“(…) when the red shoe hit the runway I was forced to change my name
to Martin Louis the King Jr., address me as such (…)”
Have you ever thought what is the fil rouge that perfectly links Jay Z, Fendi, Nike, Maison Margiela, Phillip Lim, Riccardo Tisci, Wes Lang, Adidas and Louis Vuitton?
Well, the answer is one and only.
Do you want any tips? Ok, he’s a man.
Now let’s go deeper.
Born in Atlanta (Georgia, US) in 1977, raised in Chicago (Illinois, US), he is probably one of the most known, appreciated and controversial people alive.
He is not the classic guy coming from nothing and always trying to find a way to get out of the mud. He has had a good childhood and good parents. He went to school, received a scholarship and attended the Chicago State University.
Everything seems easy.
By the way, there is something more than this. He had a passion: music.
He started producing music at the age of fifteen and after the success made working as producer, once left the university at the age of 20, reached the popularity as rapper with his debut-album “The College Dropout” in 2004.
You got it?
His name is Kanye West aka Mr. West, Yeezy, Yeezus and many more.
I won’t write anything else about his music and his career in the music industry because I want to stay focused on his life as a fashion designer.
Since the release of his first album was very clear that the fashion world influenced a lot his lifestyle. He totally changed the landscape of the hip-hop world choosing colored rugby shirts, pink polos and Louis Vuitton backpacks instead of baggy jeans and XXXL tees.
In 2007 he made his appearance in the fashion market collaborating with the streetwear brand “A Bathing Ape” designing a special version of their Bapesta sneaker.
That year Kanye also announced that his own clothing brand, Pastelle, was ready to be launched. He was spotted wearing unique pieces of his clothing line but the brand was never released and the project was finally aborted in 2009.
Once he got the proof of his failure in the fashion system he decided to step back and build up his experience gradually. He first took an internship at Gap, then he moved to Japan and then to Rome where he worked as “intern” at Fendi in which he had the chance to learn the job but he has never had the chance to test himself.
About this experience he recently he stated:
“…I brought the leather jogging pants six years ago to Fendi, and they said no. How many motherf*****s you done seen with a leather jogging pant?”
He was probably true and he has had one of the best intuition of the last years but the world wasn’t ready to receive what Kanye thinks when he said:
“…I have the opportunity to put my name on something and people will buy it, but I want to create something that has its own voice and other designers can look at it and be inspired by. I wasn’t put on this earth to make money; I was put on this earth to make magic.”
In 2009 at the Paris Fashion Week, Louis Vuitton launched a sneaker collaboration with Kanye lead by an all-red colorway known as the “Don”.
This is why he is called Kan, the Louis Vuitton Don.
After the show Kanye posted a video that went viral and I firmly suggest you watch it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c59ifR0PEkY
In this video you can get some information about Kanye’s way of life, let’s say just a “bit” ego-driven.
In April of the same year Kanye invaded the market in collaboration with Nike. “The Nike Air Yeezy 1” was released in the shops in super limited quantity and retailed for $215.
Sold out in one day.
In July, Louis Vuitton released a capsule collection made in collaboration with Mr. West made up by three styles (the “Don”, the “Mr. Hudson”, the “Jasper”) priced between $800 and $1200.
Sold out in a bit more than one day.
In 2010 designer Phillip Lim designed the clothing line for “Runaway”, a short movie in which Kanye performed.
In 2011 he has commissioned Riccardo Tisci, young designer of Givenchy, for the artwork of the album “Watch The Throne” featuring Jay Z.
Riccardo Tisci is the one that influenced the most Kanye’s vision of fashion.
Due to this fact, his debut women’s collection called “DW Kanye West”, presented at a show in Paris, was a big failure even if the high-heeled shoe were made in collaboration with Giuseppe Zanotti (these shoes were the only piece from the collection that have been sold in shops, retail price of $5800) and the show was attended by people such as Azzedine Alaïa, Lindsay Lohan, Oliver Theyskens, Jeremy Scott and the Olsen twins.
A journalist of the Wall Street Journal has written in her review:
“Kanye West’s collection was so Givenchy-esque that it’s embarrassing that Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci was an expected guest.”
March the 6th 2012 Kanye tried for the second time to hit the Paris Fashion Week with his new collection.
The press said it was better than the previous one but still too close to Riccardo Tisci’s designing.
Even though Kanye’s fashion collections were panned by critics, his shoes continued to be wildly successful. In fact in June Nike released “The Air Yeezy 2” in two colorways, “Platinum” and “Black Solar Red” and went to the stores priced $250 due to the limited quantity produced (someone says that has been produced only 1500 pieces).
