Yeezy: A Secret Cult?

Season 10 of Kanye West’s fashion label showed little other than a rite of sort. What was he really selling?

Models wearing seemingly identical clothes at the Yeezy Season 10 presentation. Screen shot: yeezymafia/Instagram

After his Yeezy fashion show in Paris last October, which was deemed controversial at best, Kanye West is back with another—dubbed Season 10 (also YZY FREE, according to a reported invite, shared on a fan site)—in Los Angeles. This time, the event was held at his newly established office (or retail space, it is not clear) on Melrose Place. It was so covert that its has been described as “super secretive”. Curiously, the show took place on the same day as the much feted Met Gala. Anna Wintour and other fashion luminaries would, therefore, not be able to attend. It is known if they were invited at all. If they were, it is doubtful they would show up, considering what happened the last time. In fact, it is not known who were the guests, VIP or not. There was no livestream for this show (even one with registration required, as the last was). The few reports that emerged about the show described it as a “private affair”. So private, in fact, that the entire display was dimly lit. Candle were the main source of illumination.

This time, Mr West did not preface his show with a lengthy grouse-fest-turned-rally. Surprisingly, he did not even appear. The show was left to unfold without him. Attendees apparently turned up in an empty, concrete store space. It did not look like a fashion show was to be staged. There were narrow tables joined to form a long one, like a protracted alter, and a sullen sound system. It could be a pop-up anything. Or, something that in the old days would be called a mobile disco. But there was no dance. Everything was very sombre, like a gathering of the devout. And that is not overstating it. While we do not know who the guests were, in all likelihood, they were the Yeezy die-hards for whom every Yeezy item ever released has been a grailed offering. Nothing is ever unappealing or unnecessary. Attending a Yeezy event, cultish as it could be, is going on a pilgrimage.

The one T-shirt shown during the show as seen on a model and one that a guest scored. Photos: Twitter

The event unfolded largely illuminated by the candle votives. It is hard to make out what was shown at the event from some dark photographs circulating online (unlike the Met Gala, YZY FREE allowed guests to bring their smartphones into the venue. Photography was not, as far as we know, restricted). The models, mostly with heads clean-shaven—including the women—wore what seemed to be one T-shirt style and in one colour—white. The tees, with no sleeves but shoulders long enough to yield capped sleeves, appeared unsized; they were fitted on the women and terribly tight on the men, even too short for many of them. Was this a deliberate antithesis of the oversized T-shirt that is still trending? Or the reincarnation of the baby tee? They wore black trousers of different silhouettes—some could be leggings, others fairly regular pants. They were shod in post-Adidas X Yeezy footwear that has been described as socks with a thin sole, entirely black too. It is hard to understand what Mr West was attempting. Could it be some technical feat of clothes-making that we were not able to discern. Or was this just one giant empty vessel making some white noise?

Some Twitter posts showed those unforgiving T-shirts being tossed to a group of people thought to be attendees, like supplies being thrown to desperate refugees. That, presumably is the YZY FREE part. One guy who was so thrilled with being able to catch one, immediately slipped into the clearly constricted top on the street. Others who saw an opportunity in this immediately put the garment for sale online, with one seller asking for US$500 (shipping included!) for what could was likely produced for less than US$5. The frenzy may add to the desirability of the freebie, but if YZY Season 8 was, as we understand it, not produced, what is the likelihood that this collection, if we can call it that, will hot into production? Kanye West was probably just trying to prove (again) that he is a fashion designer, even if the presentation had a whiff of the unnecessarily exoteric. He can convince us all he wants.