Will Fashion Finally Take Kanye West Seriously?
A drama-free show and efficiently designed new collection may put the rapper and designer back in fashion’s good graces
"Is that all there is?"
The question was audible from a few but felt collectively by the entire audience at the end of Kanye West's Yeezy Season 5 show on Wednesday. For almost five minutes after the models walked their finale, not a single attendee got up from their seat to exit, instead waiting in anticipation for West to make an appearance, as is customary for designers to do at the end of a show. That never happened, and when the lights finally came on, the soundtrack returned to its pre-show ambient music and guests began to shuffle out in slight bewilderment.
Over the course of the past few seasons, West has conditioned his audiences to anticipate drama. Just as most expect his awards show appearances to come with blistering speeches, so has the fashion community steeled themselves for drama at his ready-to-wear shows. They have reason: Yeezy Season 3 doubled as a never-ending album release party at Madison Square Garden, while last season’s 4 show in September 2016, with its inconvenient location, extreme tardiness, questionable casting guidelines and clear mistreatment of models put the rapper and designer in the fashion doghouse.
Some editors even boycotted the show this week, especially after the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) denounced it due to the fact that he did not clear his time slot with them. West responded by moving his time slot up to a non-conflicting hour, but he remained off of the CFDA’s official calendar.
But plenty of editors, buyers and influencers showed up anyway (and yes, Kim was there, along with Kylie, Tyga, Zoe Kravitz, Hailey Baldwin, Pusha T, ASAP Ferg and Virgil Abloh), filling the black box studio at Pier 59 to a capacity of 300. Attendees were surprised—and perhaps even a bit disappointed—when the show went off without a whiff of drama. It began promptly at 3:23 pm (considered on time in the fashion world for a show slated for 3 pm and a world away from the hour-plus delay of Yeezy Season 4) and took approximately 15 minutes.
A large rectangular pillar in the center of the studio lit up to show four screens (one for each side of the room), which aired each model’s look in a 360-degree view, while over the speakers, The Dream sang a demo version/interpretation of J. Holiday’s “Bed.” The show culminated with a real-life procession of the models on the runway and eventually got a round of applause, once attendees realized that was it.
The collection was also a world away from Season 4, which showed plastic boots, poorly made footwear, ill-advised cutouts and an overall disconnect from wearable fashion. From the opening look of a denim work jacket with faded jeans and a luxe shearling overcoat to the plethora of bomber jackets, hoodies and Adidas separates visible from their three-stripe markers—not to mention a new shoe, dubbed the Yeezy Runner (which looked like a variation of the new Adidas EQT)—this collection was not only editorial (the hoodies and jackets all had interesting, slouchy shapes; embroidery abounded on statement coats), but also highly saleable. It’s something that Adidas is betting on, having extended its partnership with West back in June 2016 with the goal of opening Yeezy-focused retail locations in the near future. Time will tell if the decision is a smart one for the German sportswear and shoe brand, but given that sales increased by 17% in the 3rd quarter alone—and that West’s Yeezy Boosts have consistently sold out—the future looks bright for the duo.
Many of the show attendees were also waiting with baited breath for a rumored collaboration with Drake for this collection (perhaps the pair would appear together at the finale?), but aside from a grouping of jackets and hoodies reading “Calabasas,” “Agoura,” “Mulholland” and “Hills” (the shared home neighborhoods of the two rappers), no announcement was made.
CDFA tensions aside, the show and its collection of highly wearable clothing was a quiet, promising step forward for West, who skipped this year’s Grammys to prep for it. While he didn’t make an appearance, the show’s lack of spectacle and sense of falling in line with fashion protocol could reflect a new chapter for the rapper and designer, whose past months of family and health crises no doubt had an impact on how this collection came together.