Kanye West Debuts DW @ Paris Fashion Week
The Wu-Tang Clan may have been one of the first hip hip brands to dabble in the fashion industry, but in today’s day and age we take for granted the phenomenon of the celebrity (rapper, actor, singer) turned fashion designer. It’s the prevalence of the celebrity world’s Rocawears, Sean Johns, and Jennifer Lopez x Macy’s collaborations that make it difficult for anybody who made their millions and earned their acclamations in any field other than fashion to crossover into the industry.
But in every sense, Kanye West’s involvement in fashion seems radically different than the way we traditionally are used to seeing celebrities approach the fashion industry. From the start of his career, Kanye has always been an individual whose sartorial inclinations were instrumental in defining his public image. He helped turned hip hop away from baggy jerseys and ill-fitted velour track suits. With his last two albums he’s invented a new sub-genre of hip hop, luxury rap. And of late his favorite rhyming topics have been as much Phoebe Philo and Maison Margiela as anything else. It was within the context of this well-known, decade-long love obsession with fashion that Kanye West debuted his first collection at Paris Fashion Week, this past Saturday.
The unique thing about Kanye West’s fashion debut is this: despite the fact that this is his first collection ever, he is still Kanye West. As a result, his debuted his collection at the Lycee Henri IV, an expensive looking Parisian secondary school. And in attendance were Anna Wintour, Terry Richardson, Silvia and Delfina Fendi, Jeremy Scott, and other important sounding fashion heavyweights you may or may not have heard of. All this, despite the fact, that he wasn’t even on the official PFW schedule. So how did he do?
Unsurprisingly, different parts of West’s debut collection are reminiscent of past shows by Alexander Wang, Rick Owens, and Celine. The first thing apparent in West’s collection is the high level of workmanship in the pieces he managed to assemble in three days. West consulted Kim Jones and Louise Wilson for the collection, among others. So there’s no surprise in the quality of couture in his collection.
DW's debut collection is an intriguing mix of asymmetrical cuts, expensive fabrics, and unique Yeezyisms. Holistically, the collection seems right at home among the other PFW shows. Still though, Kanye managed to incorporate little quirks into his show that were purely Yeezy.
One of the last looks in his collection was an all-black ensemble with a hood that was strikingly similar to the Bathing Ape shark hoodies ‘Ye had been known to rock in the past. On top of that, Yeezy had all of his models wear a gold “Yeezi” necklace. (The only real prerequisite for modeling in his show was previously being mentioned in Christian Dior Denim Flow.)
In many ways Kanye was doomed to most of the negative criticism he’s received, even before his collection debuted. It’s a recurring theme in a professional career that has been filled with unexpected industry moves and new mediums. The producer-turned-rapper-turned-designer faced the same animosity he faced when he first tried to prove himself as more than a producer-rapper. The same occurred when he turned to singing on 808’s and Heartbreak. Now Mr. West is facing the uphill battle of proving he is more than just a hip hop designer.
Most of the detraction West has gotten so far is nothing more than the fashion industry’s exclusive souls being wary of any outsider, celebrity designer trying to break into their world. There’s been a certain “stick to your day job” sentiment from pockets of fashion’s elite concerning DW's debut. Lisa Armstrong of The Daily Telegraph regarded Kanye's collection as a “”stupendously vacuous enterprise.” And Gawker did their best to dismiss Kanye's debut as disastrous, despite collected quotes not incendiary enough to support their thesis.
Strangely enough, most online articles have given fairly objective, honest critiques of Kanye’s debut.
neither triumph nor train wreck… It had the earnest veneer of a beginner, which was sort of endearing.”
The New York Times said:
"There was one good-looking pair of color-blocked pants in blue and coral, but it was obvious that most of the clothes suffered from a poor fit."
These articles are both hypercritical, yet much more honest in their approach. The New York Times was even sure to explain that the ill-fitting pieces may have been the result of rushed fittings (CDDF favorite Chanel Iman was flown in by telephone the day before).
So after the fact, what does this show mean for Kanye West’s fashion ambitions? It’s too early to tell; there are enough signs to suggest either of two possible endings. Clearly Kanye already has some traction and respect in the fashion industry. He does have a major fashion house internship under his belt, not to mention uncountable appearances at all the major fashion weeks, and friendships with some of the most important figures in the industry. And his clothes did show real promise. Despite the fact that much of his collection was directly translated looks of the designers he most idolizes, and the fact that he featured conspicuous amounts of fur and leather in a spring/summer collection, Kanye has the makings of a real designer. The intense passion for designing is clearly there, as is the patience to sacrifice the time required.
And Kanye clearly has an eye for fashion design. A few times when the fit and material weren’t distracting from the look, Kanye managed to display an impressive command of couture and creative design.
West has the tools necessary of a designer, as long as he’s willing to be patient about the artistic and professional growth that may take longer than anticipated. At this point in his career, Kanye’s done literally everything he’s publicly proclaimed it his goal to do, suggesting that it’d be potentially wise to not bet against him here.
Only time will tell though. For now, he knows his only hope of establishing himself in fashion may come through escaping the walls built by the “black American, hip hop rapper turned celebrity-designer” label that has been placed on him by some of the industry’s finest.
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