paris fashion week: kanye west
(images via style)
so yeah, just in case you thought his s/s 2012 collection at paris fashion week was, like, a one-hit thing, it happened again. kanye west was back for more: a/w 2012 edition. i suppose the most interesting thing for me this turn around was the range of emotions the extravaganza produced: humour; skepticism; maybe a little appreciation that after being full panned, he was actually back for more; wondering how such well-respected models, like carmen kass (bottom), milagros schmoll (above), jordan dunn, anna selezneva, and joan smalls, could make a job out of this without worries of diminishing their ‘brands’; and the reluctant sigh that though while i maybe did like a piece or two (as ms. schmoll’s dress on her)—maybe even stretched to include those high-wrapping boots (as on anja rubik, third from below)—none of it was really innovative or flattering to girls not already on the runway.
and before you give me a hard time for my critiques, consider this: i did come here, as last season, trying to keep an open mind on the subject. but for someone who brazenly chooses to show his clothes at the same venue alber elbaz recently celebrated his tenth anniversary with lanvin (the a/w 2012 collection of which garnered outstanding reviews), who speaks about being misunderstood and mistreated by the press, it’s hard to come down any other way than with the same exceptionally critical eye one might train at other big talkers—karl lagerfeld of chanel, say, or maybe marc jacobs. but while (whatever we might feel for those designers personally aside) they back it up with actual collections that, yannow, do change the course of fashion, mr. west appears to still be having some trouble ideas—namely, too much fur, and, as you’ll likely hear many a critic point out, too many motifs directly cribbed from riccardo tisci’s runways at givenchy.
anyway, as the telegraph would have it, “(t)here was lots of fur, including another fur backpack. When the missteps came, there were stumbles rather than the faceplants we saw last time. An oversized cream sweatshirt with zippers running from its shoulders, down the outside of the arms to the sleeves worn with a fur-trimmed pencil skirt looked neither sexy nor edgy. The recurring thigh-high multi-strapped boots were inelegantly ugly, and Arizona Muse’s [ed note: fifth from bottom] yeti jacket was abominable. The vast improvement was in cut and fit - the two incontrovertible essentials that are fashion’s equivalent of rhythm and melody. Like so much of West’s music, this collection sampled material originally created by others: most notably Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci. And that one sample worked so well that in many ways this collection was more successfully Givenchy than the next season Givenchy collection shown here just a few days ago.”
on a more generous note, showstudio allowed that “(h)e’s learned how to edit, honing his ideas down to a single concise catwalk statement. He’s also learned the importance of fit, and there were none of the recurring problems with frocks slipping and sliding down (and, in the case of the tighter numbers, up) his models’ bodies. His also learned that what he does really really well is to put on a show. That’s what he gave us…When West and his design team stretched their muscles and experimented with looser, easier shapes, this collection seemed to offer something different. After all, those tight dresses were a perfection of last season’s concept (if not execution) of clingfilm-tight lines. Best in show was a tight pencil skirt worn under a loose t-shirt entirely encrusted with chain, like a twisted, silver-plated take on an aran knit. You could imagine Kanye himself wearing it. And for many designers - Mr West included - that’s a pretty hefty compliment.”
on a more humourous—and, methinks, accurate—note, the wsj commented that “(s)omeone must have told Mr. West that show theatrics are important, but he perhaps missed the part where the drama should take place on the runway? First the bad news: This Kanye West collection was so Givenchy-esque that it’s embarrassing that Givenchy designer Ricardo Tisci was an expected guest. Kanye, whatever your legal arrangement, cribbing is cribbing. Ten points off for copying the smart guy sitting next to you. Next, the good news: this Kanye collection is a massive improvement. When I asked how he managed it, Mr. West dissembled and said he’d spent a lot of time in ‘libraries.’ This second Kanye West collection was a vast improvement over his first. The question outstanding: Whose is it?”
and style also quite kindly offered that “the element of surprise has always been one of the secret weapons of his music, and it popped up in his sophomore fashion effort by simple virtue of the fact that West won a much-improved badge. He reduced his first collection’s profligacy to a more concise statement in leather, velvet, and astrakhan, most often in black and always wrapping a legging or pencil-skirted lean silhouette. It was a declaration that West is learning self-discipline in design, and he amplified it aggressively with the martial music, the harsh makeup, the gladiatorial footwear, the odd croc collars. The show’s tight edit left little room for anything beyond this core statement, but the hard edge still had some light and shade: the use of dévoré, for instance, the more relaxed sweatshirt shapes, and the clutch-coat decorum of the final outfit.”
