Can the little red dot stand shoulder to shoulder with the little black dress? A native islander and friends look at fashion (and such) in Singapore, and, occasionally, among her neighbours, and a little further afield
Adidas said they will sell the Yeezys they have in stock. But do sneakerheads really want the tainted shoes now?
Stuck with a mountain of Yeezys, Adidas decides to retail them after all. The Financial Times reported that a portion of the proceeds (not its entirety) will be donated to still-to-be-named charities. According to earlier reports, Adidas is saddled with €1.2 billion (or about S$1.75 billion) worth of Yeezy shoes that brought down operating profits by €500 million. How many pairs that amounts to is not known. The Three Stripes did consider other options, including destroying the kicks, but did not find that to work to their advantage. Chief executive officer Björn Gulden was quoted telling investors at the brand’s annual meeting earlier today that “burning several million pairs does not make sense.” They decided to “try to sell parts of the product”. Did he mean that they won’t be selling the shoes intact?
It is not known if investors who are demanding that Adidas reveal the findings of the company’s investigations into Kanye West’s behavior are pleased with this decision. Last month, news emerged that investors took up a class action lawsuit against Adidas, asserting that the latter was aware of the risk that came with the collaboration even before Mr West’s string of anti-Semitic comments made through social media and press interviews in 2022. If Yeezys were to be sold whole, would there be a rush for them? A quick search for Yeezys at Stadium Goods showed a impressive 400 results, with prices that did not seem to have dipped. It is not clear if the sneakers—and slides—have been moving as quickly as before. With more kicks to be released by Adidas, would consumer interest be dramatically aroused? Or, has the recent Yeezy show—a cultish display of immense strangeness—put a damper on the ardour for the brand?
The exact release date of Yeezy X Adidas is unknown. Illustration: Just So
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.
That was in the NBC News headline. Kanye West made an ”uninvited” visit to the Skechers HQ and was “escorted” out of the building. Is this a sign of out-of-control or desperation?
With Adidas out of the way, is Kanye West looking to co-brand his precious Yeezy again? Friends in the US (and a Malaysian reader too!) have been enthusiastically sending us reports all morning of Kanye West’s alleged trespass into the headquarters of the Southern Californian sneaker brand Skechers. The company later released a statement to say that the disgraced rapper “arrived unannounced and without invitation at one of Skechers’ corporate offices in Los Angeles”. According to CNBC News, Mr West was with other unidentified people. They were, according to Skechers, “engaged in unauthorized filming”. What they were filming is not known. “Two Skechers executives escorted him and his party from the building after a brief conversation”. There was no report of unfriendly exchange.
Skechers was also certain to say that it “is not considering and has no intention of working with West”. This is likely in anticipation of the speculation that Mr West is looking for a sneaker brand to replace Adidas. You know by now that he was dropped by the Three Stripes, after a considerable period of “review” (which turned many customers impatient, asking for a boycott of Adidas), for comments considered “anti-Semitic and hateful”. Skechers, too, showed that they are willing to censure what he has repeatedly said. “We condemn his recent divisive remarks and do not tolerate antisemitism or any other form of hate speech.” There clearly would not be Skechers Yeezy!
Mr West has already been called out and dropped by three fashion brands. There are not many corporations he could really turn to now, if they are not the likes of Parler. While his clothing line can possibly wait, his sneakers cannot. With Adidas, they have created what is considered one of the most successful shoe partnerships in modern footwear history, making him a billionaire—he no longer is, as Forbes was quick to declare after the Adidas split with him. It is unsurprising, therefore, that the rapper would need to find another company to continue the Yeezy drops. He has previously announced: “I need a shoe company like how Jaimie Salter bought Reebok. Or I’ll take over some shoe factories.” Was what happened at the Skechers compound an incursion?
Mr West being turned away by Skechers would augment the brand’s corporate standing and show that they are willing to do what’s right, and swiftly. One PR professional told us, “It is PR value that costs Skechers nothing.” The shoe label known for their memory foam technology currently has Korean actor Pak Seo Jun as their regional ambassador (for Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Macau). Cedrick Tan, Skechers SVP, told Marketing Interactive last year that “with the shorter and fragmented attention span of consumers today, it is important that a brand ambassador, besides having a positive, well-liked image, is a role model who is multi-dimensional, driven, and inspiring”. They would not find that person in Kanye West.
The Yeezy Gap website is taken down, along with all the merchandise
The final new item from the Yeezy Gap line that was touted online
By Lester Fang
The last mail that I received from Yeezy Gap was last Saturday. In it, they tried to seduce my consumer self (but, unfortunately for them, not a Yeezy-fan self) with a “long round jacket”, an around-the-knee length take of the first item “you-can’t-manage-me” Kanye West released under that collaboration. Nothing in the minimalist, copy-lite mail said anything about Engineered by Balenciaga as this outer was not. I subscribed to their e-mail notification not because I have anything to buy there, but because, as a contributor to SOTD, I wanted to keep abreast with what’s happening in the Yeezy cult. By now you would have read of all the pull-outs by the brands that Mr West had aligned himself with. In fact, The Gap was the first to want to disassociate themselves with the man who, I am sure, was not worth all the trouble and online rants. There is so much even a resilient company such as The Gap can take.
I revisited that mail this morning. When I clicked on the link to yeezygap.com, I landed at Gap’s own chirpy website. There was no yeezygap.com, not even a landing page that says something like “this site can’t be reached”. At gap.com, there were links at the top to other Gap brands: Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Athleta, but there was nothing that said Yeezy Gap, not anywhere on the page. Everything vanished. Yeezy Gap has been obliterated, just like Pharaoh Akhenaten was. As I understand it from my friends in San Francisco, the clothes and accessories were not available in the stores too. No more of those ridiculous bulk bags. I would think that The Gap has a lot of merchandise to clear. Yeezy Gap did not enjoy typical Gap price points. Five days ago, they were discounting the Yeezy Gap hoodies. But now they are taking everything off the market. It is not clear if there is anything else in production, but clearly no more “cheap Balenciaga” tops to be had.
