Surely Kanye West isn’t someone who would let himself and his work go unnoticed? He does everything with a bang – a pretty loud one too. I must say that admire his resilience and he definitely knows how to get his message across. No matter the self-attributed statuses of divinity and the ability of delivering extremely successful projects, his relationship with the fashion industry has been somewhat complicated. From seeing his proposal of designing leather jogging pants with Fendi rejected, to an alleged refusal from the MA Fashion program at Central Saint Martins, to getting banned from one of Hedi Slimane’s shows at Saint Laurent, Kanye has always felt discriminated by the industry. These are all frustrations that he forcefully expressed during the hour-long interview with Zaine Lowe on BBC Radio 1 last year. Ultimately, the main problem was, and probably still is, why can’t he expand his creativity beyond the musical sphere? Well, you would think that after this collaboration with Adidas, the problem is solved, right? Signaling the end to his rants about fashion shutting her glittering doors in his face.
I think that the issue is slightly deeper here, beyond the questionable size of Kanye’s ego. My question is why is he only allowed to do sportswear? Something that is often – and stupidly – seen as belonging to a lower league of fashion? Maybe it’s because he is a rapper, he is a black man, and he has street style; that’s what he is competent with. Why should he be allowed to do what other people consider to be ‘actual fashion’? What does he know about that? Fashion hierarchies and social ones most strongly define what he can or cannot do. He cannot launch collections with Fendi because that he just can’t. However he can have sneaker collaborations, or even entire collections, with Nike, Adidas and so on because in that space, he fulfills all the stereotypes that are attributed to his persona: the black dude, the rapper, the baller. Why is he only praised and allowed to do things that respect those boundaries? You would think that with the amount of money he has made during his career, he could do anything – but to launch the successful fashion business he has often talked about, even he who claims to be a God, needs some form of financial backing. Kanye often expressed his disappointment with the fact that people were unwilling to work with him. Why? Because that’s just not what he does, that’s not his place (in their eyes). But why can’t he be a fashion designer in his own right? In doing his collaboration with Adidas he hardly became an actual designer – he’s still a musician for goodness sakes. Even if he was involved in the creative process.
If you take a careful look at his collection you can see that these are exactly the things he is trying to defy. Kanye’s fashion has nothing to do with what he would be normally associated with: the choice of having no logo and the desire to give people something that makes them feel at ease. It’s a bit sad and hypocritical that the fashion world – a place to celebrate and enhance diversity of aesthetic, thought and artistry – is still subject to these limits.
Personally? I’d love to see Kanye take the runways by storm. Then if the show did happen to suck, he can be judged as a designer, not as a musician, who after all didn’t really know what he was doing.