February 18, 2016
Designer Kanye West is single-handedly influencing the world of fashion within popular culture. Since the self-described “Louis Vuitton Don” debuted onto the masses, he has not only shifted the way rappers rap, but also the way they’ve dressed. Rather than submitting to the “gangsta” look that was so prevalent during the mid-2000s, West opted to establish a style of his own. One that fully encompassed his own individuality, and in turn, would separate him from other MC’s within the era.
From the pink polo’s and backpacks, the skin-tight jeans and retro Jordan’s, the leather kilts, and now the elongated hoodies and t-shirts. The impact he has had is immeasurable, and despite the numerous companies/designers that have denounced West’s talents he has managed to apply his creative ingenuity to coerce the culture aesthetically. The accolades he’s been able to obtain in such a short period of time is a true testament of his reach culturally. 2015 in particular was a big year for Kanye, and with the recent debut of Yeezy Season 3 during New York fashion week, 2016 is looking to be even bigger for the artist/designer. Let’s reflect on West’s journey to become a fashion designer, his accomplishments within the industry, and describe how it has resonated with those connected to the fashion world.
West’s journey to become a fashion designer was a long and humbling one. He spent over a decade learning under the tutelage of established clothing designers, while simultaneously building a resume of his own. He’s collaborated with numerous fashion labels such as: Louis Vuitton, A Bathing Ape, APC, etc. worked under Giuseppe Zanoti’s factory, interned at Fendi –twice- and invested millions of dollars to develop a fashion line of his own called “Pastelle” back in 2005. Although the public was able to see a few pieces from the collection, the stalls in production hindered its release. He wanted it done “right,” rather than the line falling victim to the premature death that plagued other artists’ projects. West looked to other designers and companies for direction, but due to his hip-hop background and tempestuous antics he was black-billed within the industry. It wasn’t until four years later that Kanye would sign a deal with Nike, and with Pastelle then scrapped, the Yeezy brand would take off.
However, despite the success of the Air Yeezy’s he felt his tenure with Nike was an underwhelming one. He was eager to create more and to distribute it on a larger platform. West vented his frustrations in reference to the lack of support he felt Nike and the fashion industry exhibited toward him in an interview with Zane Lowe on his BBC Radio 1 station. West said, “ As a creative, for you to have done something to the level of the Yeezys and not be able to create more and you cannot- you cannot create that on your own, with no support, with no backing. West continued saying, “So when I say “clean water was only served to the fairer skinned” what I’m saying is we’re making products with chitlins. “ Shortly after the interview was released, the video was circumvented internationally. Media outlets everywhere continued to document West’s “rants” of resentment toward both parties in other interviews. He decided to part ways with the brand he grew up admiring in search for more. Rather than West submitting to the pressures of the industry, he took it upon himself to re-vitalize his brand with Adidas.
Since partnering with Adidas, West has easily become the biggest name in footwear. Over time he has proven his eye for innovative color ways, enriched textures, and detailed silhouettes he’s developed for a number of fashion labels. Such sneakers include A Bathing Ape’s “Bapesta,” Reebok’s “S. Carter’s CL Lows,” Louis Vuitton’s “Don and Mr. Hudson,” and the most notable of which, the Air Yeezy’s. West’s creatively daring and effervescent designs have seemingly revolutionized sneaker culture. Forcing companies to develop new methods of distribution, igniting resell value and breaking boundaries internationally. A feat that hadn’t been obtained by any other design since the Jordan’s. In 2014, Complex Magazine posted the article 10 Ways Kanye Changed Sneakers Forever and said: “What Kanye has been able to do with his first two Nike Air Yeezy’s has never been done by anyone with a signature sneaker. In fact, when Kanye released the Yeezy’s between ‘09 – ‘14, name another sneaker from Jordan Brand in that same period that even got close to the level of Yeezys in terms of design, quality, and demand.”
Since leaving Nike in 2014, Kanye has carried over an allegiance of die-hard fans to his new home at Adidas. The move has undoubtedly proven to be a great one for both parties. The Adidas Yeezy Boosts have matched the success of the Air Yeezy’s domestically, with some incarnations even exceeding it. In 2015, West released the Pirate Black Yeezy 350s and was awarded shoe of the year by Footwear News. On vogue.com, Footwear News was quoted saying the Yeezy Trainer was “the most-coveted, most-talked-about, most-recognized shoe this year.” Within days of their release the sneaker was sold out in all online and retail locations. The limited supply of the sneaker has encouraged prodigious resell value, with some shoes reselling north of $2,000. However, due to the unwavering demand for the 350s there have now been plans for the re-dispensing of the sneaker. Writers for hypebeast.com recently released a stock list for the shoe to be redistributed in countries such as Canada, Egypt, Denmark, Italy, the United States, etc. They suggest “chances are the demand for these will be just as high, even if the supply is apparently double what it was.”There is no question, fans are restless in their anticipation for these shoes to hit the market once more.
The current style today has had its fair share of contributions from a number of different artists/designers, but Kanye has been instrumental in establishing the new wave within the culture. Since his days at former Baseline Studios producing beats for the likes of Jay-Z and the Roc-a-fella team, he was often an outsider stylistically. At the time, favoring a collared pastel tinted polo shirt, baggy jeans and a Louis Vuitton backpack. His love for high-fashioned brands became an infectious one. No other rapper integrated the brands rappers often rapped about into their personal style as well as Kanye did. The fashion statements he’s made over his career have inspired artists to dive into the high-end. If it wasn’t for West, artists like Asap Rocky, Travis Scott or Trinidad James wouldn’t be as accepted as they are today in hip-hop. Time has evolved, yet West is still being credited as the architect of various trends that have risen in the industry. Currently, West is offering a distinct style that is undoubtedly impacting the way individuals look at fashion today. His Yeezy Season collections are great examples of the designs he has constructed. All of which, contain a minimalistic and futuristic diatribe with enriched fabrics and disproportioned measures. Writer Max Berlinger of details.com describes Kanye creating designs that favor “comfortable, sporty fabrics, the elongated shirts, the sizable outerwear, the slightly dystopian, layered looks—they’re all versions of things that have become signature Kanye-isms.”
Let’s submit, this man is a creative genius. One that simply needed the resources and the platform to create. Adidas has provided that and more for the artist/designer. Allowing him to exercise his creative freedom within the infrastructure they’ve developed around him. Adidas has given Kanye the green light, and since then, West has managed to utilize his influence as a creative to cement his placement within the shoe and fashion industry. Developing a stylistic mystique that has resonated with those connected to the fashion world. The impact it has had onto popular-culture is evident. Millions of people of varying ages, ethnicities and backgrounds have gravitated toward the Kanye-ism that has become so prevalent. The positive consensus among both critics and fans of the release of the Yeezy Season 3 collection has many coming to the conclusion that 2016 is going to be an even bigger year for Kanye. Fans are anxious to see what he has next up his sleeve, and they’re certain they will be satisfied with the results.