Yeezy season approaching , but it seems like it never ends. Everything Kanye does is analyzed, written about, discussed ad nauseam on every social media platform and message board out. Yesterday was the Yeezy Season 3 fashion show / listening party extradionaire at Madison Square Garden. Where does Yeezy Season 3 fit into Kanye’s own career and in the fashion industry at large?
First off, let me give Kanye credit for getting Adidas, Tidal and whoever else to pay for the most elaborate aux cord party of all time. It’s a genius move in the era of democratized fashion to literally sell thousands of tickets to your own fashion show. I’m not sure any other designer could pull this off, or even would want to. Streaming and showcasing the collection in theaters is a step towards what fashion shows need to be in the internet age; a spectacle that can justify the huge production budgets that even traditional runway shows can run-up.
If it seems like the public unveiling of the new album ‘The Life of Pablo’ overshadowed the clothes themselves, it’s because people still see Kanye as a musician first, a celebrity second and a designer third. On the music front, I’m glad that TLOP sounds worth the wait. The vibe of the album seems is some twisted mix of Late Registration and the distorted progressive sound of Yeezus. The album also checks key boxes in terms of collaborators – Metro Boomin’ , The Weeknd, Chance the Rapper, Young Thug and Frank Ocean all appear on it. If anything the clothing and set served as a backdrop for the music, not the other way around.
Which brings us to the question, what impact did this show and collection make? Keep in mind where Yeezy fits into the intersect between rap and fashion. Since the 90s heydey of urban wear brands like Sean Jean, Phat Farm , Ecko – hip-hop culture has commodified it’s aesthetic to sell directly to it’s audience. The past five years saw rappers turn towards high fashion. The stakes had risen and rappers like Travis Scott and A$AP Rocky were very public about their preference for labels like Balmain, Raf Simons, Rick Owens and Margiela.
In terms of style itself, rap culture has not only become mainstream culture, it has become a greater force within fashion (particularly menswear). Celebrities like Drake or Rihanna could move more units than any magazine print campaign. In the context of rapper’s making brands, Yeezy easily stands above past efforts by rappers. In fact this is the best collection ever designed by a rapper. While Kanye himself wouldn’t be happy with the caveat, it can’t be denied that the Yeezy Season 3 has already leapfrogged past efforts by the likes of P Diddy, Andre 3000 or Pharrell.
My prediction is that the collaborative sneakers by Adidas will continue to be the most sought after part of the collection as pretty much anyone can wear them (if not afford their resell price). The clothing will build on their niche appeal especially if ‘Ye sticks to his promise of lowering the price point.
The real effect that Kanye is having is not necessarily through the product he’s about to release, it’s the way he did it. In the very white, very bourgeois arena of fashion week, Kanye broke so many conventions. He showed his collection to millions live-streamed from Madison Square Garden. He cast a diverse group of mainly black models. He released a collection along-side an album using a fucking aux cord. He got people in attendance to chant ‘Fuck Nike’. While Kanye still seems thirsty for approval from the fashion establishment, what he should really realize is he doesn’t need it. With the Yeezy 3 presentation, he’s already made his statement and asserted himself as a force for change in how fashion labels should operate. Making music heard by millions and being one of the most influential people in popular culture grants far more power than designing a critically acclaimed collection. Maybe Yeezy Season 3 is just the best rap merch of all time and that’s enough.