One Bulky Boot

Is this for human feet or the elephant’s?

By Shu Xie

Kanye West is partial to strange, bulky, indefinable shapes for his Yeezy line of footwear. To me, they often look like they are conceived to be worn by animals or, in the case of their weird Foam RNNR, some alien being. His latest, a pair of winter boots, is no exception. Padded, looking almost like a tree stump, with the stitches visible to create parallel curves, they appear to be more at home in elephantidae family than his group of ardent supporters, who considers Mr West a design god of sort. Called the YZY NSLTD BT (again, clearly a vowel-averse moniker. Yes, Yeezy Insulated Boot), it sports a mid-sole that looks like it was nicked from the Foam RNNR’s wavy, three-holes-to-the-side exo-skeleton support. Forgive the cliché: Kindred soles?

This BT is part of Yeezy Season 8, which was shown in Paris last March, if you still remember that. My memory is hazy, but I do recall now that the collection was not memorable. But, somehow, I am reminded of the perforamce of the designer’s daughter North West at the end of the show. Frankly, I don’t even know if Yeezy 8 was ever released (I checked with a New York contact, and he, too, has no idea). Still, here we are with a boot from that very season. The padded foot covering, likely in nylon, is itself not rewriting the aesthetic for those you pull on to trudge through snow. Margiela’s Puffer Snow Boots, for example, is Hulk-like, but is more discernible as footwear for human feet. But if Mr West’s current predilection for covering up and obscuring his body is any indication, he could also be keen on wearing boots that, from afar, might be mistaken for those of Yeti. Cool or crazy, I can’t say.

The YZY NSLTD BT “Khaki” is expected drop next month for USD250. Photo: Yeezy Mafia

They Totally Ignored Social Distancing For This Shoe

Yeezy madness strikes. Again. What pandemic?

It was a COVID-19 day. If the virus was indeed circulating in Orchard Road yesterday evening, outside the Foot Locker flagship at Orchard Gateway (the other half opposite 313@Orchard), they would have seen a delectable buffet. Such a shocking number of people (videos circulating online showed mostly kids) were crowding the entrance of the sneaker retailer that at some point, the police were called in. One SOTD reader who, was going to Uniqlo across the street, saw what he thought were personnel from the anti-riot Police Tactical Unit. Seriously? Apparently, even social distancing ambassadors could not manage the crowd. People didn’t care. Treasures and profiting were to be had inside Foot Locker. Coronaviruses, be damned.

The said covetable shoe was the Adidas Yeezy Boost 350—released for the umpteenth time. Yesterday’s launch was the V2 Core Black/Core Black/Red (first released in 2017). The Adidas website had announced weeks earlier that the sneaker would be launched yesterday, and by Thursday morning, had declared on their Facebook page that their online ballot had closed and that “winning entrants” would have been notified by e-mail. “For those who were unsuccessful,” it added, “you may stand another chance to purchase—our Pacific Plaza store will be contacting unsuccessful balloters in the case of drop outs on collection day.” And if even that couldn’t help the Yeezer lover, “…fret not. We will also be launching the Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Core Black/Core Black/ Red on adidas.com.sg come 5 December, 12pm.” Adidas didn’t think there would be this many who love the Yeezy Boost so much and want to touch a pair so desperately, they’d risk falling sick—seriously sick—to jam a store front for that chance.

Back to the old normal: The unbelievable crowd outside Foot Locker. Photo: solesuperiorsg/Instagram

But the staggering and disturbing Orchard Road turnout was not the only one. Apparently, over at Foot Locker’s Jewel outlet, close to 200 people crowded the store this morning, hoping to cop what they could not last night. A cheerful but perplexed staff told us that by eight, there was already a long queue. “We told them we don’t have the shoe,” he said helpfully. “Many left, but some still hanged around.” Why did he think people were so crazy about this pair of kicks? “I don’t know; I don’t get it. I think most who buy are re-sellers. I don’t know how they knew we had the shoe (at the Orchard store). We didn’t announce it. When we told them the shoes were sold out, they insisted we still had them.” What spell did Kanye West and Adidas cast on this unsexy sheath of sneakers?

The guy at Foot Locker Jewel continued, understandably on the side of his employer, “Actually, the people who came, they were out of control. We did our best to tell the people to social distance, but no one bothered. Actually the space (including the kerb) that they were crowding did not belong to us. The mall security didn’t help us; they let us do everything ourselves.” When we said we understood, just as we know how hard it has been for F&B outlet operators to tell people not to enter their premises in groups larger than five and not to mingle, he added, “These shoppers didn’t think about those working in the store. When we were asked to close for ten days (as instructed by the authorities this afternoon), all those people would have no work. But our company did not stop them working. The staff were shared among other stores.” Whatever, happened last night, Foot Locker alone should not have to shoulder the blame solely. However much you covet a shoe—any shoe, do not let COVID-19 win. Yeezy Boost is not a talisman.

Illustration: Just So

Fashion’s Powerful Duo

Are these related family names the most formidable in the industry? Bear witness to the influence of the two Ks

 

J & W

Kanye West has caused the stocks of Gap Inc to slide. Improbable, but it has happened. And he has not even officially joined the company. We assume that to be so since Mr West has threatened to take off from the deal. Trying to proof that he can be a president at a campaign rally in Charleston, South Carolina, he said, “risk or no risk of losing whatever deal possible, I am not on the board at Adidas. I am not on the board at Gap. And that has to change today or I walk away,” Can he do that? Still, that was deemed such a serious threat that Gap’s stocks fell, according to Forbes, by 6% on Monday.

This news is a little familiar to us. Back in February, 2018, Mr West’s sister-in-law, the former billionaire Kylie Jenner similarly caused another company’s shares to drop. In a Twitter post that responded to Snapchat’s update, Ms Jenner wrote, “sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad.” It didn’t take long for the social media company’s stock to tumble. As Reuters reported, Snapchat’s suffered a US$1.5 billion loss in market value. Things apparently did not improve for Snapchat a year later. According to Markets Insider, “shares have never really recovered.”