The Gap announcement on Instagram not long ago, Screen shot: yeezyxgap/Instagram
The Gap’s action is rather swift. It came as soon as Adidas announced that they would end their partnership with Mr West. On Instagram, three days after they shared that “YEEZYGAP AVAILABLE IN📍ATLANTA MORE GAP STORES CONTINUE TO GET YEEZYGAP ITEMS” (yes, in full caps, sans punctuation, just like how Mr West would text), it posted a “Statement On Yeezy Partnership”. The two paragraph notice stated that they “are taking immediate steps to remove Yeezy Gap product (sic) from our stores and we have shut down YeezyGap.com” after explaining that their “former partner’s recent remarks and behaviour further underscore why” the partnership had to come to an end. It added, “Antisemitism, racism and hate in any form are inexcusable and not tolerated in accordance to our values. On behalf of our customers, employees and shareholders, we are partnering with organizations that combat hate and discrimination.” But unlike Adidas, it did not say how much of a loss it would incur by this action.
To me, Yeezy Gap will not be missed. Nor Adidas Yeezy. While I think there was an aesthetical point in what Kanye West did, it was not for me. I have never found anything associated with Yeezy to be attractive. Or the people who wore Yeezy going about as if they were the epitome of cool. When I tried the US$220 Yeezy Boost 350 V2 ‘Zebra’ for the first time back in 2017 (I did not buy it. Someone I know had a pair; he later sold it for double the retail price. The shoe was tried on, but not worn), I thought to myself what an ugly piece of crap. It looked like something died on my feet. (Apparently, Adidas intents to continue selling Yeezy designs with the second name.) When it came to the Yeezy Gap, I was of two minds. While I did like the boxy silhouettes of the T-shirts, Engineered by Balenciaga, I was not too enamoured with the price: from US$140 a piece. And that they were very thick was a deal breaker for me too. But, more than anything, the fact that they were linked to Yeezy and the man behind it, just turned me away. I never saw him as a designer, never did, never will. Rapper—yes, social agitator—yes, anti-Semite—yes; designer, definitely no.
There could be too much at stake to drop the partnership with Kanye West. And the rapper knows it, and brags
It has been more than two weeks since Adidas announced that they “have taken the decision to place the partnership under review”. But nothing seems to have come out of that. Not the decisiveness that Adidas fans were expecting, definitely not the resolve of Balenciaga—last week, the Kering-owned brand released a statement to the media, saying that “Balenciaga has no longer any relationship nor any plans for future projects related to this artist”. There is nothing ambiguous about that statement. And they did not have to explain why. By now, it is very clear why it’s to any brand’s interest to distance themselves from collaborators who make controversial statements, especially anti-Semitic ones, and simultaneously insisting that they are right.
In new video clips from the pulled-out Drinks Champs podcast now shared on social media, Kanye West said—with startling confidence: “The thing about me and Adidas is like, I could literally say anti-Semitic shit, and they can’t drop me.” And he repeated himself with glee, “I can say anti-Semitic things and Adidas can’t drop me. Now what?” Yes, now what, Adidas? Or is Mr West implying that he can’t be cancelled by the brand that has made his Yeezy sneakers one of the best-selling in the world? The Washington Post reported that “Yeezy generates an estimated US$2 billion a year, close to 10 percent of the company’s annual revenue”. Adidas themselves declared that “the Adidas Yeezy partnership is one of the most successful collaborations in our industry’s history.” Is Yeezy too hot to touch?
It is likely that despite the objectionable words that repeatedly and stridently come out of Mr West’s mouth across all media, he is too important a name to pull away from for some consumer brands that need his fame to reach out to his ever-willing-to-spend fans. While JP Morgan and the booking agency Creative Arts Agency have also announced the disassociation with Mr West, Adidas, has made a meek comment about merely “reviewing” their professional arrangement with him, even when he had derided the company’s CEO. Mr West appears impervious to cancel culture, and Adidas’s slow reaction to his anti-Semitic arrogance corroborates with the increasing belief that we tolerate bad behaviour by popular public figures, and their outbursts, no matter how extreme, will quickly not be. For every person who disapproves the hurtful words of Mr West, there are just as many who support him.
Just look at the latest video shared on YouTube by The Hollywood Fix. When asked what he thought of Balenciaga dropping him, Mr West said, “I ain’t lose no money. They never paid me nothing… The day when I was taken off the Balenciaga site, that was one of the most freeing days.” And then he was asked if he thinks Adidas is next. ”We’re going through legal right now, so anything can happen,” he replied. But it was not what he said that is disturbing. It’s the reaction of the crowd surrounding him. Many were supportive. You can hear them saying “we are behind you”, “they can’t cancel you”, “god is on your side, man”, “he is the master controller”, “you are going to be the catalyst that brings us forward”, “can we get some Yeezys?”, “Kanye, will you sign my shirt for me here?”, “have a good one, Kanye”.
On Twitter, someone reacting to the welcomed news that Mr West was ”DROPPED by his longtime talent agency”, wrote, ”I don’t understand the obsession with getting someone cancelled. Some of you treat it like it’s a job.” Not everyone is ready for a punitive response, however vile Mr West’s utterances are. Or, willing to see a brand for the company it keeps. Adidas could be watching and convincing themselves to ”let’s wait and see”.
Update (25 October 2022, 17:00): According to a Bloomberg report, Adidas “plans to end its partnership with Kanye West following a rash of offensive behavior from the rapper and designer that turned a once-thriving shoe brand into a lightning rod for criticism”. The Adidas announcement will be made soon. Stay tuned.
