After 11 Years, Has Kanye West's Fashion Moment Finally Arrived?
He’s gone from Gucci backpacks and polo shirts to sold out collections and headline making runway shows. After over a decade of releasing groundbreaking albums and hit singles, it seems that Kanye West’s foray into fashion may finally be living up to the hype. This year has seen the debut of his Adidas-backed Yeezy Season 1 and 2 collections and the Yeezy Boosts, which has many industry insiders and longtime Kanye fans wondering if this is the moment that he finally breaks through the barriers of the fashion industry he’s been rapping about and fighting against for eleven years.
Four years ago, Kanye released his first collection under the name Dw Kanye West to a host of fashion icons and musicians during Paris Fashion Week. To say that the collection was underwhelming would be a massive understatement—critics praised Kanye for having a day job and almost universally yawned through it. What a difference four years can make, right?
This past week saw the long-awaited release of YEEZY Season 1 in thirty stores across the US and, despite polarizing critical reception and controversial pricing, the collection has completely sold out. This should come as no surprise, yet the news has been met with pushback from critics who seem absolutely flabbergasted that people actually want to buy Kanye’s clothes. While the collection may have been divisive for its shades of nude body-tights and oversized sweater ensembles, the individual pieces have created a buzz that translated into massive sales—specifically the $585 black 950 Boot and $1,690 bouclé sweater. For stores in Atlanta, New York, and even Arlington, TX, YEEZY Season slayed the fashion game.
“The buzz surrounding the launch of the Kanye West x adidas Originals ‘Yeezy Season 1’ was amazing, yet anticipated,” Tom Kalenderian, executive vice president of men’s merchandising at Barneys, told the Daily Beast. “This designer has had a profound influence on music, popular culture, and fashion; with his finger on the pulse of his followers. The excitement extended well beyond his fan base; reaching fashion customers all wanting to experience his vision with this collection.”
His apparel line isn’t the only notable piece of news this week. Kanye may only just be breaking into the clothing market but it’s no secret that he has a lock on the sneaker industry. Yeezy Boosts have become one of the most coveted shoes in the world and are consistently selling out as sneakerheads, industry players, and fashion-forward devotees clamor to secure a pair. After a year of resounding success, Footwear News announced his shoe as the winner of their annual Shoe of the Year award. The recognition makes sense given that each release has seen overnight lines, crashed computer systems, and ridiculously exorbitant resale prices on Ebay.
“The success of the Yeezy can be boiled down to two key factors. First and foremost, it’s a testament to the star power of Kanye West and his ability to translate avant-garde fashion into streetwear sensibility ripe for mass consumption,” Matthew Fine, President of Shiekh Shoes, explained in response to the award. “Couple that with a meaningful brand collaborator and a great commercialization plan, and you have all the key ingredients for the tremendous success we have seen in the marketplace.”
From head to toe, Kanye’s fashion vision has stuck with retailers and fans despite the lackluster critical reception. As Ebay bidding wars heat up and fans debate over the racial undertones of Yeezy Season 2’s color pallete, which was actually just inspired by Kanye’s Claudio Silvestrin-designed apartment, it’s clear that this is truly—finally—Kanye’s fashion moment.
Images via Tumblr, Evan Schreiber, and Jackie Nickerson.