When it was revealed that Kanye West will collaborate with Gap to create a sub-brand called Yeezy Gap, Gap Inc’s stocks soared by as much as 42%! The surge is understandable since Mr West’s Yeezy brand is valued at US$1.3 billion, according to Forbes. Gap must have thought that the rapper is a walking money-printing machine. Then came the no-longer-a-shocker: Mr West will run for his nation’s top job. And people began wondering if Gap was embroiled in a bad 10-year deal. Would Kanye West have time to design clothing? And, as we wondered, what kind of designing president would he make?

That Mr West’s words and possible moves are so influential boggles the mind. When it was announced that Raf Simons will join Prada, there was no news about a shock-spike in Prada’s stock. And Mr Simons is a lauded designer with haute couture credentials. How did we get to this point in the evolution of fashion, when celebrities with debatable talents could send the stocks of established companies (in the case of Gap, they are eight years older than Mr West) tumbling? Or, has fan adulation inadvertently handed over the reigns of power to celebrities who sit on the throne called social media?

Illustration: Just So

Yeezy To Do: Bring Along Hype, Not Design

Gap has placed their trust in Kanye West to save the brand. Haha

 

Kanye West YZY

We have not completely digested the news when it came out last night. We thought we’d sleep on it. Kanye West for Gap greeted us this morning. Is there a nice ring to it? Yeezy Gap? Cheesy? But the name of the new partnership between the rapper-designer and one of America’s most recognised mass-market brands isn’t making us think. It is the aesthetic that he would bring to Gap that is provoking us to wonder: Will Kanye West be the right fit?

Gap issued a press release yesterday to say that Mr West “will develop the new line to deliver modern, elevated basics for men, women and kids at accessible price points.” Which means he won’t be involved in Gap itself. Gap hiring a separate designer to create “elevated basics” bears an uncanny resemblance to Uniqlo installing Christophe Lemaire’s as the artistic director of Uniqlo U, the Japanese label’s sub-brand—launched in 2016—that is designed in a specially set up Paris studio to “reimagine everyday clothing using innovative materials and contemporary silhouettes.”

Mr West tweeted a photograph (hashtagged #WESTDAYEVER) that hinted at what his Yeezy Gap might look like. Hoodie! And, surprisingly, colour. Nothing else to describe. There’s that oversized bag—similar to one from Uniqlo U’s past collection—with a message in the bottom right that reads “YZY Gap developed by Yeezy and 699 in Cody WY 062520”. We have no idea why Gap should be developed in Cody, Wyoming, basically Buffalo Bill country. Could Cody be where Yeezy Gap’s design studio is situated, just as Uniqlo U’s is in Paris? Oh, we forget: Cody is where the West family lives, in a a 4000-acre farm.

Yeezy sold US$1.3 billion worth of Adidas-backed sneakers last year. Such impressive figures were often quoted by the press, but similar numbers weren’t linked to his increasingly low-key fashion line

 

The Donald Trump supporter is a hometown-proud man. Calabasas, California, where he once lived and where the Kardashians still reside, was overweeningly featured in his collaboration with Adidas. Even the merchandise linked to his Sunday Service outputs one unabashed “Calabasas sweatpants”. It is not surprising that, for Gap, Cody is similarly given the spotlight. At the last Yeezy show, staged in Paris, attendees were told he was presenting “a little piece from our home in Cody, Wyoming”.

No matter where he designs from, Kanya West is, at least where footwear is concerned, a money maker. According to Forbes, Yeezy sold US$1.3 billion worth of Adidas-backed sneakers last year. Such impressive figures were often quoted by the press, but similar numbers weren’t linked to his increasingly low-key fashion line. Still the Yeezy brand is expanding. Last week, it was reported that Mr West filed a trademark for makeup and hair-care products (including, curiously, pine cones and aromatherapy pillows!), which led to the speculation that this meant billionaire beauty mogul in the making. It would be interesting to note that his wife Kim’s KKW beauty line has not yet made her a billionaire mogul. And his lip-kit queen sister-in-law Kylie Jenner had her billionaire status rescinded.

Gap also announced that they “are excited to welcome Kanye back to the Gap family as a creative visionary”. It is a return as Mr West had worked in a Gap store when he was a teenager (no mention of what he did there, but customer service was bandied about) and had sung about his experience that included pilferage (or suggested) in ‘Spaceship’ in the 2004 debut album College Dropout. How that is back-as-a-creative-visionary is not clear or imaginable. It is possible that Mr West was creative even back then, and to Gap, maker of T-shirts and chinos, a visionary now.

Ye TwitterSneak peek of Yeezy Gap. Photo: Ye/Twitter

But as with everything in fashion, “creative” is being re-defined. His pal Virgil Abloh is doing this re-defining at Louis Vuitton to startling effects on sales. In a radio interview last year, Mr West repeats his known dismay with Mr Abloh’s appointment: “I felt like it was supposed to be me. I was the Louis Vuitton Don”, referring to the sneaker he did in a collaboration with LV back in 2009, a sneaker no one remembers. In the same interview, he declared that he is “unquestionably, undoubtedly the greatest human artist of all time”.

It is ironic that, in the face of still-raging aspiration to design for a luxury house, Kanye West is going to Gap, known for its merchant-led product development, rather than design-led. It is, therefore, possible that the partnership—reported to be a ten-year deal (brand Kenya West will enjoy such longevity?)—might work as Mr West need not bring design to the table. Basics, however “elevated”, would be just that: basics. In the end, Gap is using a name to sell clothes, not design; it will maintain the status quo, not be elevated.

Gap also shared the official logo of Yeezy Gap, featuring Yeezy without the vowels using the condensed serif font of the Gap logotype, introduced in 1986, and often seen on the front of T-shirts and hoodies. This might be in keeping with the simplicity of the three-letter name that is Gap. To some observers, the choice of Mr West is just as simple. In the present, when diversity is expected, if not demanded, of fashion companies, they say Gap is woke to employ Mr West. But he is not the first black hire at the company. Patrick Robinson—the Armani alum greatly loved by Vogue—was with Gap from 2007 to 2011. It would need talent rather than race to turn Gap around.