We thought we have given enough juice to the rambling disturbance known as Kanye West. Frankly, we are quite bored with his BS (ostensible mental condition aside) and his desperate need to be taken seriously in fashion, and the destructive path he has created in order to secure some recognition. And the people he will hurt—even the dead—to do all that. We have enough of how every little thing could disquiet him, how everyone else has done him wrong, how he cannot be blamed, tamed, and managed. Some people say that we cannot deny that he has talent. So, we won’t: His is to overstate his own.
Disastrously for him, his talent has turned the brand Mr West deeply admires away from him. By now, the news is raging like bush fire, but it still merits sharing. Balenciaga, whose designer Mr West deems the greatest and who was instrumental in the early conception of the Yeezy clothing line, has announced that they want nothing to do with the raving rapper. According to WWD, Kering has issued a statement (after the media wondered why the parent company has remained audibly mum?) to announce their position: “Balenciaga has no longer any relationship nor any plans for future projects related to this artist”. The New York Times reported last month that Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga would go no further than what was completed.
This dramatic end, or what Mr West might call being cancelled, is perhaps not surprising after it was reported last week that Balenciaga has edited the video of their spring/summer 2023 PFW presentation shared online in which Mr West opened the show, tromping through the muddiest runway Paris ever saw by trimming his part off. The brand has also removed images on their social media showing Mr West in the said show as model, even on the widely-viewed Vogue Runway. And then on the Yeezy Gap website, you no longer find the “Engineered by Balenciaga” selling catchphrase spelled out at any point or corner. Balenciaga is getting serious about the break, even if, at first, surreptitiously.
The brand distancing themselves from Kanye West, however, is no indication that Demna Gvasalia needs to do the same. Mr West and Mr Gvasalia are thought to be “very close”. Their “bromance” is well documented. Last Week, The New York Times, citing “one insider”, reported that the Donda artiste “has been known to refer to himself as Demna’s straight husband”. Both men wanted to be called by their mononym at about the same time. After Mr West opened the Balenciaga show last month, Mr Gvasalia attended the YZY SZN 9 presentation in Paris. The Georgian designer told Vanity Fair last year following his first couture outing for Balenciaga, “There are very few people that I know, especially of that caliber, who really understand what I do.” The relationship between those two, although not entirely clear beyond the professional, is probably harder to untangle.
Update (22 October 2022, 15:00):
Anna Wintour And Vogue’s Turn
Looks like the world’s most powerful editor and her just-as-mighty magazine are taking a stand too: away from Kanye West. According to the New York Post’s Page Six, a Vogue spokesperson told the gossip site “exclusively” that Anna Wintour and her almost-synonymous title do not “intend to work with Kanye West again after his anti-Semitic rants and support for the White Lives Matter cause”. A “source” quoted by Page Six said, “Anna has had enough. She has made it very clear inside Vogue that Kanye is no longer part of the inner circle.” As of now, Vogue online has removed the review of the YZY SZN 9 show. A search on the website turned up the message: “Oops. The page you’re looking for cannot be found”. Writer Luke Leitch’s feature on Mr West seems to have been extirpated too. Ms Wintour has yet to state her position with regards to Mr West’s controversial comments and rants. She was last seen with John Galliano and Demna Gvasalia at the YZY SZN 9 show, but had reportedly left early. It is not known if she was in touch with Mr West after that.
Kanye West interviewed by Tucker Carlson. Screen shot: motherboardtv/FaceBook
At the end of the Tucker Carlson introduction to his interview with Kanye West, televised on Fox News last week, the anchor asked, “Is West crazy?”. The answer might well be a resounding yes (his purported bipolar disorder aside). But Mr Carlson wanted you to believe otherwise. Many of us, “the enemies of his ideas”, America’s favourite conservative political commentator said, “dismissed West, as they have for years, as mentally ill. Too crazy to take seriously. Look away. Ignore him. He’s a mental patient. There’s nothing to see here.” Did Tucker Carlson know something we did not or only suspected? Is he pro-West, as he appeared to be, calling his interviewee “a highly-paid and celebrated fashion designer”. Perhaps anything less laudatory but more critical would not be honorary to the man lapping it all up before him? Never mind that when Mr Carlson adulates, as he does when it comes to, for example, Vladimir Putin, he makes many cringe.
As it turned out, Kanye West enjoyed the interview so much that he gave Mr Carlson more than the two hours worth of material that made the broadcast. In fact, the desultory session was much longer. And far more revealing and disturbing. According to Vice, its sibling unit Motherboard TV obtained footages of those parts omitted in the final two-parter. Kanye West can’t stop talking—that’s for sure. But he won’t stop talking about Virgil Abloh—that’s just annoying. Or Mr West’s own massive part in the scheme of things—that’s double the annoyance. Since his mind-numbing YZY SZN 9 show in Paris more than a week ago, the rapper-designer has been gabbing that it was he who made possible Mr Abloh’s rise to the fashion firmament. And, in case everyone has just returned from orbiting Mars, that Mr Abloh was his assistant, a mere sidekick, the one who should not have succeeded, but did anyway. What is that supposed to evoke?
And the sour grapes became even more so. Could this be what consumed by jealousy looks like? He couldn’t reiterate what he already said on Instagram (the platform, as well as Twitter restricted him for allegedly anti-Semitic comments); so he took to the French media outlet Clique TV. And just in case the editing there was too heavy-handed, he found the repeating of himself necessary with Tucker Carlson, the eager listener to those who would give him material to match his view that his own voice is being silenced by intolerant liberals. And Mr West would not be suppressed either. So he said again in the un-aired footage Motherboard TV shared, ”Virgil was hired as my assistant” (he also emphasised later that “he got his line [Off-White], but he’s my main employee”) and, in true Trumpian boast, “we did this fashion show that was the… it was the most seen fashion show in history”. We assume he was referring to Yeezy Season 1.
