Kanye West’s evolution as a fashion designer — from his Fendi internship to his upcoming Yeezy Season 1 collection alongside adidas Originals — has been well documented, but, in perhaps the best exploration of his design prowess yet, Jon Caramanica has composed a lengthy piece for T Magazine entitled “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Kanye West.” Accompanied by a Juergon Teller-led shoot and corresponding behind-the-scenes video, the article takes a look back at the success of February’s Yeezy Season 1 presentation at New York Fashion Week — the debut of the collaborative military surplus-esque endeavor — and examines his struggles and successes in the fashion world while outlining his ultimate ambition as a designer: to be “a mainstream innovator, a translator of tomorrow’s ideas for today.” Caramanica even delves into “West’s newly mellowed self” and how it’s manifested itself in the likes of “Only One” and “FourFiveSeconds.”
An excerpt of the article appears below while the entirety of the piece can be read over at the T Magazine website.
To West, his struggle was at root one against skepticism and prejudice. Because while it might be argued that his celebrity allowed for a line-skipping of sorts, he feels it was more frequently an obstacle (a sentiment that is perhaps not surprising from the man who has likened celebrities’ fight for privacy to the civil rights movement). “Fame is often looked down upon in the design world, so it’s actually been something I had to overcome,” he wrote on Twitter when Fern Mallis, the creator of New York Fashion Week, told The New York Post that she was “kind of over Kanye”: “I mean, I’m not a fan of his music, and the attitude and the agenda are not my style.”
In West’s telling, he’s had to howl because fashion people weren’t listening, and he needed their ear. “I one hundred percent had to scream,” he said. “I tried it every other way.”
In fact, he had: He’d previously made inroads via collaborations with Louis Vuitton and Nike (limited-edition sneakers), as well as with A.P.C. (two small collections that included jeans, T-shirts and sweatshirts). He also, in 2011 and 2012, presented two women’s ready-to-wear collections that were pilloried for their amateurism. But those were arguably ideas born of the old Kanye, the one for whom luxury and exclusivity were the ultimate goals. New Kanye wants everyone to have a taste of luxury, but without the hefty price tag. He aspires to bring forward-thinking clothes to the masses. Clearly fast fashion has been done — and successfully, if not always ethically — by retailers like Zara and H&M. But West wants to design what might be called fast high fashion: clothes that are truly avant-garde in their design, made from the finest materials, and that would arrive with lightning-quick speed in stores where they could be bought by the public at affordable prices. The Adidas deal is one step — his contract guarantees him a retail location, he said, and stores have begun placing orders — toward a future he’s still working out.