Illustration: Just So

And Let There Be Yeezy. Again

Yeezy may need Paris, but does Paris need Yeezy?

 

Yeezy S8 P1

Yeezy disappeared for a couple of seasons. Sort of. They ‘showed’ via social media, modelled by the missus, of course, and styled, according to KKW herself, by Carine Roitfeld (probably not very busy at CR Fashion Book). And there were reported “private appointments”, presumably for trade buyers, not the rest of us. The collections S6 and S7 were available online, not seen, according to our sources in New York, in stores. Does anyone still remember Kanye West’s Yeezy fashion?

Season 8 is a return to a catwalk presentation and a reminder that the clothing is as alive as the sneakers, and still designed by Mr West, a newly religious man, who, a day before, conducted Kanye West presents Sunday Service in Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, a performance venue near the Gare, considered by the French to be a salle historique Parisienne, and one of the locations of Jean-Jacques Beineix’s 1981 film Diva. Setting is important when you do not have an actual church to conduct your song-led service in. What does a faith-guided collection prefaced by worship look like?

Yeezy S8 G1Yeezy S8 G2

The show itself takes place on the grounds of the French Communist Headquarters, against the futuristic façade of the Espace Niemeyer, designed by Brazilian architect, the late Oscar Niemeyer. Setting! According to pre-show excitement/reports (this is Yeezy, after all), Mr West will be presenting “a little piece from our home in Cody, Wyoming.” What a move from S6’s Calabasas! It’s 1,418 km apart, if you’re wondering. Cody, as we now know is where the West family has a 4000-acre (16,1874 square kilometres) ranch which they call home with 700 heads of sheep; it is also deeply tied to Colonel William Frederick Cody (hence its name)—the legendary Buffalo Bill. In addition, Cody considers itself “Rodeo Capital of the World”. Cowboy country. It won’t, therefore, be surprising if Season 8 will be, as part of a song goes, a little bit country.

It isn’t. Nor is it a little bit rock ‘n’ roll. Strike off any clerical garb, too. Yeezy just doesn’t fit with any particular vernacular, less so in Paris. It is simply Kanye West. Not more, not less. Not good, not bad. Thing is, if you’re neither this nor that, chances are, you’re in the betwixt, possibly the nether, a space called boring. It is hard to be aroused by non-fashion passed off as seasonal trends. That it all feels like you’ve seen them before adds to the needless dismay. Good enough for Cody does not mean good enough for Paris, not even with a dollop of Kim K—the bare midriff—for extra dash of what would otherwise be no flavour.

Yeezy S8 G3

To be sure, this is not an on-calendar show, which, technically, does not mean it is necessarily a PFW collection. Paris is an open city, anyone can go there to show. In fact, no one knew anything about the Yeezy Season 8 presentation until rumours were rife that the man was in town. Mr West, of course, has a flair for this sort of to-do-or-not-to-do news generating. Yet the pre-show buzz and the Sunday service cannot hoist S8 beyond a short fringe event. That there are only 18 looks (pal Virgil Abloh showed 41 for Off-White—already small, compared to Balenciaga’s staggering 105) augment the show’s and brand’s peripheral standing.

You can’t be certain what part these clothes could really play in your life if you take fashion seriously and live by it religiously. It is tempting to surmise that Mr West designs with his wife’s day-wear needs, and we shall. These are for running around Cody, running around in the cabin of planes, running after the kids (For evening wear, she has also-pal Olivier Rousteing.) To us, Yeezy is Mr West bringing Lululemon and Muji together, one cropped singlet after another, one cropped sleeveless puffer top after another, with the odd judoji worn with pants that look like the fly is open breaking the monotony (still, we can’t tell the difference between look 15 and 16). Perhaps Yeezy Season 8 is how Kanye West, believe it or not, squares faith and fashion.

Photos: Isidore Montag/gorunway.com

Yeezy Yucks!

Adidas and Kanye West’s love children, the Yeezy Boost sneakers, may have been an unusual silhouette at launch, but after three versions, it still is a seriously unattractive shoe

Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Creamy White

By Shu Xie

It’s easy to dislike the Yeezy. Well, it’s easy for me. Some things just don’t click at first sight; some things just repel. The Yeezies (Yeezys?) are definitely them. Firstly, I am not a fan of the knitted upper as I like firmer yet supple fabrics, such as leather. Secondly, I do not, with respect to the engineering and design team at Adidas, consider the Boost sole to be terribly original since Nike’s Roshe Run was way ahead with their minimalist, one-piece, no-visible-air-pockets Phylon midsole, as well as the Waffle-inspired outsole, which, according to the latter’s designer Dylan Raasch was meant to be evocative of the stepping stones of a Zen garden. Now, that’s conceptual heft.

From the first, the Yeezy 750 Boost, to the latest, the 350 V2, I have always thought the range to be a bit like footwear for abominable snow creatures. Sure, the 350 has become a hit, but they still look primitive to me. This has nothing to do with the fact that it wants to stand apart from the hi-tech kicks, and bombastic ones too, that the market is flooded with—Adidas boldly thinks it “transcends footwear trends”; this is to do with a form factor that does not make feet look attractive.

The ‘’Cream White’ version (because they can’t decide if it’s cream or white?) of what is officially known as Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Design by Kanye West is launched worldwide today. According to media reports, people around the world have been queuing up outside official retailers at least a week ago, with some setting up camp to make the wait bearable. In Singapore, Adidas held an online ballot this past Wednesday and the lucky winners were able to pick up their prized 350 V2 at the adidas Originals store at Pacific Plaza this morning. Not too much to go through for a pair of shoes linked to a rap artiste with a reality-TV-star wife? Or, are they truly capable of inducing a dopamine rush?

