Fresh from Paris Fashion Week, his Yeezy Season 2 presentation, and an 808s & Heartbreak show, Kanye West is participating in SHOWstudio's "In Camera" live interview series. The series has previously featured Lady Gaga, photographer Juergen Teller (who West has worked with before), graphic designer and Raf Simons collaborator Peter Saville, Nick Knight, and more.
Prior to this morning's airing, celebrities and friends and fans of West submitted questions—even including Nick Knight, Anna Wintour, and Carine Roitfeld. West is dropping some gems right now about his position in fashion. We'll be recapping them right here.
On being and calling himself a creative genius:
"When people try to take the piss out of me for clothing, they never think about the fact I never had the opportunity to be properly educated. And if given the opportunity to be properly educated or given the proper support group, I would completely light the lights out. We sell shoes that people want to line up for because we put love in them. We put heart in them, we want to make Christmas presents. We make something people want so bad it hurts them if they can't have it. It's not just a financial opportunity—of course you need finances—but it's a form of discrimination and racism especially with blacks in fashion. It literally... It took me being Kanye West to get this far in fashion. I was able to become a multimillionaire and invest in myself because no one else would have in a million years."
On being criticized in fashion and how that affects him:
"I'm convinced that I know what I like. I just know. I know and I don't care. I don't care because anyone that's criticizing mostly likely saw the 350s and acted like they didn't like them because they're racist and discriminatory. They're not only racist against black people, they discriminate against celebrities, people with multiple art forms. They discriminate against... Or they can say, 'Oh wait a second that cut wasn't that good.' But they do enough to throw a stab at all that. 'That didn't fall the right way or that wasn't styled the right way.' But they didn't do the research on how difficult it was to, one by one, put together a design team and fight against the idea of celebrity, to get overcharged because you're a musician or people feel like you have money. And I love it because it's like going to Harvard. That's the reason I'm in fashion. I think it's the ultimate training.
"I dropped out of art school—eventually I got a PhD at The Art Institute of Chicago—but I dropped out of that school and wanted to go back to the school of hardknocks. And right now, I feel that... Whatever the fuck I'm gonna say to them I'm gonna say it, and I'm just going to fucking own it. That's how I feel right now. If I feel differently in three years, I'll tell you how I feel. But right now, the highest art form is actually fashion. And what's funny about that is people in art look down on fashion designers. The most energy currently is around fashion because in music it's within question if a song is popular if that person is a really good artist or not. In fashion, if someone is popular it's because it's agreed upon that they're an amazing artist, they're amazing at what they've done. And people do the history on what their background is. Did they intern for Christian Lacroix? Did they work at Margiela for a period? They find out what the history is and see if that person is making a connection to something that is current, is relative, that's in touch. Fashion designers are superstars currently, too.
"It feels like hip-hop felt to me in the '90s. Me, I'm a hip-hop artist but 'Why are you going to the fashion world?' I mean, it's just a really interesting art form. It's just a different art form. Every... Business is art, the way you talk to people is art, and interview can be a form of art. Everything is art. I appreciate the critics because when I see the collection I just did... When I use the stretch French Terry I found in Japan and I use heavyweight canvas and I put it in my color palette and I see 64 different tones come down together I've created a moving expressionist painting, and that satisfies me. If someone wants to go up to a Monet and this wasn't on a Louis Vuitton level, I'm like, 'What do you mean? It's all an expressionist painting.' By the way, you know in 80, 60, or 50 years we'll die. We'll die, but on that day I lived."
On whether or not he was trying to make a political statement with Yeezy Season 2:
"I think it's racist when white people assume that when a black person uses color it's a political statement. [I wasn't making a political statement.] It was a painting, it was a beautiful color. People say this a political statement... That statement is not gonna stop the murders in Chicago. That statement is not gonna help people get jobs. That statement is not gonna get guns out of hands in Atlanta. That statement is not gonna stop Zimmerman from bragging about... It's such a thing... I had this one stylist come up to me, and Virgil was standing next to me, and said, 'You need to watch out for him. He's taking your place.' And I was like, 'Oh the one spot for the black guy at the dinner table in fashion? That place? Is that what you're talkin' about?' The assumption that my artistic expression of clothing has something to do with race or politics and more politically correct term ironically for racism is racist in itself. If it wasn't my intention for it to be political, and everyone gives it this credit and somehow they're giving it a credibility I'm like, 'No I don't even want that kind of credit.' I don't want anything I don't deserve. I just want a chance to drink at the clear fountain. I just want a clean shot, I just want a clean bat to swing at the wall—and it's not."