And then the reminder that LVMH wanted to invest in him. As that show was so widely watched, “Bernard Arnault asked to meet with me. And he offered me a deal. But with the deal, they had to have ownership because they are colonisers… All these people, all these VCs and a lot of this type of companies, they have to have a lot of this kind of ownership. And Louis Vuitton have presented themselves in such a way—they have so much real estate, where a Black man’s dream comes true.” Yet, despite their real estate, their supposed interest in him and what he had done till then, and his willingness “to give them the lion’s share”, Mr West said, that “three months later, they dropped the deal at the board.” And then his “best friend” got the position at Louis Vuitton, “which is, aside from Hermès, one of the most prestigious jobs in the world.”
Despite the acknowledgement of the prestige a job at LV confers, it would be amazing that after this, any fashion company would be willing to work with him. Particularly disconcerting was his assertion that “Virgil was actually the third person to die of cancer in that organisation (LVMH)“ without saying how he came to such statistics, as well as “not just Black men have passed in that organisation, but the third person to die of cancer that was in a higher up position in that organisation”. And then he went on to point out that “Paris is a different level of elitism and racism. And Virgil was the kind of guy that—he didn’t hold it in. And I believe it ate him up from inside.” If you are still not convinced, he repeated himself to underscore that point. “The level of racism, elitism and pressure that he was under, I’m sure, affected his health.”
No matter how often he has blurted about the competition—unhealthy enough to deserve echoing—between Mr Abloh and he, repetition is necessary. “At that point, also me and Virgil had a rivalry because he had taken my place in fashion,” Mr West reminded the viewers. Was his place that low that it could be easily scaled or, to him, usurped? And as before, he had to drag Drake’s name in: “He was now Drake to the radio of what he was to fashion. And we had a strained relationship also.” He did not say exactly what caused the strain. But jealousy, as he had pointed out before, was (and still is) likely the root of all that bedeviled him. And then his other Drake, Bernard Arnault, was brought up again. “I felt what Bernard Arnault—not only did he pull on the deal that contributed to me breaking down, and go back on his word with that, he also went on to hire multiple people out of my organisation.” It is hard even for the “king of culture” to find the courage and the confirmation in a career considered crowned. Even when no one cares.
Kanye West admits he ”hated” Virgil Abloh’s designs. Intense brotherly affection?
Kanye West (front) and Virgil Abloh (back) hugged and cried at the end of Mr Abloh’s first Louis Vuitton. Screen shot: travisscott/Instagram
In the latest Instagram posts, following his rambling interview with Tucker Carlson of Fox News, Kanye West hit back at Tremaine Emory (of Supreme and Denim Tears), saying that both of them had no love for the work of the late Virgil Abloh. “I hated Virgil’s designs and you do to [sic]”. It is not clear if Mr West was referring to Off-White or Louis Vuitton. Or, if he detested Mr Abloh’s designs because he didn’t think they were as good as the output of his current fave, Demna Gvasalia of Balenciaga (whom he called “THE MOST RELEVANT DESIGNER”) or Riccardo Tisci whose last Burberry show Mr West turned up to support. It is tempting to see his admission concur with the initial thoughts on Mr Abloh’s designs for Off-White (often referred to as an “elevated streetwear brand”, although they did eventually offer “couture”) and later LV. His debut at the French house was met with suspicion—hype aided him, not design. Even after establishing himself as a luxury fashion force to acknowledge, there was still cynicism towards him as an original. In 2020, Walter Van Beirendonck, reacting to designs for the contemporaneous LV show in Shanghai that bore striking similarity to what the Belgian designer put out in 2016, said to the media, “It’s very clear that Virgil Abloh is not a designer. He has no language of his own, no vision. He can’t create something of his own season after season and that is painful.”
Kanye West came to the defence of his friend. He wrote on Twitter, “Virgil can do whatever he wants”, adding “do you know how hard it’s been for us to be recognized?” A struggling or novice creative cannot crib the original work of others, but a recognised designer can, just like a pedestrian can’t ignore the red man at a traffic crossing, but a cyclist can? But now it seems that, while a successful Mr Abloh had the freedom to do as he pleased, what he did was hated. Was Mr West’s support that ardent to begin with? Following the shared-then-deleted flux of IG posts, which Tucker Carlson called “freeform social media posts”, Mr West put out eight screen shots that he referred to as “ABBREVIATED VERSION OF ME AND TREMAINES (sic) CONVERSATION”. Apart from admitting to his intense dislike for Mr Abloh’s designs, he claimed that Mr Emory shared the same sentiment. In previous posts, Mr West had claimed that he hired the latter “because LVMH took Virgil”. Was he saying that he was he left with no one else, but the second best? It is not hard to understand why his followers find his posts gripping stuff.
Designing friends or rivals? From left, Tremaine Emory, Virgil Abloh, Kanye West. Photo: Getty Images
In this fraught triumvirate, Tremaine Emory has worked with both men. He started at Marc Jacobs, where he remained for nine years before being lured by Mr West to serve as the rapper-designer’s creative consultant in 2016 (a position formerly filled by Virgil Abloh) and later became Yeezy’s brand director. He left Yeezy two years after and established his own label Denim Tears, following the formation of the multi-disciplinary creative collective No Vacancy Inn (their T-shirts retailed at Dover Street Market London). Mr Abloh and Mr Emory collaborated on a Levi’s capsule for Denim Tears in 2021. After the LV designer’s death in 2021, Mr Emory was rumoured to be one of those shortlisted to take over at LV (others included A-Cold-Wall*’s Samuel Ross and Pyer Moss’s Kerby Jean-Raymond). He joined Supreme in February this year, where he is the streetwear giant’s first official creative director.