I want to be fond of the Yeezy Boost, but it’s like falling in love with the first person you meet on Tinder: hard. None of the three versions has a pull that many other hot sneakers have. No matter from which angle I look at the 350 V2, I can’t see its aesthetic value, even when Adidas call it “classic”. There’s the roundish shape of the top, which, when you look down at it, makes the widest part of your foot appear even wider. Because of the sock-like upper, there’s the tongue that, together with the collar, looks like a truncated proboscis with a concave lip that has gulped down the ankle. And that cryptic code SPLY-350 that, for some reason, is utterly discreet in the ‘Cream White’, but still there, possibly to identify the wearer as belonging to the tribe that is besotted with anything remotely connected with the Life of Pablo. The ‘Cream White’ just looks like footwear that will delight the nursing sorority.

It comes with what Adidas calls “a security feature”: a stripe that runs down the middle that can only been seen in UV light. This, it seems, is to help identify the fakes. Such a measure is enough to make the latest iteration of this low-cut even more desirable, to the point that in Denmark, three days before the official launch, thieves relieved a truck delivering the 350 V2 ‘Cream White’ to a shop its entire content. See, you can deter the copycats, but you can’t stop bandits.

On the SG Adidas site, the announcement is clear: “Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Design by Kanye West Sold Out”. Photo: Adidas

Yeezy-Peasy West-Fest

yeezy-s5-g1

The Washington Post’s Robin Givhan Tweeted very recently that “Kanye West finally stopped talking and complaining and just showed some clothes. And well, they weren’t bad.” Does that mean it isn’t “boring” (she told New York magazine last year that Yeezy 4 was “worse than bad. It was boring.”) In the latest review for the paper, she wrote, “That doesn’t mean the clothes were eloquent— to say that is not cruel criticism of West.”

It is not hard to get used to the blah. Fashion churns out so much without meaningful content that after a while, we are no longer disappointed with blandness. Ms Givhan was not the only one who took to the 5th Yeezy collection kindly. The New York Time’s Vanessa Friedman also Tweeted somewhat approvingly: “Kanye West’s latest Yeezy show was an exercise in—restraint? Believe it.”

Just five seasons ago, the media was indignant with Kanye West’s Yeezy debut, with most, if not all, keeping to various descriptions of boring. Last season, so many were mad about “the hot mess” they were thrown into that the immediate reaction was, never again. But now, with Season 5 (is it still so serialised?), they are back and seem to have gotten used to Mr West’s A-to-A-and-back-to-A design path. The disapproval of Kanye West cannot be extended indefinitely. Instead, you try to factor his creative output in the present scheme of things. Mr West is so important to American popular culture—so at its forefront, it seems—that you can’t dismiss him for too long without appearing out of touch. In addition, to the media, he is a “news maker”.

yeezy-s5-g2

Therefore, to be more positive (and we should in these acrimonious days of the new American era) is one step forward in the understanding of how things came to be the way they are. Kanye West is in a solid partnership with Adidas to be a bona fide fashion designer with global reach. Adidas is, of course, a big player in the clothing and footwear business, with marketing muscle to influence the media to be more supportive, even just a wee bit.

Mr West himself seems to be playing along. He has remained low-key (even not taking the customary bow at the end of this catwalk finale and not granting interviews thereafter) and he staged the presentation in a fashion venue (Pier 59 Studios), not in a stadium or on an island. The show was to show off his clothes, and not, as a side piece, to launch or preview an album. Although he still did things differently (most of the presentation was a video screening), it was, by most account, a semblance of a fashion show. No model limped or fainted. And, as reported by Cathy Horyn for The Cut, they were styled by Carine Roitfeld. There was an attempt at infusing the show with credibility.

Still, were the clothes really that palatable? By now the Kanye West slouchiness and street-wear fierceness do not encourage the lips to part with uttering WTS or WTF. We really wanted to see something refreshing this time, but, admittedly, our prejudice got in the way. To be certain, the clothes do look pulled together even if in a way already established by Vetements, whose designer Demna Gvasalia Mr West considers a genius. Mr West even declared on Twitter last year that he’s “going to steal Demna from Balenciaga.” So there is nothing more to say about Yeezy that won’t sound trite or persistently negative. So let’s concede: Yeezy isn’t going to convince the non-fans and Kanye West won’t be in the running to lead Givenchy, and the brand is here to stay.

yeezy-s5-g3

Nevertheless, we are intrigued by the new sub-brand apparently called Adidas Calabasas, now already trumpeted and worn by the Kardashian-Jenner brood. These were not immediately identified in the show or in the images now circulating online, but it seems that, more than the main line, they bear an obvious Adidas branding: the trefoil or the three stripes. From what we could see, Mr West has not covered grounds that Adidas’s other collaborator, the Japanese brand Kolor, has not already tread. Sports clothes tweaked for city pavements and airport departure lounges are as refreshing as another Yeezy Boost release.

Still we should not underestimate Calabasas. We thought nobody was going to buy the Yeezy clothing line, yet, if the reports are to be believed, they have constantly crossed into the sold-out category. This is even more remarkable when the line so far has not really been blessed by the press. So Calabasas could be destined for unimaginable success on the support of fans alone. Pablo definitely knows that.

Calabasas, as we have noted before, is a city in the hills of west San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles. That is why on some of the Yeezy/Calabasas tops, the words “Lost Hills” appear. Calabasas is possibly Mr West’s nod to his wife’s influence or appeal. It is here that the Kardashian sisters initially dabbled in fashion retail when they opened their first shop in 2006 called Dash. Anyone who keeps up with the Kardashian knows that at the start of the series in 2007, the sisters were not exactly the epitome of fashion, even when they captured what may be considered the Calabasas look. It appears to us that this aesthetic fits no other description than the apt ‘lian’. Kanye West, too, isn’t doing his Calabasas differently.

Photos: Yeezy

Is Adidas Desperate?

yeezy-season-4-g1Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 4 shown last week during New York Fashion Week. Photos: Yeezy

Everyone’s keeping up with Kanye (too), so let’s not talk about the Yeezy Season 4 show (or what some members of the media called “a hot mess”) that was staged last week. (In case you’re allergic to hoodies and really don’t know what happened, it was, by most accounts, a “disaster”.) Let’s discuss, instead, what Adidas is doing with Yeezy.

