Rapper turned fashion designer Kanye West has been spotted at fashion shows worldwide taking notes from the likes of Ralph Lauren and Stella McCartney. Friday night, he gave some notes of his own to graduates of the fashion program at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College.
West was the special guest at the college's Gold Thimble Fashion Show, an annual presentation of the graduating fashion students' work. Earlier this year, he visited the school as part of his community service requirements stemming from an LAX paparazzi incident.
Greeted by shouts of "Yeezus Christ" and "I love you," West took to the mike delivering a message on inspiration, authenticity and the fight to be heard.
"As a lot of you know, I really love fashion and it's been a love of mine since as far back as I can remember," he began.
He said he has relatives who were tailors, a grandfather who was a carpenter and upholsterer, and a cousin who sold bootleg Cross Colours items, an urban clothing line from the 90s whose co-creator TJ Walker, was in the audience.
"It's something that I've always had to fight to be accepted," he continued. "I empathize with anyone in this era who's ever loved fashion because, usually, it's not like loving the idea of being a lawyer or becoming a doctor. When kids tell their parents they want to be a fashion designer, it's usually not met with the same response as the traditionally hailed career choices."
West spoke about his personal experiences as a designer. (Most recently, he premiered the Kanye West X Adidas Originals Yeezy Season 1 collection at New York Fashion Week in February.)
"Even for me as a successful musician, in order to make the transition, it was really all but impossible," he said. "People always try to box you into what they know you best for."
His interpretation of authenticity for creatives?
"Artists, or the most successful artists, are as close to who they were when they were 5 years old, or 4 years old or 3 years old or when my daughter wakes up and decides to change her career seven times day," said West.
As for words of advice, he encouraged graduates to "use your youth."
"Use this time you have right now to learn as much as possible, to educate yourself, to hone your craft," he said. "I respect people who have a craft, who have taken their time to really learn and hone their craft and deliver something of quality, of passion to the world."
And it wouldn't be a Kanye West speech if he didn't recognize his own brilliance and the criticism he often gets.
"You're going to prepare yourself for politics, bad bosses, hating employees and usually when you're the absolute best, you get hated on the most," he said, self-assuredly turning to the crowd as they rooted him on. "But never stop fighting, no matter what anyone says, no matter how they try to compromise you, compromise your vision. If it's in your gut, if it's in your soul, there's nothing, no worldly possession that should come between you and your expression."
Before abruptly ending his almost eight-minute speech, West implored the designers to seize the moment.
"As a race, human beings, we're a blip in existence," he said. "Death is promised. So what do you do with your life? How do you make the most of it? How do you make your voice the loudest? I feel extremely honored to see new talent fighting for their voice that I can only imagine they've been fighting for since age 3."
And then, "That's all."
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