paris fashion week: kanye west
(images via style)
opting to write about the debut kanye west show for the s/s 2012 season in a blog that hails creativity and output first and names, second, wasn’t an easy decision. would i be equal to the task, i wondered, and would i be able to assess it without prejudice? after all the—er—designer himself isn’t known, particularly, for his humility, opting, instead of other celebrities-turned-fashionies like the olsens of the row or gwen stefani of l.a.m.b. (two of the more successful, opt-approved star-helmed houses) to ease into the effort, instead staging his premiere effort at paris fashion week of all places (and with a cast of some of the most famous models of the moment, like abbey lee kershaw, anja rubik, karlie kloss, and jourdan dunn).
but, as it turns out, i wasn’t the only one with these reservations, although some were kinder than others in broaching them. uk vogue, for example, was perhaps the harshest of the bunch (perhaps not as enthralled by mr. west’s contribution to the entertainment community as the americans, and an all-but-drooling tim blanks at style, seemed to be), starting out their review with a brisk “(t)he Paris catwalk is something of a sacred place to fashion and, no matter how much money you have or famous friends you can haul onto the front row, if the clothes don’t cut it you simply won’t win the approval of the crowd there to see it.”
as for the clothes themselves, they were inspired by the notion of “Miami meets goth,” though what we actually saw turned out to be no more, no less than super-luxury streetwear. “West’s proposition for high-end streetwear was anchored mainly in leathers — cleavage and back-bearing dresses, jackets and pants done with motocross/space suit details, like ribbing and zippers,” wrote wwd (among the more generous in terming it “neither triumph nor train wreck”).
“A white dress with a strip of a racer back and a pair of colorful leather pants were nice. But in general the leathers and cuts were too clunky. The rest of the collection cribbed from the work of the designers he admires, many of whom were sitting in the audience, and whose ranks he intends to join. Skin tight, slashed dresses and little sweatshirts were worn askance. There were gold nameplate necklaces and a giant fox fur backpack because West’s roots are in hip hop.”
us vogue, on the other hand, did try to be fair, gently suggesting that perhaps it wasn’t advisable to stage such a public primary outing “into a self-created spotlight where every flaw will be unsparingly magnified,” before sharpening into an “(a)ll eyes were magnetized by the bloopers, including the amateur approximation of fit, and a pair of excruciating, collapsing stiletto sandal-heels, which caused the poor model wearing them agonies of mortification.”
“Perhaps all that could have been overlooked if there had been a single train of thought bringing the collection together. There wasn’t, really, although there were one or two inklings that West could have been on the same page as summer’s emerging trends—a Swarovski crystal–embellished jacket and the plissé fabric skirt and top…It may seem an ironic remark to make about someone who has won fourteen Grammys, but Kanye West needs to know that when you’re putting yourself up to perform on that luxury podium, what you most need is a voice.”
style, on the other hand, was the most positive, cautiously commenting that ” It’s kind of a cheap shot to go the trying-too-hard route with someone who is so undoubtedly passionate about what he is doing” (would that they were with so many other up-and-coming unknowns) before launching into a couple of trepidation-love-filled remarks: (and you should bring shoes, ‘cause it’s gonna get sappy)
“it’s frustrating that someone who seems to almost effortlessly realize his vaulting musical ambitions comes up short elsewhere, at least on the first attempt. Of course, what Kanye West is trying to achieve is unprecedented. There isn’t a fashion designer alive who could match his music. But tonight’s show suggests that conquering his new medium is a work in progress.”
in truth (and i wonder if i’m the only one who has suggested it), i wonder how much mr. west himself actually had to do with this collection. as style did point out, “he name-checked Kim Jones, Louise Goldin, Katie Eary, and Louise Wilson, the guiding light of Central Saint Martins,” as, ahem, ‘helpers’ with the show. but like that so-terrible emanuel ungaro show for s/s 2010 in which everyone wanted to blame “artistic advisor” lindsay lohan for the fails and pity “designer” estrella archs (and let’s be real, ms. archs probably had a lot more to do with all of it than ms. lohan, given that she had actual experience, with, yannow, fashion), it leaves me reflecting on the nature of celebrity “designers”.
and in the end, i suppose, there really isn’t much to see here. no, it wasn’t terrible, as everyone probably hoped (gleefully longing-dreading another lohan-style fiasco), but neither was it remarkable or even worth a mention. opt is simply bringing it up because it feels a cautionary tale of where money can bring us (design background or no): the best models, venue, a spot in coveted paris. it also leaves the bitter taste of reminder that fashion is growing increasingly political, that a hot name is the best currency in the business (and how many would rather print “kanye” than “chanel”; which gets more hits, i wonder?). yes, it’s sad to see, but we see it increasingly daily: fashion becoming tied up with celebrity culture. and what do they really have to do with one another? but i think we have to stop it, lest all show reviews become tabloid reports, and, increasingly, the shows themselves become star-outings (if not designed by the celebs themselves). we need to take the art back, lest it become…this.
(watch the final walk-through video here)