pieces also became embroiled in the scandal. (One conspiracy theorist now refers to her as a "devoted Illuminati puppet […] worshipped as an idol, by empty, miserable masses of infidels"). The black corset, embroidered with a Quranic verse, that Schiffer wore in the show also prompted the French publication Journal du Dimanche to nickname the mix-up the "Satanic breasts" incident. In addition to modeling, Schiffer is a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, which seems like an unlikely activity for a Satanist.
Outlandish theory #4: Riccardo Tisci is a member of the Illuminati.
Beyoncé. Madonna. Lady Gaga. According to some conspiracy theorists, the real question we should be asking is "Which celebrities are not members of the Illuminati?" Included on their list of probable members of the rumored secret society is designer Riccardo Tisci, thanks partly to his cover design for Kanye and Jay-Z's 2011 album Watch the Throne. Not only are Kanye and Jay-Z both conspiracy theorist favorites, but Tisci's album artwork, some argued, references an occult figure named the Baphomet used by the Church of Satan. Interestingly, Tisci's spring/summer 17 menswear collection for Givenchy did include what appeared to be winking references to the Illuminati conspiracy: pyramid motifs, images of dollar bilsl, and the words "REALIZE / REAL LIES." But the designer insisted he was just exploring his own spirituality. As another rumored member, Beyoncé, says, "Y'all haters corny with that Illuminati mess."
Outlandish theory #5: Choupette Lagerfeld is fronting a tax-evasion scheme.
Choupette Lagerfeld, cat of Karl Lagerfeld, famously has enough members of staff to have a favorite (her maid Françoise). She is also a busy feline model, who earned a reported $3.3 million USD for her campaign appearances in 2015 alone — a figure that resurfaced in 2016, when French paper L'Express reported that Karl Lagerfeld was the subject of a tax probe by the French authorities. This news immediately landed Choupette in /r/conspiracy, where a redditor reasoned that Choupette's employment was clearly a "tax evasion/money laundering" strategy. Lagerfeld isn't the only designer to undergo financial investigation — according to the New York T imes, "the clampdown by European tax authorities in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis has had a major ripple effect on the luxury world" — and a representative for Lagerfeld stated he had "had no wish to evade the law." Although Choupette is, according to Lagerfeld, "the most famous cat in the world, and the richest," she is also his "inspiration for elegance." She would never dirty her paws by fiddling figures.