Back in June, Adidas made a public announcement of the formation of adidas + KANYE WEST, an “entity” that the German company sees as “the most significant partnership ever created between an athletic brand and a non-athlete”. That, marketing students, is an example of puffery. What we shall see, expectedly, is more of Yeezy sneakers, clothing, gear, and even eponymous stores. 

It was also widely reported that Adidas bankrolled the Yeezy Season 4 show after keeping away their cheque books for 3 and 4. Staged on New York’s Roosevelt Island and so poorly managed that it fanned the chagrin of those who attended, it isn’t clear how the show could benefit Adidas in the long term.

Sure, there’s publicity to be had from the media grumble, but is this the kind of foundation for adulation an established brand would lay with a potentially successful collaborator? Added to the incomprehension are the Yeezy clothes that have, hitherto, not escaped the bland and uncreative designs, first seen in Season 1. Has the man been so busy with blinding his followers with his publicity antics that they cannot see that he’s in a fashion rut?

yeezy-season-4-bootsThe Yeezy boots that caused more than one model to trip. Photo: Nowaygirl

Perhaps Mr West knows that he can’t push Yeezy any further. In an interview with Vogue.com just hours before the Roosevelt Island show, he said he prefers to substitute fashion for “let’s say ‘apparel,’ especially for the style of clothes I make.” A seductive euphemism if there ever was one. He then qualified his word choice by claiming, “I’m not saying that this is a fashion proposition, I’m saying that this is a human proposition.”

That sounds pretty close to Adidas’s game plan for the collaboration. As the brand’s chief marketing officer Eric Liedtke said to the media when the pairing with Kanye West was announced, “This is what Adidas has always been about, empowering creators to create the new.” Or giving celebrities, rather than sportsmen, what they have always been good at doing: ring up the noise.

It is often said that, unlike Nike, Adidas isn’t big in the sporting arena—at least not in the US of A, where success there often means global recognition. For Adidas there is also the niggling problem of Under Armour closing in. Adidas probably had to rethink endorsements after a series of failed partnerships with sport stars. These include the high-profile but still-not-rising NBA player Derrick Rose, who, in 2012, was awarded a “lifetime deal” rumoured to be worth around USD260 million over 14 years. Then he got injured and injured and injured, and Derrick Rose fronting Adidas became less and less and less visible.

yeezy-boost-750The first sneaker launched by Adidas and Kanye West in spring last year: the Yeezy Boost 750. Photo: Sneakernews

Big-name athlete association is integral to sporting goods brands. Nike had their money on the right guy when they signed with Michael Jordan, a Chicago Bulls star player. That pick was so spot-on that in no time, Air Jordans became a legit sub-brand under the Nike umbrella in 1985, and the launch of each style, till today, is still closely watched by sneakerheads and collectors alike. That the shoes were associated with Nike’s celebrated designer Tinker Hatfield didn’t hurt either. Adidas closest sport-celeb offering is the Stan Smith (named after the tennis player of the ’70s), a basically one-product category that’s been flogged to death.

So Adidas had to look outside of sport to raise its profile among consumers. Turning to celebrities—especially singers—isn’t a surprising move. The Three Stripes have always had the support of rappers as early as the ’80s, culminating in the RUN DMC single My Adidas of 1986. In the music video, not only were the trio decked in Adidas, they were even shown emerging from a RUN DMC/Adidas chopper! Street fashion, brought to music television by rappers, was on its way to being a multi-million business.

It was reported that the Adidas mention was completely self-initiated. Regardless, that song led to a USD1.6 million endorsement deal signed between Run DMC and Adidas. Hardly unexpected when you had rapped to the world, “my Adidas and me, close as can be/we make a mean team, my Adidas and me.” Their Adidas referred specifically to the Superstar, worn without laces. As if to relive those glory days, Adidas release a RUN DMC-co-branded line this year. Are we to expect a Missy Elliot collection? Maybe not, since we already have the Yeezy. Kanye West, the hip-hop star, will now change the fortunes of Adidas as RUN DMC did. Sport can wait.

run-dmc-adidas-teeRun DMC Adidas T-shirt, featuring the two names’ original logo. Photo: Adidas

The retreat of sport in the Adidas branding became more palpable with the push of adidas Originals (no idea why they prefer to spell it with a lower-case ‘A’), as part of a new division conceived in 2000 to advance the emerging popularity of “sport style”. It is under adidas Originals that Stan Smith was reborn and aggressively promoted. Yeezy too benefitted from the marketing might of Originals, but Kanye West isn’t the only rapper it has tapped. Others include Mr West’s G.O.O.D. Music label mates Big Sean (e.g., last year’s ZX Flux) and Pusha T (e.g., EQT Running Guidance ’93, also last year).

Do rappers have a particularly appealing taste that other singers in, say, rock or jazz do not? Or is it their visibility, as well as what can be heard from them that entices? One of the most audible (and still remembered) is Mr West’s very public outburst directed at his ex-collaborator Nike. It built up to the concert rant of 2013, when the rapper taunted Nike via the audience in a packed Bridgestone arena in Nashville, Tennessee: “Do you know who the head of Nike is? No, well let me tell you who he is: his name is Mark Parker, and he just lost culture. Everyone at Nike, everyone at Nike, Mark Parker just let go of culture.”

