Two Of A Kind: Get A Grip

They are different product categories, but both are caught in claws

Alabaster Industry’s ‘Web’ watch and the the Adidas Yeezy 45 in slate. Photos: respective brands

From wristwatches to sneakers, things are getting clawed. American cult watch brand Alabaster Industries is known for releasing timepieces that sellout in minutes. Their watches were first available here at Dover Street Market SG last April. DSMS has announced that Alabaster Industries will be back in the store this Saturday. One of the most distinctive (hence, sought after) feature of the watch is the stainless steel case cage, shaped like some claw, catching the face in its menacing grip. Even the lug (which holds the matching band) are talons. It is not quite traditional, for sure. They do appear rather sinister, even when the face of the watch is violet, but collectors love the ungual bezel precisely because they do not look like anyone would mess with them.

No less ominous-looking is the Adidas Yeezy 450, first seen online last February. Even in the butter yellow that the brand calls “sulfur”, there is no escaping those bestial appendages—only Kanye West (or his design team) has made them more alien-looking. In fact, they have been called “futuristic”. The shoe is essentially a Primeknit upper caught in the claws, made of the now-trendy material, EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) foam. The entire base has been described as a “dynamic-shaped” sole. Seen from the top, if the sneaker does not hold a foot or is propped by a shoe tree, it looks like flaccid fabric framed by limp dough. However strange it looks, the Yeezy 450 remains wildly popular, and difficult to score.

Looking at animal extremities for ideas is not that strange a practice. We remember Alexander McQueen’s “armadillo” shoes. That the fascination with hoofs is now extended to claws is really, especially in the case of Alabaster Industries, rather a matter of time. Even Raf Simons’s skeleton bracelet-cum-arm-band is in similar territory, never mind that the reference is decidedly human. Fashion is clearly in the grip of the strange and the claw-like. When will chicken feet be next?

Alabaster Industries watches will launch at DSMS on 6 August 2022. Adidas Yeezy 450 is available at adidas.com

Adidas Accused

Kanye West claims the German brand has ripped him off with the soon-to-release slide Adidas Adilette 22. Well…

Yeezy is big, powerful, and untouchable. Adidas can’t be unaware of that. It is a monster brand that they partly created. Yet, somehow, they managed to step on Kanye West’s toes, with the coming-soon pair of slides, the all-foam Adilette 22 (above). In a totally unpunctuated Instagram rant-post that is now deleted, Mr West wrote to a “Kasper” (believed to be Adidas’s Danish CEO Kasper Rørsted) that he is “not standing for this blatant copying no more”. The accompanying photo is that of the Adilette 22, which Mr West called “a fake Yeezy”. It was quickly assumed that the rapper/designer was comparing the slide to his ‘Pure’ footwear sold under Adidas Yeezy.

This accusation, coming in the wake of Adidas suing Nike over alleged infringement on certain tech the latter uses, seems rather ironic. But it is really more curious on the part of Mr West as brand and man have been partners since 2013. Without Adidas, there would be no Yeezy (remember Mr West decamped the Swoosh to the Three Stipes?). Moreover, we, like so many others, do not see the similarity between the two slides in question. One has a discernibly textured surface and a flat sole while the other is very smooth (so much so that it could be called ‘Pure’) and has a zig-zagged sole. Shape-wise, they are different too. Both are easily identifiable as slides, but it would be a challenge to say they come from the same design mind.

Same or not: Adidas vs Yeezy. (Top) Adidas Adilette 22 and (bottom) Adidas Yeezy ‘Pure’ slides. Product photos: Adidas

Frankly the Adilette 22 looks 3-D printed, while the Yeezy’s own appeared to be blown into molds, the way PU foam shoes are usually made. Both slides seem to have the same foam for their entire sole unit, tread, and mid-sole, and in one colour. And perhaps it’s the chromatic similarity that had Mr West’s boxers in a knot. One name, ‘Sulfur’, appears on the Adilette, and this is also the moniker used in the Yeezy Foam RNNR ‘Sulfur’ (although also foam footwear isn’t quite a pair of slides, as in pool slides). It isn’t known if this ‘Sulphur’ is, in fact, already part of Adidas’s in-house palate of colours or a name Mr West came up with. The colour sulphur that is popular known is usually brighter than that (those who go camping regularly and use sulphur to repel snakes would be familiar with the shade). To quibble over the name of a colour seems trivial.

The summer of the West is also know as “slide season”, similar to our all-year “slipper season”. It is understandable that Mr West would want his Yeezy to reign, to be seen on the streets, now that Yeezy footwear is not quite the hit as it was before. Given the publicity leading to the launch of the Adidas Adilette 22, the slides are destined to be a massive hit. And now this Kanye West rant. Is it possibly a strategy between both to stir up the hype necessary to make any footwear a much bigger hit? Kanye West helping Adidas? It is clear to many that the Adilette 22 will now be in even greater, crazier demand. Following the accusation, foam slides—not just those by Adidas or Yeezy—will definitely be the footwear to covet.

