Every Thursday, we dig up a favorite piece from the archives and bring it back to life. Today, we're highlighting an interview between Raf Simons and Kanye West that appeared in Interview Magazine near the end of 2008. If you haven't read it, consider this a blessing.
By 2008, Kanye West's personal style had definitely evolved, moving further and further away from streetwear and into high end designers. At this point, he'd attended dozens of fashion shows—Dior, Chanel, Fendi, and even an Alexander McQueen show he had to sneak into. One designer Ye was vocal about was Raf Simons, who at the time still held the position of creative director at Jil Sander (Simons made his exit in 2012). This recognition is pretty telling of Kanye's taste and knowledge of fashion, operating light years ahead of most, it seems, co-signing designers and brands that his peers would later appreciate.
Simons, on the other hand, was establishing himself with his eponymous line. He also had been at Jil Sander for three years, building on the minimal, utilitarian aesthetic the label had become known for.
Here, in this incredible interview, Kanye and Simons' worlds collide. Simons tells Kanye about the first fashion show he ever attended, and crying at said show. Kanye talks to Simons about challenges of being a rapper and starting a clothing line (Pastelle, at the time). There's also some conversation about "starting something together"... And, well, we'll just let the piece speak for itself.
Raf Simons cried after seeing a Maison Martin Margiela show, the first ever fashion show he attended.
Raf Simons: I ended up doing that with [Walter Van Beirendonck], and he took me to Paris, and I saw my first show, which was the third show for Martin Margiela. Nothing else in fashion has had such a big impact on me. It was a show where half the audience cried, including myself. I was just like, "What! This is fashion?" Only at that point did I understand what fashion could be or what it could mean to people. It was the "white" show, where all the models wore dresses in white and transparent plastic. Margiela had no money at the time, so the Maison ended up going to a black neighborhood in Paris and asking if they could use a children's playground for the show. The parents said, "Yes, you can have the playground, but we want our children to be able to see it." So little black children were standing with the audience in the front row. The children started to run over to the models, and they picked them up and held them around their necks.
Kanye West believed that in order to be a successful designer, who also happened to be a rapper, he needed to set himself apart from all the other hip-hop clothing lines.
RS: I think it's different when musicians enter fashion. A lot of those collections are done by teams. Maybe a music performer is over-viewing, or the music performer is the name-carrier of the brand. It seems to me like it's a side career. There are rappers who start a brand, and then it looks "rap." The way that I design now, it's coming out of me, so there's a lot from me, but it doesn't look like me at all. I see it as my responsibility to take it very far away from me. Even my own brand became an abstraction. I think that's the only way to refresh it and keep it interesting for a big audience, because what you yourself are representing, it's only for a very small group of people. The bigger the brand, the bigger the responsibility, because you have to think of all these kinds of different cultures, different environments, different people, different psychologies...
Kanye West: The psychology is really important. When I bring up my own clothing line now, it has to be a practical joke, because I haven't brought it out yet. But the thing is, as I'm working on it, I've learned a lot of the different things that you're saying about a line being too connected and saying: "Okay, this is a line, and it has to have it's own voice. It has to represent something that's not out there." And as I speak on it right now, my words have no weight. People read this in Interview magazine, your words will be in people's minds in bold, and my words, when I bring up clothing or designing, will be in light gray and "Get the fuck out of here, you rapper," until I do something that is basically the opposite of everything that you just said.
RS: Maybe we should start something together. Maybe you should buy my brand, and together we'll go do something completely different. Maybe that's what should change. Because that's also what the future is going to be about, it's going to be all crossovers, everywhere, finally. I was criticized in the past, believe me. I was criticized because I touched all the fields and had an interest in all of them. But I think that now is going to be the time of crossovers, especially in fashion-more than in other fields.
Kanye West admitted he experienced racism first hand at Bonnaroo festival.
KW: Yeah. Now that I've broken that, I feel much freer that I can be creative and not deal with stereotypes. America beats stereotypes into people. Recently there was this whole Bonnaroo situation. I didn't realize that actual racism was still alive, because at a certain point, once you become famous, you're no longer black or white, you're just green-you're just money. So when you walk in any store there's a certain level of: "Oh, he's not a black guy. He's a famous guy now!" When I went to that Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee, they definitely reminded me that I was a black guy. On 12 port-a-potties they wrote in bold letters fuck kanye. They didn't allow my crew to load on the stage; the promoter allowed Pearl Jam to do three encores. The sun was starting to come up, and the whole point of my show was that it was glow in the dark. They bled my cryo tanks so I wouldn't have smoke. I felt so naïve, 'cause it clicked in my head: Oh, wow, this is really done on purpose.
Click here for the full interview.