There must be something appealing about publicly berating the hand that once fed you, so much so that Adidas is willing to risk the same thing being done to them to go into partnership with a known hothead. It does look like it is true that publicity of any sort is better than no publicity. Let them talk about you, never mind if it’s a rant. Since its launch, Yeezy has spawned equal parts rant and rave. Or maybe it’s something else. Maybe Adidas is keeping Mr West so happy that they will not receive the same treatment if things should turn sour between them.

adidas-x-alexander-wang-ss-2017Revealed this week, Alexander Wang’s pairing with adidas Originals. Photo: JP Yim/Getty Images

adidas-x-alexander-wang-ss-2017-editorialadidas Originals by Alexander Wang editorial for Vogue. Photo Juergen Teller/Vogue

Why has Adidas become so bent on banking on celebrities to push their wares or elevate their brand? Because, these days, it is the thing to do, even if the best you can get is Rita Ora. Tommy Hilfiger, too, was once preferred and endorsed by rappers, but look at where the brand is today. They’re so threatened with irrelevance that they’ve (re)aligned themselves with celebrity—this time, the K-clan mirror image Gigi Hadid. And it isn’t enough that she is their face; she has to have a collection purportedly co-designed with her. Celebrities these days have more clout than designers. Designers have to be celebrities or use them to yield similar influence. Just ask Olivier Rousteing.

While Adidas continues its on-going collaborations with designers such as Stella McCartney, Yohji Yamamoto—Y3 is considered to have presaged the current love for athleisure—and Kolor’s Junichi Abe, they have not quite earned the cred and clout that Nike has with Junya Watanabe, Undercover’s Jun Takahashi (who, a runner himself, created the running-centric label Gyakusou), and recently Sacai’s Chitose Abe (a stunning collection conceived with Nike Lab). Nike has generally been rather judicious with their designer collaborations. Up next is Louis Vuitton’s men’s wear designer Kim Jones, whose last sport-brand collab was with the British label Umbro ten years ago. Nike has mostly paired itself with those considered the crème de la crème of the fashion business—champions of design, rather than seekers of fame.

Not to be outdone, Adidas has gone to team up with Alexander Wang, who showed an all-black capsule collection with the Trefoil logo given the dao treatment—turned upside down—during the recent New York Fashion Week (now considered season-confused since there were designers who showed autumn/winter 2016). Adidas latest choice is, of course, far from unexpected. Mr Wang had given the Stan Smith top billing when he designed a whole range of clothes inspired by Adidas’s most-known sneaker in 2014.

barrack-obama-in-adidas-2016An undated picture of Barack Obama wearing Adidas tracksuit circulated on Twitter this year. Photo: Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images

His latest is homage to the Adidas tracksuit, all black, as most fashionistas desire. But do they bring anything new to the table, or, if you like, jogging track? Yes, he has toyed with the logo, but so has Junya Watanabe for Lacoste. He has outlined the three stripes, but so has Y-3. Mr Wang’s take on the tracksuit picks up after Gosha Rubichinskiy’s resuscitation of those by Sergio Tacchini and Kappa (even the Juergen Teller-lensed communication material featuring Madonna’s son Rocco Ritchie shares Mr  Rubichinskiy’s eastern-bloc aesthetic). And the all-black get-up? Even Barack Obama has worn his version, Adidas no less.

The thing is, Alexander Wang, whose own design does not distance itself from the aesthetics of fast fashion (that’s why his collaboration with H&M was a better fit than that with Balenciaga), need not have to try that hard. Adidas isn’t known to excel in the marketing of design-centric lines such as the critically-acclaimed but doomed sub-brand SLVR (launched in 2009 and discontinued in 2014), last designed by Dirk Schönberger, Adidas’s creative director for its Sports Style division. With Mr Wang, Adidas can simply let the former’s online and offline cool do the work.

Adidas’s ardent embrace of Kanye West also attests to the prevalent sentiment that design doesn’t matter. Mr West may offer what, in New York parlance, is “dope shit”, but it’s the shit that seems to rile observers such as Project Runway’s Tim Gunn, who, in a taped interview with Access Hollywood Live two days ago, called the outfits “dumb basic clothes” and the designer behind them “a sphinx without a riddle”. Mr Gunn deserves more fans.

Beguiled By Hype

Pablo merchandise

By Raiment Young

Is it worth the queue: just to see what’s for sale at the ‘Kanye West: The Life of Pablo Temporary Store’? To me, the answer is not in the affirmative. But this is likely a once-only pop-culture event. I wanted to see for myself what the craze was all about, and to be acquainted, for the first time, with Kanye West-linked clothing. In uncovering the stuff behind trends, we sometimes end up wasting our time. This was one of them.

If you didn’t think there would be a queue, you probably only equate Famous with what happens after a certain Joseph Schooling won an Olympic gold. According to early media reports (and confirmed by security personnel in attendance at the site), people started getting in line as early as 2am on Friday morning so as to have a head start on gaining entry into the Pablo pop-up, as it is also known.

QueueThe queue outside an unmarked shopfront

It should perhaps be stated that I am no fan of Yeezy’s music, fashion, and antics. And I do not feel like Pablo. But I am curious about the work of this born-again fashion designer with a day job as a hip-hop singer-songwriter. Yet, I am not inclined to sacrifice sleep and other productive use of time to join a queue for hours in order see what I fear would be a non-event. So, I decided to try my luck this evening, the second day of the much-talked-about retail affair.

The Temporary Store occupied one half of the two-unit The Art Space @ Suntec in Tower 1 of Suntec City. This part of the mall has not experience such visitor traffic since it officially reopened last October after a massive mall-wide renovation. According to a service staff at the café Ovidia & Co, about 500m away, the number of people that turned up when he started work at ten on Friday morning was “crazy”. When I arrived at about 6pm (the shop closes at 8), I joined a line that was no more than 20-people long. A security guy dressed in a black shirt under a black suit—looking decidedly like a bouncer at a nightclub—was calmly organising the queue so that people did not stand blocking neighbouring retail units. I remarked that I had expected to see more shoppers, he said, “You should see yesterday.”

Stretching that to small talk—perhaps to relieve the monotony of his work, he continued with a forewarning: “Everything is sold out. You have to do pre-order.” There’s nothing we can buy today and take away? Smilingly, he replied, “Nothing left. The jackets were first to sell out.” Which jacket? “The military jacket. Singaporeans are really willing to pay $400 for it!” The disbelief in his voice didn’t escape me. I asked him if he was given a preview and if he had bought anything. “No, lah! I only listen to his music.”

