Kanye West Talks Fashion With Zane Lowe: "Exclusivity is the new N-Word"

Kanye West sat down with Zane Lowe on BBC 1 and discussed his adidas collection, Raf Simons, Louise Willson, and more.

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Complex Original

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Kanye West's time in London has already provided us with plenty of headlines, including his earth-shattering performance of "All Day" at the Brits yesterday. 'Ye wore a piece from his new adidas collection earlier today, and rocked a rare vintage Vivienne Westwood coat earlier in the trip. Now, he's back at BBC 1 radio show—wearing a rare vintage Raf Simons jacket from 2001—giving one of his best interviews to Zane Lowe

He talked about his collection for adidas, the late-great Louise Wilson and her influence in fashion, Simons, and a whole lot more.

On breaking into the fashion industry:

I had so many interviews where I’m trying to express that I can create outside of just the music box, and I’m giving examples of work that I did that was really successful, and I’m just getting completely shut down. And not just by the company we talked about last time, but every single company, every single company you could imagine is just like, 'No, you are a celebrity, you are not allowed to create, you’re not allowed to think, you’re not allowed to have an opinion. You’re just here to wear a red leather jacket and shut up.' And it’s true that as a celebrity you can help to promote something quickly, but no one wanted to allow me to think or be involved in the product, and as I told you last time, I’m a product guy. Everyday when you go to the gym, when you go to work it’s a challenge. You gotta work hard and completely, tirelessly, countlessly to remind people of your vision, no matter what. So, that’s the way I'm going to word it. We made it to a point where something extremely close, something almost to the level, something close to the level hit the globe.

On the opportunity with adidas:

adidas was a company that was flexible enough and had been used to dealing with creative enough to allow me to create something that is very close to my heart. You know, original hip-hop.​ There was a few conversations with companies, a few sports company. And I remember calling Jon Wexler [adidas’ Global Director of Entertainment and Influencer Marketing] there was a certain point I couldn’t breath anymore and I had all these ideas and I was gasping for oxygen. You know, like they have this idea of a mass market looking at a celebrity who owns a Lamborghini complaining about something. And anyone who is creative knows there is no amount of money that can be given to them that makes them not want to or have to create. There is no checkout and no check to stop you from creating, no pun intended when I’m saying check. Just even thinking about it takes the breath out of me because soon as we got the opportunity to actually start making things there were so many ideas. I mean I look at over 500 images a day on my laptop.

On dealing with critics: 

I went into the whole thing on Hypebeast, people be dissing me on Hypebeast and it's like wait a second, dude, I’ve been fighting this battle for a long time since Universe City and no one has any idea what the meetings were like. I’m going to throw this one out here. I remember this one guy who worked for François Pinault, head of Kering group, came up in my apartment in Paris while I was working on Yeezus. And I had a meeting with him and it was related to working with Puma. And I actually forgot about the meeting, so I had my jacket on and it was jacket I had done with A.P.C. And I was about to leave, so he shows up at the door and we go to my dining room and I'm sitting with him and I tell him, 'Yo I made this jacket.' and he makes some joke about 'You know, you did look pretty hot, I’m happy to know you put on all those clothes for me.' He was leveling. He was leveling the conversation. This is what people do all the time. Like, if I meet someone I respect or I look up to, I will literally kiss their feet, like, you know, someone who put in a lot of work. And there is a lot of agents, a lot of people who work under the main guy who will try to level you, they will talk to you, they will talk down to you and I’m just sitting there like 'Whoa, okay.' Well because I have to show them like, 'Hey, I’m working on this stuff and it's coming out good. And this is all I have a chance to work on. When I was working on A.P.C. I had only two times to look at the collection. I couldn’t really grab into and dig into it the way I dig into "All of the Lights," or something like that. It's like there is a timeline, a cut-off switch, especially when you're dealing with apparel and the way people make apparel currently.