On whether or not it'd be easier to be a fashion designer if he weren't famous:
"Yeah. People remind me in every meeting how famous I am. No, it wouldn't be easier. Absolutely, no. You need fame to sell your shit, that's why people pay for advertisers. I'm basically the first of a celebrity that approached his entire career and life like he was an old bag brand that went and redid itself and got a really cool designer that Anna Wintour suggested to revitalize it and became a really big brand. Meaning like celebrities always had a way of that they were supposed to do business with licensing deals, but I always approach it myself a luxury way whether it's calling Nick Knight a million times to work with him, going to factories in Italy... I've always fought to have better paints to work with.
"When I was in high school, I was on this one national competition where I had done a lot of water color. I lost the competition because the judges were confused. They said it was either not really water color 'cause the paint was too thick or I wasn't using water color in the right way. I lost because of that. I don't know where those judges are today, but..."
On how fatherhood has changed who he is and how he works:
"Three years ago, after this interview, I would've been on a train back to Paris to see the last of the shows and get that inspiration. Now, I'm on the first flight back to see my greatest inspiration, and that's my daughter."
On whether or not he thinks he'll be regarded as one of the greatest in fashion:
"Of course. I'm Michaelangelo. Of course. There was a time when there were people sculpting better than him. But he made David. So as far as that question goes, is there a time when he can go on the internet and find a shoe people want more than my shoes? Well, go fuck yourself then if it isn't, and don't ask me stupid shit like that again."
On affordable fashion and why Yeezy Season is more expensive than expected:
"I'm not H&M. I don't have giant factories. How can I get the price point to where I need it to be if I'm bringing an eight-person design team...
"It's gonna to take time to get there. This is what I'm sayin' when you don't have the right tools... This is the question that everybody asks. It's like, if you had the Céline design team, the Nike design studio, and the Zara factory could you do everything that you thought you could do? What would everyone's answer be to that? Yes. But if you don't have that Céline outerwear person, that factory, and you don't have the entire adidas studio—let me be politically correct—and you don't have the marketing team and you don't have the sales team you can only do what you can do. We're doing a lot with what we have. What we have is the highest level of communication that has ever happened in human existence."
On what's missing in fashion that he can bring:
"I'm not even concerned about bringing something to fashion. I just want to be five years old. When I was five years old, I picked out my outfit for kindergarten. I would go to a discount furrier—my mom would bring me to a furrier—and I would keep grabbing furs and say, 'What about this, mom? What about this one?' and they would always be too expensive, the ones I liked when I was five. So I just wanna be five years old. I loved clothes before I knew a fuck about the fashion world. And I can't let the fashion world jade anything or try to give me a reason of purpose or lack of purpose, or acceptance or a lack of acceptance, or anything to just who I am when I was five."
On whether or not his creativity came from his family:
"I can't say where my creativity came from. I'm just blessed to be talented. I would say that came from god. My ability to give a f*ck about somebody's opinion came from my family. My ability to fight for my creativity came from my family. And I'm sure there's people who are gonna take that Michaelangelo comment I said earlier and take offense to that and just be like, 'Whoa he still won't stop.' Let me just explain the justification for that, the proof of that. Ask any musician, period, of the past 15 years and I will be the closest thing to that. Those were sonic paintings. Fashion, clothes are sculptures, wearable art.
"Now when you think of any brand, do you love every single thing from a brand? Look at the few opportunities I got. I got to collaborate with Louis Vuitton, Nike, adidas, really established companies and the level of love and impact people have for that product. That had proper infrastructure. So I had to take the money that I made from being the motherf**king Michaelangelo of muisc of the past 15 years and invest in and try to build an infrastructure against all odds. I wanted to raise the branch up a little bit higher on that low-hanging fruit that everybody was gonna snatch at."