Photo: Adidas

Close Encounter: Yeezy Foam Runner

By Awang Sulung

Now that we are going out more, I am also looking at things around me with greater keenness. Ugly’s trajectory, as I have been seeing, is not on the downward slide. Not even a bit. It is all around us like, what my mother would say, “bijan tumpah (spilled sesame seeds)”. Perhaps, I have spent too much time at home, avoiding Delta and its mutated siblings like some people would loanshark runners. Sure, as with most of you, I am vaccinated, but why court the unwelcome virus by throwing myself at crushing humanity? And, also like most of you, I can’t be holed up at home indefinitely. So out I went. To be certain, I do not dislike my own company within the four walls of my Sembawang flat. Yet, I can’t totally keep myself away from what has been amusing the world or fascinating many folks. Have things changed—or not—while I was ensconced at home?

One of the first trendy things I saw very recently, as we scramble into the holiday season, was the Yeezy Foam Runner. Okay, Kanye West’s alien-looking footwear, released last June, is not new, but I have not had an IRL view of it, just those boastful images shared on social media by Yeezy diehards who find anything Mr West puts out, including a very blah bubble jacket, attractive and desirable. These are still not as widely seen here as, say, Crocs, the first brand to make foam shoes so persistently ugly and crazily popular. So when I saw these bombastic Yeezys on actual moving feet, I had to go quite low to have a proper look at the rigid, masak-masak footwear. If they are worn and on a pavement, they can’t be toys, can they?

For sure, now one could miss those shoes. I don’t recall what the wearer looked like, but I remember his Yeezy Foam Runner. When he was still, his feet looked caged, as if restrained in a torture device or a chastity contraption. I wanted to ask him if they were comfortable, but I didn’t want to seem to doubt his happy feet. I wanted to know if the opening of his kicks is stretchy and if it was easy to push his feet through to rest inside the one-piece, but I did not want him to think that I thought that he, like many fashionistas, suffered for fashion. I wanted to know if the slip-on in the colour of oatmeal (Yeezy calls it “Ararat” in place of off-white) was easy to clean and if the many holes on the top and sides are dirt traps, but I resisted so that he would not mistake me for a germaphobe.

Kanye West seems to know what his fans want when it comes to footwear. Although so many unkind descriptions were thrown at the Yeezy Foam Runner, it continues to be in unimaginably high demand. Co-conceived with Yeezy’s design director Steven Smith, the monstrous shoe (it might be called a “Runner”, but we resist calling the bloated loaf a sneaker) was sold out within hours of its release last year. Who’d guess that ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam and some algae in a clog-like form could entrance that many shoe lovers and collectors? I thought I saw a silhouette that Zaha Hadid would have approved (look at those shoes she did with Lacoste in 2008). On that guy, the two sides of the Runner were dragged as if they were slippers. Pandemic or not, some things just don’t change.

Photo: Awang Sulung

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

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

The Trouble One Has To Go Through

Three years after the first Adidas Yeezy was launched, many are still desperate to cop a pair, but more amazingly, people are willing to go to honestly ridiculous lengths imposed by retailers to secure the shoe

 

Yeezy 700 ballot notice

By Shu Xie

I have never queued for anything—not even food—except once at the A&E to see a doctor when my father was seriously ill. I don’t even queue for a movie ticket now that we can comfortably buy one online. Queueing, however, is what many people are willing to do even for non-essentials such as a pair of sneakers. Okay, I get it, that’s part of the appeal and, indeed, culture of streetwear. But have things reached such an absurd state that we need to queue for an opportunity to get in line?

At the launch of the Adidas Yeezy Boost 700—a shoe of indeterminate attractiveness—this weekend, those interested will need to queue for “a chance to purchase”, as stated by the apparent sole seller, Limited Edt (LE) Vault at 313@Orchard. This chance involves getting in line to place an e-ballot at an interactive screen set in the premise of the store during specified times. What happened to the Adidas Confirmed app?

Surprising to me, and frankly, restrictive, is that in order to even get in line, one has to appear—“MUST”, as spelled out by LE Vault, and, yes, in full caps—at the site in “Adidas (Originals or performance is fine) footwear ONLY” before one is allowed to participate in the ballot! If the church no longer dictates what the congregation wears to mass these days, why is a business owner setting a footwear dress code for shoppers at its store?

It is possible, of course, that LE Vault has a cozy relationship with Adidas and it wants only Adidas fans to cop the Yeezy. Or, it’s attempting to strengthen the marketing muscle of Adidas in order get into the shoe maker’s good books. Either way, such a restriction is shortsighted as it arbitrary omits non-Adidas wearers as potential customers.

As if insisting that yet-to-buy customers walking in wear a specified shoe brand isn’t enough, registrants for the e-ballot are required to “provide non hotmail (sic), outlook or live email address”! Okay, this is not quite comprehensible and too much to digest. I quickly walked away, my non-performance Adilette following sheepishly along.

Photos: Zhao Xiangji

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.

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!