This resume, for the most part, corresponds with what Mr West wrote to Mr Emory in one of the screen shots shared: “We all take jobs at white companies. And wether [sic] we like the fashion or not”, after saying “we as a people have lost the ability to farm ourselves”. Is he suggesting that Black people would not seek employment with the likes of Telfar Clemens? Or is working with White-owned companies, unappealing as it is to Mr West, a Black fate? His current belief is rather ironic, considering that his first fashion job of consequence (certainly for Virgil Abloh) and a choice of his, was that internship with Fendi in Rome. Did he not like the fashion there, even when he reportedly admired Karl Lagerfeld? In an interview with the New York radio station Hot 97 in 2018, Mr West said that it was monotonous: “every day, going to work, walking to work, getting cappuccinos.” Seemingly, there was no work involving design. As he recalled to radio host Charlamagne Tha God, “We couldn’t do anything. We were just happy to have a key card”. Both men were paid US$500 a month, each.
The IG conversations he had with Mr Emory, the designer of the ‘White Lives Matter’ T-shirt wrote: “I was jealous of Virgil.” For many it is hardly surprising that Mr West felt that way. He is the “Louis Vuitton don” and this is old-fashioned resentment against someone else enjoying more success than he. Until Mr Abloh’s death, both were friends for about 14 years. They met some time in the mid-2000s through Mr West’s then manager, the Chicago music bigwig John Monopoly. Mr Abloh was working in a print shop at the time and he could do graphic design, and was able to do it well, digitally too. He was introduced to Mr West, who asked him to collaborate almost immediately. As Mr Abloh told GQ in 2019, “more than any title, I was just his assistant creatively” or, in fancier term, “consigliere”, as the chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Michael Darling described his position. In 2009, the two men’s fashion adventure began when they managed to secure an internship with Fendi in Rome. In just four years after that, Mr Abloh launched Off-White and in another four, he joined Louis Vuitton. His trajectory would have impressed—or aroused jealousy—in the once-more-famous Mr West.
Happier times: Tremaine Emory and Kanye West in 2018. Photo: BFA
When the new LV designer emerged to take his bow at the end of his debut show for the house in Paris in 2018, Mr West stepped onto the runway, walked towards his friend, and both men hugged, and cried into each other’s shoulder. The rapper was clearly emotional. And possibly burning with jealousy? Once a mere “assistant” and then fellow intern, Virgil Abloh was now basking in the glare of the world’s media and the applause of those whose approval and respect he needed. He had quickly achieved more than what Mr West had desired to, even when both of their design beginnings were largely circumscribed by the ternion of T-shirt, hoodie, and sneakers. Although Yeezy shoes (with Adidas) and the clothing line were already launched in 2015 (and the footwear is hugely successful), Mr West was not quite the lauded designer that his friend with two fashion labels under his watch had managed to become. However hard he tried, fashion folks still did not (won’t) take Kanye West seriously. Unable to score a job with a luxury brand, he took another route—quite the opposite, in fact. In 2020, The Gap announced that they had inked a 10-year deal to create the Yeezy Gap line. Last month, Mr West called off the partnership.
Since then, there were also his troubles with Adidas, which promoted the German brand to “place the partnership under review”. Every Yeezy collaborator seemingly could not understand what their main man desired or what was brewing in his head. This contrasted with Mr Abloh, whose work with LV appeared to have had gone swimmingly well. Even after his death, LV staged repeated, lavish tribute shows. Adidas merely designated a Yeezy Day and apparently without Mr West’s approval, as the guy alleged this year (Yeezy Day has been around since 2019). It is not yet known why Mr West hated Mr Abloh’s designs or—according to Mr Emory—said “Virgil’s designs are a disgrace to the black community infont [sic] of all (his) employees at Yeezy”. Addressing Mr Emory, Mr West wondered why “you and Luka (Sabbat, a model/influencer who walked in Yeezy Season 1) not wearing it head to toe”, as if that is necessary to prove one adores another designer’s work. In a separate IG post, he wrote about Mr Emory, “I took you off the streets… only cause you was the struggle version of Virgil”. Even the folks at The Gap and Adidas knew better than to provoke the wrath of “you can’t manage me” Kanye West. But as he told Tucker Carlson, “If I raise my voice, if I express myself on Instagram, it’s a colonic.”
Update (10 Oct 2023, 13.10):
In his latest broadcast interview—with French media outlet Clique TV—Kanye West revealed that the Louis Vuitton Men’s artistic director position was first proposed to him before Virgil Abloh got the job. “No one knows I’d been offered the deal by Bernard Arnault,” he said. “But three months after that, they dropped the deal”, even after Mr Arnault’s son Alexandre had said that his dad “never goes back on his word”. Mr West also claimed that Mr Abloh only called him to share the good news “two minutes before it hit the Internet”. He reiterated that there was “a lot of pain and jealousy”. It is not known why he chose to reveal this only now. Or, if it’s the self-declared “creative genius”, the “unquestionably, undoubtedly, the greatest human artist of all time” in self-affirmation mode.
Update (10 Oct 2023, 23:00):
Kanye West in a supposed meeting with Adidas execs. Screen shot: Kanye West/Facebook
Temporarily shut out of Instagram and Twitter, Kanye West has taken to Facebook to show a 30-minute docu-promo of sort titled Last Week. One of the clips included was a meeting with executives from Adidas that took place in a blank room. At the start of the clip, Mr West was showing one of the men on his smartphone something that caused the latter to ask, “is that a porn movie?” This meeting appeared to have taken place after his separation from Gap. In the conversation (subtitled!), Mr West made sure, again, that those listening knew exactly who he was: “I’m the king of culture… I have to step up as the king of culture (he called himself that at least four times). You’re face to face, eye to eye with the person who does songs with your father-in-law, with the person who discovered Virgil, with the person who discovered Demna, with the person that placed the creative director at SKIMS”. That’s clearly another predilection: taking credit for everything.