In reaction to questions regarding his ability to succeed as a designer:
“There were some things earlier [in the interview] that were frustrating. Not really embracing—I’m not trying to shoot the messenger—but no one’s being like ‘I know I saw people lining up for three days for your shoes, but one day, will you be respected as a designer?’ I designed that shoe didn’t I? I don’t see somebody’s else’s shoes getting lined up for. So, I think there’s a lot of 14 year-old, 15 year-old, 25 year-old, 35 year-old people who respect me as a designer.”
On wondering where he would be if he didn’t drop out of art school:
“I think I would be further and more dangerous. Education is important. I’m envious of people who have read multiple novels and multiple philosophy books. I wish I had more information, I’m thirsty for knowledge. I’m busy with my own ideas and I have A.D.D. as soon as I pick up a book, and I’ll hear something that sparks me, and that makes me think of 30 something things I want to do. I put the the book down and start working on that. I’m envious of people who have—I’m envious of information. So, College Dropout, this and that—now me at my age, I’m looking, ‘what were the reasons why I lost money when I did this? What was the reason why I failed at that.’ It all came to not having the playbook; to not having the information."
On critics and dealing with the fashion world:
"And with me, when I work on fashion, I’m sitting here in the woods, trying to chop down trees screaming at the top of my lungs ‘Can somebody just throw me some water?’. And everyone’s just sitting there, laughing at me. That’s the fashion world, that’s the fashion critics. That’s the critics. Me sitting here, trying my absolute hardest, and everyone just laughing at me.
Only one person coming up with a camera, then Nick [Knight] shooting a shot, that then shoots across the world, and then ‘Oh, he’s working with Nick Knight.’ And then Pat coming in and doing the makeup, and then ‘Oh, he’s working with Pat.’ And then Riccardo coming in and saying ‘No, you can’t talk about Kim, this is my friend right here.’ And then they say, ‘Oh wow, the hottest designer likes Kim.’ And then the fashion world is like, ‘Hmm. Maybe it’s ok.’
And then they come together and say, ‘Well do you think we capitalize off this in some way? Oh! Well come, come, we can capitalize!’ BUT. They definitely were fucking not letting me in the shows, and fucking constantly laughing at me, and trying to keep the joke going. But, you know, there were a lot of tsunamis and earthquakes that hit when people were joking on the beach. So keep joking on the beach.”
On Kim's "U-Turn" reception from the fashion community:
[Extended Pause] “It’s better now than it was, and I’m happy about that.”
On homosexuality in hip-hop and being persecuted for being straight in fashion
“Isn’t it so funny how the culture of different art forms is so different? Where it’s like, I felt that I got discriminated against in fashion also for not being gay. Whereas is music, you definitely get discriminated against if you are gay. It definitely—it takes some amazing talents to break down that barrier.”
On changing his focus music to fashion:
“No [music] doesn’t excite me like when I heard Wu-Tang. Of course it doesn’t excite me like that. It doesn’t excite me like when I was using autotune for my first time—no it wasn’t my first time because I did it on College Dropout too. There were things to prove, there were purposes, there was Lauryn Hill, and Dead Pres, and it was this idea of mixing this kind of messaging meets the hotness of Roc-a-Fella. Proving that this was a possible thing. I am inventor. I am an innovator. It’s fine for other people to proliferate on an idea, but I get excited by the idea—I get excited by ideas. Not by responsibility. So sometimes, when I’m writing a rap, it starts to feel like a big responsibility. If you look at someone like Andre 3000, who’s considered ‘Top Five’—by a lot of people—the greatest rappers of all time, the majority of the time he only had to write one verse! So as far as doing ‘three verses’ and all this and that, sometimes you start to feel more like you’re doing a talk show every night, than doing some type of prophetic, every two-year speech.”