On Hermann Deininger getting the adidas deal done:

Everyone I talk to would try to level me. Then there was this guy named Hermann Deininger that was the head of adidas, and I say was because he passed away recently. And I showed him what I shot in Qatar, the Cruel Summer film, that was using seven screens surround-vision idea that you have never shown online because you have to experience it in its space. It’s the same thing I showed Disney, and Universal, I said this is the next frontier to show film, which I got all 'nos' on that to date. And this guy heard and saw it and he believed. He believed that maybe I had something more than how big my rap record was in me. He could tell, he knew this guy has something to say and give that’s past this current box he is put in. And he made sure, Herman and Jon Wexler made sure that adidas deal got done. And the deal has nothing to do with the idea of the higher-ups in society

On his new adidas collection, "Yeezy Season 1"

The deal is all about the moment when I can bring the shoes to a kid in Footlocker and get on my knees and take it back to when I worked at the Gap and put the shoes on his feet. That is what the deal is about. The deal is about when the star of a show is a five-foot-three girl, there has never been a five-foot-three girl that's a star of any fashion show. The deal is when the kids came to 42 locations around the world to see Yeezy Season 1 x addidas Originals launch. And the excitement that was in the theater when they saw that lineup, they saw that brigade they reacted to it. When they heard "Wolves," when they saw the boots, when they saw the runners, saw the matrix sweaters, all these things hitting them back-to-back-to-back-to-back. This is what I fought for. None of this was about me like having a bigger house, a faster Lamborghini [laughs] It was about these kids having a moment to be themselves. To be a stronger version of themselves. I make this stuff to empower people. I feel like there are so many things that are made that wear the people as opposed to the people wearing it. I asked my assistant one time 'How do these clothes make you feel?' and she said, 'I feel powerful.' And that’s our main goal. And as the song says, 'No one man should have all that power.' No one man should have it. Everyone should have it.

On being inspired by a Corbusier lamp

I would always say, 'I wanna sculpt with marble,' and it wasn’t until I was working on Yeezus, and I was learning about furniture. And the fact that I am a rich person afforded me to go to French flea markets and the galleries and buy furniture that rich people get charged a lot for. And one of the things they have is this Corbusier lamp, and it was made of cement and was this beautiful sculpture and it really inspired me because he made it for Zeus, so he made it for everyone. And it was made of cement, so it wasn’t the material, it was the idea that was the most important. And I always wanted the resources of LVMH or Kering and it wasn’t until I started taking the sensibilities of proportion and color and finishing and applying it to fleece, jersey, and French terry, which is a cement in comparison to the type of materials Louis Vuitton might use.

On exclusivity:

I found a message, a voice, a reason to create. It was a futile argument for me to say, 'Hey, everyone, get behind me so I can make another $5,000 dollar jacket that you can't afford.' It's insane. But now I feel people are rallying because they know that I want to fight for an H&M, Zara-type concept. And I know that adidas can eventually get those price points.  I apologize to everyone right now because I believe that Season 1 might be in that upper price plane and there is still the word 'exclusivity' being thrown around. Exclusivity is the new n-word. Not n****, exclusivity. Am I saying the word right? That is the new n-word. Because nothing should be exclusive. Everyone should have an opportunity to drink from the same fountain. The idea of exclusivity is the new color people fountain concept. And saying we are gonna overcharge sneaker culture guys to drink at the right fountain. You know, we have to reboot our mentality period of a generation. It wouldn’t even matter if I sold one sweatshirt as long as this interview gets done and kids hear this and know this. And someone in a position of power or someone that will be in a position of power in the future has a chance to make a difference. And that they saw that someone who was at their lowest point grabbing at straws expressed themselves freely and overcame it through all adversity means that they can do the same thing.