Sold out immediately.
Do you want a pair?
They are sold via www.flightclub.com for $4750.
In order to get back properly into the fashion industry, Kanye released in July 2013 a capsule collection in collaboration with the brand “A.P.C.” made up by 9 items ranging in price from $120 to $250.
Immediate sold out and A.P.C.’s website in crash.
On December the 3rd Adidas officially confirmed a new shoe collaboration deal with Mr. West for 10 million dollars and he confirmed the release of Adidas “Yeezy Boosts”.
Kanye stated that he left Nike because they were not giving him royalties on shoes because, due to a company’s policy, royalties were allowed only to athletes and also because they delayed the release of the “Air Yeezy 2”.
In fact, just a couple of months after the deal with Adidas, Nike released for the last time a collaboration with Kanye and the “Air Yeezy 2 Red Octobers” shoes were released and sold out in a moment.
If you are not one of the few lucky guys that bought them at the shops after long queues, you can purchase them via www.flightclub.com for $5500.
On May 2014 Kanye got married to the famous Kim Kardashian and wore a customized suit.
Designed by who? Riccardo Tisci, of course.
At the reception, both Kanye and Kim have worn leather jackets featuring artworks of Wes Lang.
In early 2015 he premiered in New York the “Yeezy Season 1” which marked his return on the catwalks. He appeared at the show with a secret weapon: Vanessa Beecroft, an Italian artist that gave to the collection show what was missing in the previous ones.
In September of the same year happened something totally new in the fashion world.
During the New York Fashion Week Kanye, revealing “Yeezy Season 2” did something totally unusual and not perfectly moral, ethical and correct, but it worked.
In this situation, we can see all his geniality and madness at the same time.
He decided to present his collection long before the show started and doing so he stole all the press and media attentions from the other designers who were awaiting the start of the show.
The presentation was live-streamed in cinemas across the United States and reached almost everyone in the country.
He staged a presentation, together with Vanessa Beecroft, in which they wanted to stress the importance of color even if the audience thought it was something linked to race.
On February the 14th “Yeezy Boosts” were released in limited quantity (9000 pieces) and available only in New York via the Adidas smartphone app.
Sold out, obvious.
In 10 minutes, extraordinary.
On February 2016 Kanye premiered his “Yeezy Season 3” at “Madison Square Garden” in New York in conjunction with the previewing of his last album “The Life of Pablo”.
In June 2016 Adidas announced that they have reached an agreement with Kanye for a long-term deal.
Now that I have given you a lot of information about Kanye West as a fashion designer I strongly recommend to get somewhere more details about his life and personality because he is the one that must be studied a lot for being understood. Even though he is not selling any luxurious products I can clearly say that the entire “movement” he has built up could be considered luxurious both for the music industry and the fashion one. I mean, this is not a proper movement. It’s a successful business.
Take a look at the numbers.
He has released 7 solo-album, 6 of them went platinum. The last one has been at the beginning released only on Tidal, a streaming platform owned by his friend Jay-Z: 250 million streams in the first 10 days, 400 million in the first 6 weeks, 500.000 illegal downloads. Among these years he has also won 21 Grammy Awards making him one of the most awarded persons in the music history.
Talking about the fashion system is quite hard to define the exact number of products that Kanye West has sold due to the infinite number of collaboration and also due to not confirmed amount of releases of his collections by both Nike and Adidas. But it’s a matter of fact that every release makes people wait in front of the store for hours screaming and shouting to get their own new pair of shoes. I am one of them.
Speechless, isn’t it?
I think that trying to add something would be very tough so I would like to close quoting the song “I Love Kanye” from his last album “The Life of Pablo” because it describes and explains perfectly his ego-driven personality that, at the end, makes me feel happy of being a fan of this guy both as rapper and as designer:
“I miss the old Kanye, straight from the ‘Go Kanye
Chop up the soul Kanye, set on his goals Kanye
I hate the new Kanye, the bad mood Kanye
The always rude Kanye, spaz in the news Kanye
I miss the sweet Kanye, chop up the beats Kanye
I gotta to say, at that time I’d like to meet Kanye
See I invented Kanye, it wasn’t any Kanyes
And now I look and look around and there’s so many Kanyes
I used to love Kanye, I used to love Kanye
I even had the pink Polo, I thought I was Kanye
What if Kanye made a song, about Kanye?
Called “I Miss The Old Kanye,” man that’d be so Kanye
That’s all it was Kanye, we still love Kanye
And I love you like Kanye loves Kanye.”