Inside pic 1

Inside pic 2Inside the Life of Pablo Temporary Store

Which is more loved: the music of Kanye West or his fashion? It was hard to tell. The shoppers before me mostly looked under 25, with no visible clues that they were into the Yeezy aesthetic. They hardly looked like devotees. A Caucasian woman in front of me told her Singaporean companion, “If I can’t find anything for myself, I’ll get a T-shirt for my boyfriend.” Behind me, one of three possible NS lads said with purpose, “Better get at least a T-shirt.” A guy walking past the queue remarked to another, “Yesterday, my friend spent 240 dollars.” “On what?” the receiver asked. “On the Pablo, lah.”

The number of people allowed in each time was “about 20”, the sentry at the door told me. Once inside, you’d understand why the Louis Vuitton store-style crowd control was needed. It wasn’t a huge space, but it was spacious due to only three racks of clothes and the small group of shoppers. Not allowing the store to be packed with customers gave it a sense of exclusivity. Staff members came forward to offer a style sheet and to explain the pre-order procedure. You were then asked to browse. I asked if there was a time limit. They told me to take my time.

Inside pic 3Making payment at the cashiers’ counter

I was admittedly disappointed by how underwhelming the shop was. It reminded me of my first visit to the Supreme store in Tokyo. Here was a physical space that did not tally with the brand’s subliminal stimulation. For all that Supreme has been hyped to be, the experience it offered at retail level was regrettably below par. The Pablo setting did not appear to be the work of a retail genius. Like at Supreme in Tokyo, the products here were lined against the walls, leaving a huge central area quite empty, as in a museum. But the clothes were not exactly stuff akin to art.

You won’t be wrong to think that perhaps Mr West was celebrating National Day with us. Excluding two items already completely sold out (the military jackets), everything was either red or white. Was the merchandising put together with the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts? Or the NDP show committee? But, these clothes pale in comparison to SG51 merchandise sold at Giordano, just a few doors away!

Pablo teesThe cotton jersey T-shirts with ‘Singapore’ printed on the left side, along the waist

Style sheetThe digitally printed style sheet that was distributed so that shoppers could pre-order their desired pieces

It surprised me that all the cotton items—T-shirts (long- and short-sleeved) and hoodies—are Gildan-branded. Gildan Activewear is a Montreal-based company that is not unlike the American brand Fruit of the Loom: they’re commonly used as blank garments on which branding and logos can be screen-printed. The Pablo tops are manufactured in Bangladesh, which makes the asking price of S$60 for a T-shirt steep. They also aren’t in keeping with presidential nominee Donald Trump’s call for Americans to buy American and to bring manufacturing back to home turf. Perhaps Mr West does not share Mr Trump’s vision: to “make America great again”. These are, of course, merely garb to promote a music album and the attendant concert tour, but they’re no ordinary concert merchandise since they’re tied to a man trying to impress the world as a fashion designer and only available (outside American cities where the concerts are staged) in a retail store setting.

Despite its cool-and-minimal-as-any-indie-retailer’s store interior, there was scant attention paid to visual merchandising. The tops were hung on wired hangers, typically employed in a thrift store or a neighborhood laundry. There was no particular order of products (say, S to L), and eager shoppers who did not care to return what they had picked to its original state meant the clothes were in disarray. Enthusiasm for the merchandise was palpable, regard for their in-store attractiveness was not.

WallThe letters of Singapore arranged in a triangular shape placed visibly on one wall. The same design, too, appeared on the merchandise. The unique typeface is designed by LA artist Cali Thornhill DeWitt 

For an egomaniac such as Kanye West, it was astonishing that there was no text of his moniker or even an image of him plastered across walls or the floor. Not even his alter ego Pablo was idolised. Nothing on the store front too. Just white walls, white doors.

At the cashier, shoppers were reminded that merchandise must be collected within two weeks of notice. A hastily-scribbled note was stuck to the counter top, announcing where the paid-for products are to be collected: at an un-named office in North Star Building in the Lee Hsien Loong stronghold Ang Mo Kio.

Behind me two Malaysian boys were clearly disappointed that, having travelled here specifically for this, they could not enjoy immediate gratification. One of them, hand still holding the by-now crumpled style sheet, grumbled, “This really sucks.”

Kanye West: The Life of Pablo Temporary Store is at Suntec City Tower 1. It closes tomorrow at 8pm. Photos: Zhao Xiangji

So, Pablo’s Coming This Way

The Life of Pablo coverKanye West showed an alternative album cover on his IG page. Photo Kanye West

Kanye West is spreading his wings. According to Vogue.com, Mr West is setting up pop-up stores for merchandise that promotes his album Life of Pablo, as well as the Saint Pablo Tour outside of his home base, the United States. Singapore is one stop in a 21-destination global spread that will allow fans to uncover this character/avatar supposedly named after Picasso. According to a map posted on kanyewest.com, Singapore is the only country in Asia (and one out of only four in the southern hemisphere) to welcome Pablo. What’s odd is that Japan is excluded. Are we really rising in the ranks?

We won’t know what the Pablo pop-up will look like until we visit the store this weekend (truth is, we may not go). Based on online and resellers’ report, the New York event, opened on Wooster Street in Soho in March this year, took place in a roomy space with racks lined up against the wall. It looks to us like something Supreme has already done before: the luxury of space effectively playing down the lack of luxury of the merchandise.

Pablo hoodiePablo hoodie seen on a guest (left) at a Club 21 event on Friday evening. On the back, it reads “any rumour you ever heard about me was true and legendary”—from the track No More Parties in L.A. Photo: SOTD

Based on what we’ve seen posted on social media by die-hard fans, the Pablo pop-up will be filled with products that are scaled-down version of pieces from the Yeezy collections, mostly printed with attention-grabbing text (including “Feel like Pablo”) in a bold, gothic font, quite unlike the album cover seen above. There will also be plenty of skull motifs from artist Wes Lang. Already in Singapore, Kanye followers are seen in Pablo heat-trap hoodies when outside is 36 degrees Celsius.

