Love or loathe him, you simply cannot deny the commercial genius of Kanye West. Yes – he rants. Yes – he regards himself (sometimes a little too) highly. But as an artist, he has a vision, and he knows how to execute it. If ever there was any doubt about that, one need only look to the presentation of his YEEZY Season 3 clothing line.
With a full house exceeding 20,000 ticket holders – including fashion industry leaders and insiders, friends and family, and thousands of fans – West used the show as a means of premiering both his latest fashion collection and his most recent music release The Life of Pablo (which subsequently debuted at number 1 in the US).
The show was a holistic experience, immersing the audience in Kanye’s world. West entered the arena with (soon to be ex) brother-in-law Lamar Odom; the crowd roared their support for the NBA star in what was to be his first public appearance in his recovery, after being found unconscious in October 2015 and subsequently being hospitalised and falling into a weeklong coma. After a short introduction, Pablo began to play and, towards the end of the opening number, the (literal) sheet lifted to reveal the hundreds of models who were positioned onstage at the centre of the arena, donning garments from the collection.
Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue US, was present, seated alongside the entire Kardashian family. This is what first led me to write this article – I was thinking about the theatricality of the presentation and, furthermore, its deviation from the classic format of the fashion show. There were two distinct parallels within the show – the fashion, and Kanye himself – and I wondered the impact that the two had on one another.
Fashion shows set to music are nothing new, although they scarcely feature the music of the designer. This added an autobiographical element to the clothes – the tones, colours and cuts were all to be considered alongside Kanye and his words. Dressed in muted, washed-out shades, such rawness was reflective of the music – which notably targeted his critics (“name one genius that aint crazy”) and Taylor Swift (“I made that bitch famous”), to name a few – which West himself claims as his own voice. Thus, its significance within the presentation helped to make sense of a largely conceptual line of clothing.
Reading through the media coverage of the show, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Kanye. Article after article highlighted the fashion of the Kardashian family who, while remarkably dressed, were mere audience members in West’s theatre. This will undoubtedly attract critics, calling out the family for ‘stealing the spotlight’, when they were simply there to support.
Either way, West’s YEEZY show was far more than a utilitarian mash-up of his two most recent projects. Each was dependent on the other, and contributed to its counterpart. His theatrical presentation will undoubtedly open doors to the rest of the fashion world, unleashing innumerable possibilities for future shows across the industry.
What season 4 will hold – who knows?