On dealing with fashion companies:

I was using the wrong words, my rap was wrong. I was getting a drink thrown in my face, but I was supposed to be leaving with the girl at the end of the night. Think of the type of wild shit I used to say in interviews and imagine if someone said this very thing to a girl at a bar. 'Yo, what's up baby, I'm a genius!' [laughs​]. They’d be like 'Yo! Who’s this guy?' 'No, I’m telling you I sold all this, I sold this many shoes, blah blah.' She’d be like 'Yo, chill, like, gosh, get me outta here already.' That’s who I was, and that was that frustration because I’m seeing this girl and I know that [Zane: You'd be good together]. I know, I just don’t know how to word it in the right way so I’m going to stumble. I was like the 40-year-old virgin of dealing with like corporations and stuff. I did not know how to communicate at all. And it's like I had my point, my message was simply: your egg, my semen, we change my world. I imagine that’s going to sound wrong. I like saying shit that sounds wrong anyway because wrong is okay. We have the right to be wrong sometimes.

On meeting Paul McCartney

Meeting Paul McCartney is like meeting Ralph Lauren. It’s like, 'Whoa, they are the greatest in their field of all time.'

On Louise Wilson

 I went to Louise Wilson’s funeral. The greatest fashion instructor at all time, and I’m talking about of all-timers. Louise Wilson was the baddest professor of all time of any fashion school ever. Notorious for not letting people stop at a seven or eight, pushing people to a 12. So, the first time I saw one of her student's Phoebe Philo Celine collection, I was looking at  a 12. When I saw McQueen’s last show, the "Atlantis" collection, I was looking at a 12. Christopher Kane's bandage collection, I was looking at a 12. Alber Elbaz, I’m looking at a 12. That’s the designer, Lanvin, you know, which completely revolutionized the men’s sneaker fashion sneaker industry. The last time I saw [Wilson] we had dinner at Hakkasan, which is my favorite restaurant in London, and I think she knew she was gonna pass. And she just wanted to give me some words of advice moving forward. She was asking me about my daughter, asking me about my wife, and she said, 'So many students, they don’t give it their all, and the problem is soon as they do anything halfway good when they are two years old, three years old, their parents clap.' That’s what she said, 'They clap.' And she just looked at me, she said, 'Kanye, don’t clap.' I didn’t know if we were gonna lose her. She said thank you for the times where we came to performances and this really meant a lot to me. You know she would... [cries] That’s never happened to me in an interview before.

On changing the world through design:

I’ve said it a few times, but I want to say it right here for people who haven’t read it or seen it. I think people think that I pander to fashion particularly. People can say, 'Why fashion? It's not like politics, world war, it's not. It's just a jacket or it's just a dress, but I believe that the world can only be saved through design. And I think that the fashion world has... And when I say 'through design' I know some snarky classist editor is gonna take that and say that the world will be saved through a couture dress. That’s not what I’m saying. The mentality behind design, I mean, art is to be free. Design is to fix. No politics, just truth. Does it fucking work or not? Irrigation that’s a form of design.

On focusing on the future: 

That’s exactly what we talk about. What does Kanye West and Elon Musk talk about? The fut[ure] [laughs]. So, when I put out things like, 'Hey, I wanna work with Miuccia Prada one day on high school uniforms.' or something. Whew, I just put it out there.

On classicism within fashion: 

If you have that ability to do that, to see that that Walt Disney-ability in some way, you have to apply it, you have to use it. You can’t be psyched out. Everyone's on our side. I was just in my own way. But everyone's on our side. And everything I ever said will happen, will happen. Just as much, as you guys saw that adidas Originals x Yeezy Season 1 presentation streamed to 42 locations, and you saw that front row. The juxtaposition of the people in the front and second rows to where the people standing in the show had come from is the fusion and is the future. It is the glass shattering of the class system, which is the new racism. Class is the new way to discriminate against people, to hold people down. To hold people in their places based on where their kids go to school, how much money they make, what they drive, where they live, and what type of clothes they have, and how much they have in there account for retirement.

On being hypocritical:

I do it when I get dressed: I love this, I hate this.

On how long it takes him and wife Kim Kardashian to get dressed:

Three minutes, two minutes. Bars. [For Kim] Sometimes five minutes, sometimes longer. I mean, she’s a woman.

On helping out Drake:

If you need some confidential advice on some shoes you are doing at the other company, I’m not supposed to say that, but anything we can collectively do to deliver more awesomeness to the world as a team.

You can watch the full interview above. 

[via BBC 1]

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