Adidas now ponders what it should do with the Kanye West brand that both have raised with admiral success. Is it time to let go?
That it should come to this really surprises no one. In a statement provided to the press, the Three Stripes said, “After repeated efforts to privately resolve the situation, we have taken the decision to place the partnership under review”. When Kanye West read what Adidas sent out that the media lapped up, he responded on Instagram with “FUUUUUUCK ADIDAS I AM ADIDAS ADIDAS RAPED AND STOLE MY DESIGNS” (the post has since been deleted), including a screen shot of a CNBC report of the Adidas’s reconsideration. He was his usual irascible self, just as he was when he reacted to the widespread disapproval of his “White Lives Matter” T-shirt with the post, “EVERYONE KNOWS THAT BLACK LIVES MATTER WAS A SCAM NOW IT’S OVER YOU’RE WELCOME”.
Mr West has, for as long as we can remember, been an angry man, but is much more so, which does not bode well for his business/brand partnerships. He has a tendency to bring his grouses, including those with the makers of his Yeezy sneakers, to the public sphere, with palpable heat. In contrast, Adidas went about resolving the issues with the rapper “privately”, as they said. Mr West prefers/needs the world to know he is unhappy with whoever he is unhappy with, past or present. In the last few months, he had been especially vocal, his denunciation on social media more bitter and vehement as he called out Adidas’s CEO Kasper Rorsted, even posting photos of the members of the board. Early last month, he shared a Photoshopped image of the front page of The New York Times, falsely announcing that Mr Rorsted had died. How his anger towards Adidas became this vengeful is not easily understood.
But that was not the only death that he brought up with regards to CEOs. In an IG post published after his Yeezy Season 9 show in Paris early this week, he wrote that LVMH’s Bernard Arnaud “KILLED MY BEST FRIEND”, accompanied by a photo of the bust of Virgil, the ancient Roman poet regarded by his countrymen as their greatest, which was taken to refer to Virgil Abloh. Quick to respond was Tremaine Emory, the creative director of Supreme. He wrote on IG, sharing Mr West’s post, “I gotta draw the line at you using Virgil’s death in your ‘ye’ is the victim campaign in front of your sycophant peanut algorithm gallery.” We could sense applause. He went on, accusing Mr West of telling his Yeezy staff that “Virgil’s designs are a disgrace to the black community”. Would you say that of your “best friend”? “Ye tell the ppl why you didn’t get invited to Virgil’s actual funeral,” he continued, “keep Virgil name out your mouth…”.
(When staffers at Balenciaga, offered a heart shape in response to this post, Mr West responded with his own, accompanied by a list of the names and photos of the culpable [the post has been deleted]: ”These are the people at Balenciaga that hearted Tremaine’s post where he threatened me after all I’ve done for Balenciaga…”.)
Now, it is the people at Adidas who wish to keep Kanye West out of their mouths. There is so much vitriolic offensive that one can take. It is amazing that Mr West does not see that his outbursts and ugly public persona would likely hurt Yeezy than Adidas, a brand of 73 years, compared to the Adidas Yeezy partnership of seven. The Adidas and Yeezy divorce, if it comes to that, is going to be messy, like those of so many celebrity couples, in particular the many who led exceptionally public lives. In that statement shared to news media, Adidas also wrote that “successful partnerships are rooted in mutual respect and shared values”. Is that euphemistic talk for irreconcilable differences? According to estimates published by Forbes, Mr West’s deal with the German brand “is worth USD220 million annually and USD1.5 billion total”. Without Adidas, it is likely his net worth will dip below USD1 billion. Anger, Kanye West may not realise, is not bridge-building, nor profit-yielding.
Is it about the clothes? And they still make them?And the show—what devotionals?
Truth be told, we remember very little of what Yeezy is as a fashion label. They have been relatively quiet (not owner Kanye West, of course) but their return to Paris after the last show—season 8 in 2020—is not. The event was prefaced by Mr West walking the Balenciaga show and his appearance on the Givenchy front row. And there were the notices on social media, including one in Instagram, claiming with sheer exasperation that “Magically No production companies (sic) have been willing to produce my YZYSZN9 fashion show in Paris on October 3″ (that post, since deleted, was accompanied by an image of the list of Gap “Board of Directors”). The show, latter to be touted as being on “the new frontier”, was off to an inauspicious start.
We stayed up last night to try to watch the show on yeezy.com. But, as it turned out, it was a private livestream. On the landing page, we were asked to “enter your email address for YZYSZN9” so as to “join the waitlist”. To watch a livestream fashion show? That’d be a first. But the Internet is a wondrous place and you could still view what some might wish to place a restriction on you. The livestream came on, but we had to wait more than an hour for the show to start. And when it did, it was not even the show. In Virgil Abloh fashion, a film preceded the proceedings, or rather, a video compilation of events past (not necessarily connected to the Yeezy brand), including clips of the dead—John Lennon and Steve Jobs and his mother Donda West, whom Mr West spoke of during the David Letterman talk show—and the living, Kim Kardashian (he really couldn’t let go of her?). Then the waiting continued.
This was the weirdest Yeezy show (or any show), to say the least. Or, more—the most boring, the dreariest and the draggiest to watch. It is amazing how the guests (reportedly only 50 were invited) could put up with the indefinite waiting. The show (more like a rally) finally started, but still no clothes. Kanye West took to the centre of the semi-circular, atrium-like space, offering multiple-Instagram-posts-in-one-rant. Seriously. He fretted, with no spotlight on him, about the reactions to the late start of his Yeezy Season 4 show on Roosevelt Island, New York in 2016, and how the press, having to wait for two hours, “completely killed us” (Mr West forgot to mention that his Donda listening events started late too, but fans, of course, didn’t mind). He went on about the former missus getting robbed “right here in Paris” and people still talking about the Tommy Ton photo, shot in 2009 when he and Virgil Abloh and others attended their first PFW.