On working on art, even without support:
“That same assistance that I begged for, and saw, and got frustrated for, the fact that I’m starting to do it without some of that assistance, is what makes it truly historical, and what demands the respect. That’s the reason why everything in the beginning, when there was an olive branch of—I say, an intellectual olive branch of ‘your show had more meaning than just being an oversized sweatshirt. I refused that intellectual—, ‘get that fucking branch outta my face. I ain’t going to take the meaning that your proposed upon me. This is what I meant, and if it’s not good enough, then fuck you.’"
On winning despite the odds:
“I like pain. I like the challenge. I like making things harder for myself. Because, if you can beat the game on the hardest mode possible, then you’ll be the best of all time. That means that if I become a good designer—as a black, straight, American, entertainer, rich dude, all type of shit that says ‘you shouldn’t be able to have any creative thoughts’—then it’s the ultimate fucking win.”
On improving people's lives with his designs:
“When I design, I am going to make the Apple of clothing. I don’t think there’s a purpose to saying you ‘want’ to do it. Because affirming it, it’s obvious I want to do it, but want is this politically correct way of wording your future accomplishments.
This one guy was super snobby with me at a fashion dinner, of course, and I explained to him that there was a time where people said I couldn’t rap, and he asked me, ‘Oh, so is this what you hope to do in clothing.’ I was like, ‘I don’t hope, I execute. So as far as apparel goes, I will make the Apple of apparel. The Apple of apparel isn’t high street, it isn’t fast-fashion. It isn’t a $9,000 sweatshirt—it’s the thing that you want to keep for the rest of your life. And that takes just looking at human beings.
Sometimes you present things, and people don’t even know that they want it yet. I could show you two photographs. A really well-known designer; the highest respected ‘this’...and then I had a photo that I had just done, and the guy had like an olive jacket on, cotton on cotton; self-lined; a tanktop that the color, I can’t even describe it, but was somewhere—almost an orange, but really subtle, between a brown and an orange—and the shorts were some beautiful light brown, there’d be some gray in it...and everyone I show those two images together—now the one image you even know who the designer is, and it’s top five designers in the game, and you see this image right here, and I’m like ‘Which one do you like more?’, and the people always pick this one [gestures to Kanye designed image] because of the colors."
On the importance of color in clothing:
"People don’t even understand how important color is, as an opinion in clothing. I could give a fuck if I got any of the cuts right on the last collection. Anyone who doesn’t say ‘But I had an emotional connection to this, to the color palette,’ they don’t even know how to see anymore. They see clothes and they’re looking at numbers. They’re not feeling emotion. They’re thinking about trend, not seeing the future. They’re not seeing luxury, they’re not seeing time. Like ‘Oh shit I want to go to the park with my family, I want to just throw this on.’ They’re not thinking about it like that. That’s what I want to do, is present something that gives people their time back because it works together like Legos. You just throw it on. I’m not saying I’ve mastered it by Season 2 for Christ’s Sake. Like hitting Watch the Throne and Dark Fantasy on my second mixtape, but the theory is there, and only I can do it. Only I care about it that much. Only I have the exact 2,3 code in my head. Meaning, I can say it out loud, I could say, ‘Oh this Army surplus,’ but look at far we jump from Army surplus in the Second Season, so just think about where we’ll be by Season 3? Look at how far we’ve jumped."
On what makes his vision unique to anything we've seen before:
"I have the code in my head. You have to cut open my head and take my brain and put it on top of some big organization, and you can’t. That sweatshirt, that T-shirt decision I’m making, is a piece of my mom, having me at Operation Push at age 5. It’s a piece of my dad going to the homeless shelter. It’s a piece of my grandfather having a store where he fixed furniture in the back. It’s a piece of my cousin bootlegging Cross-Colours out in L.A. It’s a piece of my aunt that was the chicest woman I knew. Even when she had Alzheimer’s she still dressed better than the entire family. And I remember the colors that she had and they remind me of the colors that we were able to start to find, and like penetrate this concept by the second season, without being held back by the fabrics that were available."
On why he hates the color blue:
"On this collection Katharine Hamnett, was emailing me about how I had to have blue jeans and a white shirt, and this and that. And I was like ‘I do, I can see how I would need that.’ But, like I said, I like to make it hard for myself [Laughs]."