Kanye West's Scrapped Pastelle Line Was 'His University for Fashion'

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AMA
Kanye West arrives at the 2008 American Music Awards held at Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE on Nov. 23, 2008 in Los Angeles.

Complex tells the story of West's pre-Yeezy experiment in the fashion world.

Prior to launching Yeezy with Adidas in 2013, Kanye West first attempted to break through in the fashion world more than a decade ago with his Pastelle clothing line. The line never ended up seeing the light of day and was officially scrapped in 2009. West never explained his reasoning and collaborators have since speculated as to why the brand was brought to a screeching halt.

Complex's Karizza Sanchez conducted a deep dive into Pastelle, speaking to a number of designers and members of Kanye's inner circle at the time to properly detail the history behind the mysterious brand, which contained two full collections that never ended up materializing.

Dating back to 2007, West began to gather his vision for his debut fashion imprint. Daniel Beckerman, co-founder of Italian sunglass brand Retrosuperfuture, received an email from Kanye's talent agency informing him that Kanye wanted to collaborate. The Chicago native started to assemble his dream team of about 30 designers, consultants and collaborators, featuring a range of expertise, to assist in perfecting Pastelle.

Musician and Ti$a designer Taz Arnold had high praise for the team West put together. "It was X-Men coming together. [Kanye] had some colorful individuals and creative people working to his benefit," says Arnold, who joined the crew as a consultant in 2008.

Many familiar faces contributed to Pastelle, including Louis Vuitton's Virgil Abloh, Kanye's barber IBN Jasper and streetwear designer Don C.

KAWS, who famously designed the artwork behind West's 808s & Heartbreak album, was also enlisted to help craft the brand's logo. Louis Vuitton's men's artistic director at the time, Kim Jones, was onboard too.

Pastelle would have catered to both menswear and women's apparel with a range of color palettes used on items, including clothing, accessories, jewelry, footwear and more. Renowned custom jeweler Ben Baller was also involved with Pastelle and described the brand as three major designers joining forces. "When I saw it, I was like, ‘Wow, this is fucking amazing.’ It was a cross between that real golden era of Polo, a simpler A Bathing Ape, and a little bit of A.P.C," Baller said.  

By the fall of 2009, many contributors to Pastelle outside of Yeezy's camp learned that the brand had been brought to a stop through online sources, as they lost direct contact with Kanye and others involved with the defunct clothing line.

Speculation about what was behind pulling the plug has ranged from the death of Kanye's mother in 2007 to not having enough time and resources properly allocated to the brand and just an overall change of heart in the type of clothes West was making. With Kanye unwilling to participate, Complex spoke with an unidentified member of Yeezy's inner circle about why Pastelle ceased to exist.

“I think he wanted to do something that was a little more high-end. He didn’t want to do a very commercial business, which [Pastelle] would’ve been. He wanted to have an elevated conversation in fashion," the anonymous source suggested. "That’s why he wanted to do women’s, this price point. It was him growing into the designer that he is and being creative and all that. Pastelle was his university for fashion."

It's a shame that Pastelle never materialized into the brick-and-mortar stores Kanye visualized, but there's no denying that the experience he gained laid the foundation behind the Yeezy empire we see today. 

Read the extensive history of Pastelle in full at Complex.