robin givhan of the daily beast nailed it (and also happened to agree with a couple of major points i made above) in remarking that “(a)nd then there was the sophomore effort from Kanye West. The collection had a better fit, which is to say that the trousers and skirts were shaped to the female form rather than a rectangle. But it was overly reliant on pelts and the aesthetic developed by Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy. And finally, it lacked a personal point-of-view. The presentation came off like a pit stop on the way to the afterparty. Indeed, a mystifying team of helmeted speed racers in bumper cars started whizzing around a track—in back of guests and diverting everyone’s attention—as the models were making their final pass on the runway.”
meanwhile, the guardian was also rather tongue-in-cheek in opining that “Kanye West not only loves fashion, but has an impressive instinct for the catwalk zeitgeist. This show included almost every major trend from next autumn’s collections: black leather, velvet, high necklines, crocodile effect, and influences from sportswear, gothic and baroque aesthetics. It did not however make a strong case for West’s possession of an original point of view on the season’s trends. No one doubts that Kanye West genuinely loves fashion, but for the moment the passion remains unrequited.”
on the other hand, vogue both made something valid points and raised some interesting questions: “there was no live show, and there were no new ideas. There were some go carts that whizzed around the catwalk at the end making a big whizzy noise, there were supermodels in the shape of Carmen Kass, Jourdan Dunn and Joan Smalls who looked lovely in Kanye’s clothes – but when don’t they? – there was Champagne and paparazzi. All the trimmings but without the substance – yet – like a boy playing at being a big fashion designer. Is it that Kanye is surrounded by yes men who won’t suggest he sticks to his – undoubtedly brilliant – day job? Or is it that he’s still learning? Or are we simply too mean to allow a man success in two fields?”
and, finally, we have the nyt’s eric wilson, whose discussion on the subject, i found, was by far the most illuminating. “Earlier in the day, after agreeing to preview his collection with editors, Mr. West abruptly changed his mind….’I don’t know about this,’ he said. ‘I got treated unfairly by the press last time. Why would I want to do this?’ Awkward. With respect, I responded, this was an opportunity to describe his point of view. Since no one seems to know how Mr. West plans to go about making clothes — and rumors about the involvement of college interns, an Australian magazine editor, a top stylist, an English designer and a respected design-school professor have all turned out to be either unfounded or a stretch — this was an opportunity to set the record straight. Would he at least care to explain the ideas behind his collection? He pondered for a moment. ‘No,’ he said. ‘If they don’t understand it, they don’t understand it.’ Then, in a kindly way, he kicked me out.”
“Being among those who raked Mr. West over the coals for his first collection,” mr. wilson continued, “I will leave it to the reader to judge whether he has been treated fairly. The invitation to an interview remains open. I will continue to listen to his music while on the treadmill and to faithfully report on his collections as long as he’s willing to design them. And Mr. West may be right to let his clothes speak for themselves, since they are oh so loud. This show started out O.K., with a series of tough-looking black leather and suede outfits based off of a motorcycle jacket. And it ended with go-karts spinning around two tracks on either side of the runway.”
“His leather skirts had a stiff half-ruffle pointing out at the hems. Karlie Kloss wore a leather jacket that, kind of interestingly, had no back, but then there was again a preponderance of questionable fur looks, including pants that were broadtail on the front, clingy fabric on the back. When Joan Smalls closed the show, wearing an adhesive black gauze dress with a strip of alligator running up the front, it seemed as if Mr. West’s approach to making a dress was like a cook wrapping leftover turkey. In an effort to be extra fair, I will say I liked an oversize cream sweatshirt with zippers running up the sleeves,” was how he summed things up. so there you have it, and judge for yourselves. but i, for my part, would like to broach the names of doda komad in serbia, manhes & massun in mexico, lena tsokalenko in belarus, and sebastian ellrich in germany—all big talents that get nowhere near the attention mr. west pulls in. is it worth it we to sympathize? or should we simply take our attention elsewhere?
(see the full, edited, show video here)