It’s hard to tell whether we love to hate Kanye West… or whether we hate that we secretly love him. Whatever the case may be, the controversial artist/designer/professional celebrity knows how to get attention. From his best-selling rap albums to his political and artistic opinions to his recent interest in fashion, Kanye seems to have no limits. But are his sartorial undertakings earnest? Or is this just another of Kanye’s attention-grabbing ploys? We take a look at Yeezy’s foray into the world of fashion.
Yeezy’s Fashion Run So Far
2004–2009: From College Dropout to Air Yeezys
After successfully producing for a number of years, Kanye made the jump to rapping with the release of his debut album, The College Dropout, in February of 2004. The album was an immediate hit, snagging the new recording artist plenty of attention. In September of 2005, Kanye announced his own clothing line, Pastelle Clothing. He went on to appear on notable best-dressed lists (including Vanity Fair’s 2008 list), sharing space with the likes of David Beckham, Daniel Craig, and Karl Lagerfeld. But by 2009, Pastelle hadn’t released a single collection and was effectively abandoned. Not a good sign.
But 2009 wasn’t a complete bust for Kanye: the artist decided to focus on footwear instead, releasing successful collaborations with Nike on the Air Yeezy (a second collaboration, Air Yeezy II, was released in 2012) and with Louis Vuitton. Not only that, but the usually far-from-humble rapper undertook an internship at Italian fashion house, Fendi. Yes, a real internship, which included fetching cappuccinos and taking orders. And the world wondered: could Kanye actually be serious about this fashion thing?
2011–2015: Dw by Kanye West and Yeezy
Kanye’s answer to that question: a resounding yes. Two years later, he debuted his first womenswear collection under his eponymous label, Dw by Kanye West, during Paris Fashion Week. Featuring a heavy combination of leather, zippers, suede, banded bodycon dresses, and even a fur backpack, the bold designs garnered poor reviews. The Wall Street Journal summed up the collection as “Herve Leger meets Donald Trump.” But it was hard to tell whether the fashion elite’s snide remarks were fair, or whether they came from insecurity about the artist forcing his way into their ranks.
But Kanye is nothing if not resilient. A year later, his second collection, showcasing big sweatshirts, black leather trousers, and tight pencil skirts, received a similarly lukewarm—if marginally more positive—response. After a collaboration with A.P.C. and a period of relative silence from Kanye, the designer (can we call him that yet?) launched another clothing line (Yeezy) and shoes (Yeezy Boosts) in collaboration with Adidas at this year’s New York Fashion Week. The collection includes neutral-toned high-end casual wear, and has been selling exceptionally well.
Kanye presents a conflicting dichotomy between his seemingly genuine and fanatical love of fashion and his infamous narcissism. He’s been loudly petulant about his cold reception by the fashion world and dismissive of critical feedback, lashing back with “…if they don’t understand it, they don’t understand it.” But though reviews haven’t always been stellar, Kanye continues to receive attention. Respected publications may claim they don’t take his fashion projects seriously, but they still take the time to review his releases.
Who knows… Kanye had trouble transitioning from producer to rapper because he didn’t portray the same image as other popular rappers at the time. And look how that turned out for him. His desire to become a serious contender in the sartorial world seems to be playing out in much the same fashion. Either way, we’ll be keeping an eye on Kanye.