Interest in Kanye West's long-awaited collaboration with adidas was re-ignited when it leaked that there would be an event coinciding with New York Fashion Week. When sources in West's camp confirmed that event would be a fashion show, hype reached a fever pitch. After so much speculation, we would finally get to see the finished products.
Soon, the mysterious yeezy.supply website popped up, showing a factory that looked really similar to the facilities at LQQK Studio screenprinting on what would turn out to be Tyvek anoraks that doubled as invites to Kanye West's fashion show. Despite an unintended preview of the collaboration's flagship sneaker, the Yeezy 750 Boost, anticipation for the entire project simply grew, as people wondered what the clothes would look like.
During the GRAMMYs, West performed in his collaborative sneakers, pairing them with a burgundy velour sweat suit from designer Haider Ackermann, which people originally suspected to be part of his adidas collaboration. A few days later, a representative from adidas confirmed that I would have the opportunity to attend the Kanye West x adidas presentation. This is what it was like to see "Yeezy Season 1" in person.
My shrink-wrapped invite arrived at my desk about two days prior to the show. Unboxing it was a process. The anorak itself is pretty cool though. I wondered if wearing it was mandatory if you wanted to attend the show. It just seemed like a very Kanye thing, wanting the audience to be a uniform color. But also, the presentation may have turned out to be like a Gallagher show.
'Ye day came, and my co-workers and I decided not to wear our invite jackets to the show. I did, however, bring the empty plastic packaging that had my seat number on it. Bringing your physical invite to a fashion show is never a bad idea, especially if you're seated. When we arrived, that proved to be a good decision, because the front door was a total mob scene.
The wait to get in took a little over half an hour. While freezing outside, I saw a pair of Yeezy 750 Boosts on someone's feet. Despite the mixed reviews on the Internet, they're really nice in person. Personally, I think they build on some of the previous visual aspects of his Nike collaboration with elements gleaned from higher end fashion sneakers like the Margiela Future and Visvim FBT. It ended up setting the bar for the clothing.
After getting inside the venue, we were filed into the very floor plan West tweeted out a few days ago. I was seated in the C section. It was dark in the room, but you could already see the models in the center, arranged into nine rows of five. It was an arrangement that clearly had the hand of Vanessa Beecroft involved, and the near-nudity nature of many of the womens' looks spoke to that as well.
I sat down and got situated, and then the room went dark. Then West's voice came over the speakers, kicking off the presentation with a monologue, the transcript of which was posted by GQ. In a nutshell, West talks about his innate need to create for creation's sake, and that despite some very vocal critics, he wants "people to feel like awesome is possible!" Right after the word of Yeezus, the lights went up and the presentation began.
Seeing everything all at once was definitely jarring, but also the moody horn music that accompanied the first round of looks wasn't exactly soothing. The first thing that caught my eye was a long camo coat, followed by the footwear. There were new sneaker silhouettes for sure, but also more rugged options like West's take on the duck boot as filtered by adidas. The distressed oversized military sweaters were a nice touch. Our fashion editor noted that it reminded him of adidas' defunct premium SLVR line.
West's clothing tends to emulate his personal style. I don't think of it really as him trying to compete with the stuff he actually wears—which right now is a buttload of Haider Ackermann—but instead of trying to get the average person to drop $12,000 on a raccoon fur-lined hoodie, he's really using this platform to push guys out of their sartorial comfort zones. He uses himself as a reference point for stepping up your taste level.
Much like his A.P.C. collaboration, where the jeans were actually based on an old Dior Homme cut and a fur-lined military jacket recalled an Ermanno Scervino parka West often wore, the adidas collection both samples and pays homage to some of West's favorite designers. It isn't directly copying—like when West makes a beat, he takes something familiar and tweaks it enough so that it has his own unique signature on it.
Hence, dropped shoulder hoodies and slim pants made to stack easily over high top sneakers. It's a luxurious kind of utilitarianism. Bomber jackets, half-zip anoraks, and frayed workwear-inspired coats were reminiscent of the work of Jerry Lorenzo, the West-affiliated designer behind Fear of God LA, who is rumored to have also worked on the line.
As the horns blared on during the first half of the presentation, a baby crying could definitely be heard. It turned out the baby was North West, who was tired or possibly had run out of juice to drink. Kim Kardashian had to get up from her seat next to Anna Wintour (!) and handed off the crying child to someone who took little Nori backstage, her wailing growing softer in the distance until it melded back into the music.
West and his team chose to cast Luka Sabbat and Ian Connor in the presentation, too. No doubt Virgil Abloh, a staunch advocate for a younger generation of cultural consumers, had a say in that. Ibn Jasper also issued an open casting call on Instagram requesting the "coolest most swagged out YOUTH!!!"
I recognized Sabbat and Connor off the bat. Connor was clad in an oversized gray sweater with stacked knit sweat pants and West's iteration of a duck boot. Sabbat's look consisted of an aggressively scoop-necked waffle tank layered under a camouflage jacket reminiscent of a pared-down M-65. His pants were hiked up to his knees to show off the knit Yeezy Boost low-top sneakers he was wearing. What I could see from my seat definitely wasn't as good as the livestream, which you can watch below.
It's important to note that the best view of the collection wasn't by most of the people at the show, but likely the folks who weren't there, mainly the kids and consumers who watched the presentation either on yeezy.supply or select theaters. You got a clear view of pretty much every piece and detail shots. Access is just one step in the overall democratization of fashion, but don't get it twisted. It isn't so much about making things that the average person can afford, so much as it is about who is defining and dictating what aspiration and luxury are today.
The second half of the show was characterized by the debut of a new Kanye West song featuring Vic Mensa and Sia. Apparently it will be the first track off West's upcoming studio album. Titled "Wolves," it definitely got the crowd more riled up, but managed not to totally overpower the reveal of the adidas collaboration. Instead, it offered up a good synergy of newness.
As the song ended, West came out and took a customary bow, as most designers do at the end of their show. However, the models stood in their spots in the venue for a little bit, and attendees got to get up close and personal with the clothing and footwear. The new low-top sneakers look especially cool, but the main difference between seeing clothes online and in real life is that with the latter, you can make a better judgement about the cut, construction, quality, and overall aesthetic. Fashion shows are all about mood and evoking emotion. In the wake of the Kanye West x adidas presentation, I definitely felt a sense of catharsis in the air.
Getting out of the venue was much easier than getting in. It was also a relatively star-studded event. When the house lights came on you could see Jay Z, Beyoncé, Rihanna, and big time fashion peeps like Leilah Weintraub and Ian Isiah of Hood By Air, who present their own Fall/Winter 2015 collection in a few days.
It's easy to write off Kanye West's designer dreams as delusions of grandeur, but time and again he's proven he's willing to do what it takes to be taken seriously as a prominent black Vitruvian man. If there's one thing you have to give West credit for, it's that he does a lot of homework before he undertakes any project, and he surrounds himself with some of the best talents in that field.
It's why he's managed to befriend fashion heavyweights like Anna Wintour, Giuseppe Zanotti, and Milk Studios founder Mazdack Rassi. Creating anything requires a lot of energy, let alone putting hours, days, and months into something you're truly passionate about, be it an album or a clothing collection.
West's passion has always been the thing that shines through in his work, you can feel the genuine desire for him to be as authentic to his initial vision, but also to really make people's lives a little better by looking at their style and lives through a more discerning lens. That's something you can't knock.