Other than his first arrival in the scene, Kanye West wanted to remind you that Yeezy “did change the look of fashion over the past ten years” and that “we are the streets; we are the culture”. And, therefore, “we will not be bullied; we will not be treated differently than you treat any fashion show that might start a little bit later, just to present the best idea to you”. Lateness in the start of shows (and the arrivals of merchandise. Remember what happened to the early drops of Yeezy Gap?) is part of the deal because, in case you did not know, he is all that matters. He stated very clearly, with total alpha-male certainty, “I am Ye and everyone here knows that I am the leader.” That must have been a turn-on for many. It is notable that for a considerable part of this sermonic exhortation, quite a few could be heard saying, when they agree with what was uttered, “yes”, which might have been amen. The self-appreciation/affirmation—and further denunciation (Gap was singled out)—went on for some ten minutes. Towards the end, we heard: “You can’t manage me. This is an unmanageable situation”. By then we were very sleepy and very bored.
Were we here to hear grouses, not see gowns? Shortly after the rambling speech, which ended with “Bernard Arnault is my new Drake” (read into that whatever you will), the show began. And, again, sort of. A little girl took to the performance area, and shouted ”good morning, Donda”. A chorus of juvenile voices responded. Then other kids joined her, including the fashionista-daughter North West. They are reportedly from Mr West’s controversial Donda School (except North), and they continued the salutation to Donda (person, school, or album, your guess would be as good as ours) like a religious chant. A fashion event suddenly seemed like the Kanye West Sunday Service. Or a community event in Harlem. Then a choir master took over, and the worshipful vibe became disturbingly palpable. When the kids started circling the space, as if in some sacred ritual, before the models emerged, it started to look like a cult ceremony. They sang their hearts out, this motley bunch of different ages. There was no explanation as to why the kids were involved in the selling of Yeezy. Early aesthetical indoctrination?
The clothes: Before the ragtag models joined the still-singing children, they were filmed somewhere backstage, and the live images were projected on the on-site screen and shown—each quadrupled—during the livestream. It would take no effort to see the similarity to Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga’s communication materials. Yeezy solo is still unable to pull away from the aesthetic that Demna Gvasalia had helped the collaboration cement. And it is a look Mr West has been personally keen to adopt and push, including the obscuring of faces—identity be damned. The Yeezy collection is really variations of what were established earlier with The Gap, even when Mr West seemed certain that “the idea behind this collection is that everything is pulled on and pulled over… The future of clothes… No hardware…” Or, for that matter, discernible logos. But what Yeezy hoodie or T-shirt isn’t pulled over, and has no hardware?
The collection is, we’re told, co-designed with Shane Oliver of Hood By Air. Mr West apparently couldn’t go at the design singly. But the hand of Demna Gvasalia is strong. The lightest clothes, a pair of fitted singlets with spaghetti straps and cold hips (and the similar in dress form), were overwhelmed by the pieces that were variations of the hoodie and the puffer, now puffed to extreme shapes, and the outers that looked like rags wrapped around and around the body. Is this truly the direction Yeezy is taking to make fashion accessible to everyone, to break down the class divide that Mr West believes exists in fashion (never mind the show was attended by the said 50 people), even if it is doubtful that anyone wants to looks thrice their size and, in doing so, appear sinister? That Kanye West is able to continue to do this, to appear baleful, is due to, in no small part, the ardent support of those who really believe he is a design deity: such as attendees Anna Wintour, Hamish Bowles, Demna Gvasalia, Riccardo Tisci or friends-as-models Matthew Williams and Michèle Lamy (wife of Rick Owens), and Naomi Campbell, who looked like she was wearing an inflatable pool bed.
Not much about the collection was immediately talked about post-show, even on social media. By next week, the clothes may be forgotten. But one item had already stoke fires: the black, long-sleeved T-shirt Mr West wore, with a photo print of Pope John Paul II across the chest. At the back were three words in white san-serif font, arranged in three lines: “White Lives Matter”, a slogan that came into use in 2015, after the Black Live Matter movement. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, the phrase on the T-shirt Mr West wore is “a racist response to the civil rights movement Black Lives Matter, is a neo-Nazi group that is growing into a movement as more and more white supremacist groups take up its slogans and tactics.” The Anti-Defamation League declared those three words a “hate slogan”. It did not help that Kanye West was seen with conservative influencer/commentator/activist Candace Owens (three weeks ago, she called Kim Kardashian “a prostitute” on her talk show Daily Wire), who also wore the same top, but in white and with black text. How nuts were the Wonder Twins? Mr West, for whom “slavery was a choice”, did say earlier in his tirade-cum-homily, “people feel like they have the right to come to my face and call me crazy. Like it doesn’t hurt my feelings. Or like, you don’t have to be crazy in order to change the world.” Yeah.
A dark, dark, and muddy world, with a parade led by a self-destructive egomaniac
In a four-season world that is facing increasingly warm summers (with some cities reportedly skipping spring altogether), it is strange that at Balenciaga’s spring/summer 2023 show, the first model sent out is Kanye West (rumoured to be in Paris to present a Yeezy collection), bundled up like a ranger on some frigid war-torn settlement. In fact, on his multi-pocketed flak jacket, a label on the left chest reads “SECURITY”. Despite the hoodie over a cap which casts a shadow over his face, the bearded Mr West is still identifiable. He looks as he has been these past year, mostly dressed as if the places he visits are below zero degrees Celsius, even when it’s blazing. As he has explained before, he has the predilection to “dress like winter when it’s hot”. Perhaps that may explain why on Demna Gvasalia’s TikTok account, which shared a short video showing Mr West’s duration on the runway, the caption reads, “Ye is walking for Balenciaga winter 23”!
