Kanye West’s daughter steals the spotlight at Yeezy Season 8 runway show
Kanye West presented Yeezy Season 8 in front of the French Communist Party headquarters building here Monday night, but what came down the runway was less a ready-for-retail collection and more a creative, thinking-out-loud work in progress.
And what made this strangely fascinating undertaking, which explored the creation of the collection, even more interesting happened late in the game. That’s when West’s 6-year-old daughter North took the spotlight by rapping. (More on that later.)
At a backstage preview, held in the same domed semi-subterranean space at the venue where Thom Browne made his Paris fashion week debut nearly a decade ago, West explained the collection and more.
Rooted in a neutral color palette of gray and beige, the work-in-progress collection was heavy on puffer pieces, which included hooded jackets, tall-collared crop tops and — most notably for fans of the Adidas collaboration footwear — sneakers with wrap-around quilted uppers that gave them an Ugg boot vibe.
Also in the mix were knit bra tops, a knit upper-arm band with a smartphone pocket, high-waisted sweatpant-legging hybrids (some with protective padding running from hip to knee) that flared at the ankle and a beige T-shirt depicting what appeared to be a horse (rendered in an airbrushed art style worthy of a 1970s-era custom-painted van), face-obscuring hooded parkas and balaclavas.
A few pieces, including a puffer-style jacket and pair of pants, seemed composed of wispy strands of wool packed together like a sheep with bedhead. There was nary a visible button, zipper or closure save for a single drawstring waistband on a pair of baggy trousers.
“This is all experimental,” West said. “We’re just looking at different ways to approach things. I mean, 90% of the collection is in muslin.” (A muslin is a test or fitting garment created early in the design process.) The four-legged residents of his Cody, Wyo., ranch factored into this experiment, he said. “We have 700 sheep — the most sheep in America now, I think — so we’re trying out different kinds of felting with the wool,” West said. “It’s the beginning of a new language.”
West’s stream-of-consciousness discourse about the collection (which, in all honesty, was a bit hard to follow) touched on inspiration (“the idea [of being] in service, service clothing” — the latter of which we took to mean household help, nannies and the like), the story behind a particular hooded, gray, rubberized suit (“I’ve always been obsessed with hazmat [suits] and that whole kind of vibe”) and why he brought his 100-strong Sunday Service choir to a small theater during Paris Fashion Week (“To spread the holy spirit — that’s my job as a Christian,” he said in answer to a reporter’s inquiry).
The rapper’s musical ministry event wasn’t the only last-minute addition to the schedule. His Yeezy collaboration with Adidas will be presented in Paris on Monday night.
The most illuminating part of the conversation, though, was his explanation as to why he popped up in Paris in the first place to present a work-in-progress collection (which he described as still in its “infant stage” — to the high-profile fashion-industry press [Vogue’s Anna Wintour was in the house for the preview, as was GQ editor in chief Will Welch, among others]) after a several-year hiatus from the runway.
“I stopped doing [Sunday Service] merch like four months ago,” West said. “And then we started working on the opera because I wasn’t pushing myself enough, and we were doing $1 million a night in merch. And I remember when I first started doing fashion and we did the first Kanye collections, everyone just said, ‘Do a T-shirt. The Row started out with a T-shirt’ — because they had to do a celebrity comparison.” (The Row is the fashion label founded in 2006 by sisters Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen.)
“We fought to not do T-shirts, and then I looked up — and I was only doing T-shirts,” he said. “So we stopped and just started focusing on changing and making new shapes.”
He likened the process of refining the collection in full view of the public to another recent project.
“When I did my first opera at the Hollywood Bowl, two weeks later we did [another] opera, after that we did [another] opera, and then we got to the fourth opera the night before Christmas,” he said. “It’s just getting back on the horse, designing [and] presenting ideas, because we’ve presented so many things that have influenced [the way people dress] like color palettes [and the] shapes of shoes — the shape of the [Yeezy] 350 has become the most iconic shoe basically in the last 15 years ... You’ll see these shapes start to effect [what] other designers [do].”
With that, the PR handlers called the preview to a close, and everyone in attendance hustled outside to watch the collection make its public debut.
As models circled the dome in the courtyard, video was live-streamed online as well as projected against the facade of the Oscar Niemeyer-designed building.
As the models returned for the finale, West’s young daughter North took to the stage, microphone in hand and rapped the show to a close with two minutes of unexpected uber-cuteness that was all but drowned out by a cacophony of car horns honking their approval (or perhaps disapproval — we don’t speak French car horn.)
Was it a show that needed to be on the Paris Fashion Week calendar? No. Did it border on self-indulgent? Probably. Was it a fascinating peek into Kanye West’s creative motivation in the fashion space? No question about it.
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