Kanye West is no stranger to fashion. In his interview with Jimmy Kimmel, West made his love and affinity for fashion known to his fair-weather, casual fans. His loyal supporters are more than well aware of his love for fashion. Back when rappers were wearing jerseys and baggy jeans, West donned his now iconic pink Ralph Lauren polo shirt and a Louis Vuitton backpack. Soon enough, luxury became synonymous with rap music again, a feat that only Biggie Smalls had accomplished with Versace. Since West's preppy College Dropout days, he then sported Gucci's green and red stripes, jumped on the Bape bandwagon with Pharrell Williams, had his crew and himself photographed at Paris Fashion Week by Tommy Ton, which went on to become immortalized in a South Park episode, made friends with Givenchy creative director, Riccardo Tisci, who designed the cover of his duo album with Jay Z entitled, Watch The Throne, designed two womenswear collections as well as shoes with famed designer, Giuseppe Zanotti, and is now influencing a large majority of menswear enthusiasts. Meanwhile, this was all under the general public's noses.
In preparation for the Yeezus album, West went for an unconventional approach by releasing his first single, New Slaves, as projections in several locations across the globe. He followed that with a Saturday Night Live performance where he performed his second single, Black Skinhead, which has become his "theme song" as he so aptly names it in the opening line. In his Zane Lowe interview with BBC, he explained that he made that song shortly after receiving an ultimatum that Hedi Slimane gave him if he wishes to attend his Saint Laurent show. If West was to attend the show, he must only attend that show and no others. In that same interview, West said that he believes that Slimane's rocker aesthetic has passed its hey day and that the new rock stars are rappers, in which West is the biggest one of all of them. West's response to the ultimatum was music, and yet it was in regards to fashion. We see what his focus is.
With the Yeezus tour in full effect since the first show in Seattle last weekend, West has begun his official crusade to go from rapper to fashion designer, and photos, videos and remarks on the 2-hour set proves that he is making believers out of fans.
From his Glow in the Dark tour following his Graduation album, West has made fashion as much of a focal point in his shows as his music itself. His shutter shades and Air Yeezy sneaker made West look larger than life and out of this world. Following 808s & Heartbreak, West wore a suit similar to the grey, glenplaid suit that he wore in the booklet of the album. While promoting My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, a red suit and gold jewelry became West's signature, which changed for his co-headlined, Watch The Throne tour that had a wardrobe designed by Riccardo Tisci. What he wore became just as important as what songs he performed, what he wore became more important than his rants, what he wore became more newsworthy than other rappers' latest singles and album releases and last weekend, despite Justin Bieber's latest song release, Rihanna's trouble in Abu Dhabi and even his opening act, Kendrick Lamar's, stellar set, West's wardrobe became the focal point.
At the Key Arena in Seattle, West wore four masks, his 'Red October' Air Yeezy II and custom clothes from Maison Martin Margiella, not to mention the show memorabilia had t-shirts designed by painter, Wes Lang that looked less like shirts for roadies and more like his own collection.
His set consisted of the entire Yeezus album, his biggest hits going as far back as College Dropout, 12 female 'Apostles', a glacial mountain and a conversation with Jesus. Kanye knows how to put on a show, just see his limited Governor's Ball performance or his hour long Coachella performance. The set design and visual experience is unmatched today and can make him a shoe-in for a possible Super Bowl performance. Performing solo on a stage in the middle of the arena and rapping from a mountaintop is something only one of West's caliber can accomplish, and yet, despite the stellar performance and set design reminiscent of an event show, we can't help but critique of his clothes since he brought his love of fashion to our attention on Jimmy Kimmel. What he wore, how he wore it, how it was styled, how many outfits he changed into is as important to us as the concert itself. West has convinced us over 10 years ago that he is a great music producer and he has proven that he is a great artist with under 10 years of rapping under his belt, and it's safe to say that he will convince us that he is a great designer.
Going back to the Zane Lowe interview, West mentioned how he changed the movie watching experience with his multi screen movie showing of Cruel Summer at the Cannes Film Festival. He then took those screens and used them for a few shows in Atlantic, London and Abu Dhabi. He designed the visual experience himself and later applied his music and showmanship to push the limits of the screens for the audience. When he collaborated with A.P.C., he took months to finalize the capsule collection even to the very last minute. It sold out in minutes and crashed the Internet. Now, Kanye is pushing the boundaries once again with his 2-hour, 4 act show that proves that he will take things to a level never reached for before, the same way he did with music, the same way he did for the visual experience and soon enough, the same way he will for fashion.