A friend of SOTD’s said that it could be a “typo”. Perhaps, but unlikely (the Balenciaga social media team won’t make such a mistake). Could it be an autumn/winter outfit made specially for Mr West to wear in summer that can serve as a preview for the season after? This is one Balenciaga customer/“friend of the house” with exacting needs, including a desperate one to be taken seriously by the fashion establishment. Mr West, in fact, looks like he could well be ready for the next Mad Max movie. A Black Road Warrior? And the set of the show matches: a wasteland of very wet mud. After last season’s snow, could this be what happens when the deep freeze thaws, but the war has not ended? In fact, Balenciaga calls this presentation The Mud Show. The set, with real mud dumped into a stadium (in the darkness, it could be a pile of dung), is designed by the Spanish performance/installation artist Santiago Sierra. A waterlogged path is created and on this boggy ground, the indigent-looking bunch (including dads with babies—they look fake—close to the chest), some of the models appear bruised (bashed?), trudge or march on, the hems of their gown and pants, and shoes, quickly dirtied by the muck.
The muddying is consistent with Balenciaga’s recent slew of ‘Destroyed’ garments and footwear. And there are more rips-as-destruction this season to better fit the misery and squalor of the world, seen through Demna Gvasalia’s eyes. If everything around us is falling apart, why not the clothes? The first victims of the tattering are, expectedly, the jeans; this time, also with severe rips in the rear, so extreme, some might consider them unwearable. There is defacement too—graffiti on the hoodies. All the disfiguring, according to Mr Gvasalia, required a “couple of days” more than making clothes that are not damaged. Just as there are the seriously destructed, there are those left whole and untarnished, until the mud gets to them. The dresses, which have won the brand consistent approval and yielded considerable influence, come in slinky jersey with the simplicity of a T-shirt or in fluid plissé that wrap the body protectively like a cape, stand out. However wrecked the world, there are those who chose to dress splendidly. Or in a patch-up of old handbags. In the last dress, a man (or a flat-chested woman?) wears a gown made of Balenciaga’s once sort-after Lariat bags. This could have appeared in the couture collection (along with those clothes made of old belts), but here it is, an unyielding outfit probably too difficult for a woman to wear.
As the models tread, some carry stuffed animals with handles (are they filled bags?) that could have been dropped as children flee whatever/whoever they were escaping from. These are carried by the strangely under-dressed: in hooded tops with scanty running shorts. Or those wearing belts with the width of cummerbunds. Some of the bags look like sacks or pillows, and others like trash bags (already a trending Balenciaga item). One style was most striking. It continues Mr Gvasalia’s passion for conjoining disparate things, such as Kim Kardashian’s favourite legging-boots (this season, there are trouser-heels!). New is the squarish, tote-glove or a tote with holes on the upper half through which the arm can slip into a single full-length glove attached. The models carry them on the shoulder, with arm-in-glove as one. This is perhaps an innovation that befits our penchant for the hybrid, the mixed up, the remixed, the crossbreed. No one wants to look coordinated this days when tattered complexity is a lot less restraining. As one SOTD reader texted us about the Balenciaga collection, “I think this is truly fashion for our times”. Kanye West agrees too. That’s why he is in the show. Better than walking for Dolce and Gabbana?
With so many Yeezys to choose from, not to mention all the prototypes that did not go to production, Kanye West turned up for the Burberry show in London, wearing slippers that looked like the pair my makcik Aisha owns. She said she was “attracted to the ‘berlians’ (diamond)” and I believed her; my aunt is quite a magpie, you see. But Mr West has better resources than my aunt; and he is supposed to be a fashion icon. Well, maybe that is it. Fashion heavyweights can wear anything. Is Mr West reflecting some zeitgeist? Or is he, in sharing my aunt’s love for bedazzled flip flops, reflecting popular taste? I’d have thought that he’d want to promote his Yeezy slides if open-toe footwear is a must. Or are they too plain, too “pure”?
Mr West is, of course, known to wear things that do not correspond with the seasons or to “dress like winter when it’s hot”, as he professed on Instagram early this month, which justifies his layers of bulky puffers and heavy-guage hoodies in the middle of summer. Try wearing those here! Was he deliberately doing the opposite of Kim Kardashian? AccuWeather told me that it was about 10°C in London when he arrived for the Burberry show. He was bungkus-ed in a hoodie, again, and a button-down leather shirt and matching pants. The get-up I suspect was by Burberry. The extra sleeves, attached to the side seams and tied to the front, informed me so—they looked like those that appeared on the runway. Formidable Kanye West has to wear pieces from the season to come, not the present, definitely not before.
This footwear choice is well planned and thought out. Like his clothes, they previewed what Burberry would later show. And he was given a pair of black tabi socks so that the first two toes would better grip the also-black thongs, which are topped with a single row of clear, sparkly, squarish stones. They look like pasar malam crowns for feet. Mr West’s slippers are, of course, a notch above those we like to wear, even if he appeared to be inspired by the footwear of our nation. But the sparkles may proof a tad too terang (bright) for flip flop die-hards such as environmentalist Ho Xiang Tian. As much as the blink seemed to be saying something to curious onlookers (I have no idea what), it preferred to draw no comment. Mr West later shared a Yeezy-Gap-ish photograph of said footwear on Instagram, it was accompanied by “DON’T TALK TO ME”.
It is not at all hard to see this as a publicity stunt. The grumpy rapper/designer has been really geram (angry/disgruntled) this month, bleating about perceived improper practices against him by his business collaborators. I wonder if what he wore down there on his feet was just distraction from the problems he’s facing. For the moment, people would be talking about those slippers. His position as the incomparable superstar of fashion is strengthened, just like his ex-wife’s when she appeared bare-butt on the cover Interview. Frankly, I am not buying it.