Apart from clothes (hoodies and T-shirts galore!) and the expected caps (and possibly other head gear), we’re not sure what else would be on sale. Those bent on sticking to skinny and tight might want to sit this one out. Those averse to queues of many hours long should too.

The location of the Life of Pablo pop-up store in Singapore will be announced 24 hours before it opens on 19 August on kanyewest.com

Update (19/8/2016, 10pm): Pablo pop-up store opens at Suntec City Tower 1 till Sunday from noon to 8pm

Oh, Kanye, We Believe You!

Oh Kanye

Screen grab of Kanye West’s Tweet

This guy likes to talk big. Or is this an indication of a fall-out with Adidas, and it’s time to get back? Kanye West is not known for admirable longevity with fashion/footwear collaborators. Look at Nike. And read the rants directed at the world’s biggest footwear brand. Even up to the recent Yeezy 3 show two weeks ago, he’s still taunting Nike. And he had the audience in the show on-board too, shouting expletives like a football crowd would towards a referee kayu (the perfect pairing of ugly behaviour and ugly clothes?). Mr West doesn’t forgive and forget.

Since we’re speculating, let’s go further. This Tweet is part of a marketing blitz aimed at promoting a-less-than-impressive response to the Yeezy line. Fashion isn’t like music, and Mr West, perhaps, hasn’t been able to sell by the volume he thinks he can with his albums. Adidas, paying for it all, is desperate to see the returns. Mr West is feeling the heat. He knows that a Tweet can launch a thousand ships, if not sell the million tatters-as-tees sitting untouched in some warehouse in Bangladesh. Who’s sweating giving a few hundred Yeezys away anyway? We’re speculating.

Yeezy Season 3The tribe of Yeezy Season 3. Photo: Getty Images/Kevin Mazur

Strange thing is, even if Yeezy the shoes are selling well, shouldn’t someone in Adidas take a close look at Yeezy the clothes? Perhaps that’s not required since Mr West has publicly thanked Adidas for “paying for this (the show).” Sure, we’re speculating, but a look at Yeezy Season 3’s (intriguing: is this naming convention anything to do with Louis Vuitton’s Series?) more of the same as Season 1 and 2 encourages the suspicion that these are unwanted rags. The show, reportedly attended by more than 20,000 invited and paid guests, looked like a casting call for The 100, er, maybe season 3. And a spectacle it was, so much so that reviewers were writing about it as if it was a Madonna concert. Or Coldplay. Or whoever is rocking your Sonos wireless speaker.

If this is a “collection that changed the world”, as Mr West Tweeted to counter negative reviews of Yeezy Season 3, then it has really become a different world. Fashion, sadly, is teetering on irreversible ugliness and Mr West is adding piles to the heap. By calculated moves rather than natural talent, he has blustered his way into fashion’s stratosphere to make himself standout and be counted. As Cathy Horyn said, “Shut up. Relax. You have won.” Here, Ms Horyn, unlike us, isn’t speculating.

Yikes, It’s Yeezy Again!

Yeezy Season 2Kanye West with his army of models showing Yeezy Season 2. Photo: Randy Brooke/Getty Images

The good news for any new fashion label is the reality of a second season. Kanye West’s Yeezy, following last February’s debut, makes the painful-to-grasp statement that Mr West, as a fashion designer, has struck again. So to whom is this news considered good? Following his show during New York Fashion Week, social media was rife with palpable dismay, even outright outrage. “Kanye is a joke!! NYFW is too much for his poor talent,” went one. “Kanye should donate these (sic) trash to the zombies of The Walking Dead,” suggested another. “Gosh!! Is this fashion?” fumed one more.

Sure, for every hater, there’s a lover. It is very likely that Mr West’s clothes will be adored by a rabid base that would snap up anything he produces, even if they have the same allure of discarded cardboard boxes. The crazy success of the Yeezy 750 Boost sneakers (reportedly sold out in less than an hour) is a possible prelude to the reception of his fashion line. Kanye West can do no wrong, although he had—specifically, with two disastrous collections in 2011 and 2012. They were so lacklustre that The Telegraph’s Lisa Armstrong advised him to “stick to his day job”.

The collection was dubbed Yeezy Season 2, and many in the fashion world had nearly forgotten about Mr West’s fashion ambitions until he suddenly announced the show date shortly before Givenchy’s debut presentation in New York last week. Breathless anticipation in the media ensued and it nearly drown out the fact that Mr West had—perhaps not inadvertently—clashed with two other designers showing at the same time. One, Anne Bowen, was so upset, she told Women’s Wear Daily, “It’s like we are David and he is Goliath. We have put our heart and soul into our show, and should not be stepped on like this.” Was this a Taylor-Swift-at-the-MTV-Video-Awards-moment? Only in place of the microphone, Mr West took over a time slot. It is possible that this is the only way he knows how to play.

Mr West always comes across, full of bluster, as a man constantly in need to remind himself and the people around him how great he is. He may have an overwrought personality, but his clothes have the strength of a cotton ball. Continuing last season’s liquid layers over unabashedly underclothes, the second collection, as in the first, broke no ground. Some people have called it costumes for apocalyptic movies such as the Mad Max series, but we saw a sham Rick Owens trying to reinterpret Donna Karan’s “seven easy pieces” from the mid-80s via Alexander Wang’s T-shirt product development team.

Bottom line is, do these clothes deserve a catwalk showing? Surely the world does not need more sweat tops, tank dresses, leotards, and leggings, in these cases, all worn monochrome, neck to toe. Or are these just props with which to show off the new Yeezy 750 Boost? The presentation tried to break away from the typical runway show. Choreographed (again) by performance artist Vanessa Beecroft, the bare-bones staging was, at best, pretentious. As in the February outing, models strode in looking glum, but this time, were barked at by some military sergeant to form up or exit stage. Someone should really give Mr West his marching orders!