Why The Fashion Industry Hates Kanye West Right Now
Kanye West debuted his first collection, titled DW, during Paris Fashion Week on October 1st. The reviews are in and are surprisingly negative. But Kanye wasn’t the only media darling to be targeted with harsh words during the Spring 2012 shows. Virginie Mouzat from Figaro referred to Tom Ford’s latest collection as a nightmare, writing
Tom Ford appears. He advances. And he remains there, in the central area, asking people to stand up. Perhaps [people would do so] out of distress, or sympathy, or because all of this is supposed to be festive after all. But everybody just looks at their feet… We just see this baby-faced man trying desperately to clear the air.
For West, the worst review to swallow was Robin Givhan’s for the Daily Beast, in which she says, “As often happens, this was not an auspicious debut. The collection lacked focus. The silhouettes were unflattering. And the whole project looked to be that of a beginner over-reaching. In short, it was dreadful.”
The moment news of Kanye West’s collection broke, I turned to none other than my circle of New York fashion industry friends — a stylist, a businessman and a writer — to debate this. We may not be Robin Givhan, but we’re sure as hell just as entrenched in the dialogue and are (probably) more connected to the downtown girls who will (or won’t) end up buying Kanye’s line. Here is how our conversation appeared on Facebook. (Note, the names of these friends shall remain confidential.)
Businessman: I’m tired of people playing in my profession. #windows@KatherineGibbsSchool
Editor (me): i’m undecided. on the one hand, i’ll give it to him for putting out a collection that the cool downtown girls of the world would want to wear (kind of like stella mccartney’s first collections). and, had this been an unknown designer, i would keep my eye on him. but, since this is kanye, who’s had an unfair advantage of having access to all the fashion shows, models and editors in the industry for seasons now, i hold him to a higher standard — one that i don’t think he hit with this collection.
Stylist: Actually…I will have to disagree with you [Businessman]. THIS collection was actually really good. As much as I despise Kanye West (since I think he’s truly ridiculous), I give him three death drops. It was a combination of Rick Owens grunge mixed with a little hip-hop flair infused with a little techno twist. And Sachin B is right: if this collection was by an unknown designer (which is truly is since Kanye is not designing it) I would still keep my eye on them. Those shoes are too die for and if you seperate each of those pieces you would actually have something to work with. I see all the black girls with actual style running to the store to buy from this collection. And not just the black girls, but ALL of the girls who shop at Barney’s because –signal the rapture– I see this collection actually being picked up my some major luxury retailers. I am putting this collection on par with The Row and Victoria Beckham, not Jessica Simpson, Miley Cyrus nor Jennifer Lopez at Kohl’s even though these girls are probably killing it in revenue compared to the former girls named.
Businessman: Ms Simpson is EVERYTHING! Chicken or fishing all the way to Wall Street.
Stylist: Well, first and foremost, I have to give it up for Robin Givhan for being an amazing fashion critic just like the Queen Bee herself: Cathy Horyn. Secondly, I stand by my words regarding how I feel about his collection. However, I respect Robin Givhan’s opinion. If many critics feel the way she feels then I believe negative press could hurt his fashion brand. BUT, never forgot that Kanye West is a hip-hop superstar with a massive following regardless if he’s an outrageous/ridiculous celebrity. His celebrity equals revenue and I see the hip-hop world embracing those clothes just like that very world did with Baby Phat, Phat Farm, Rockawear and Sean John in the late Nineties. I guess my only question is where are those brands now? And I really don’t think Kanye is trying to position his brand on their level. I think he’s going for the same caliber as The Row and Victoria Beckham. But only time will tell.
Also, let’s not forget that S/S 2012 has been a season of surprising disappointment. Tom Ford was panned by the press a few days ago, like a witch receiving the scarlet letter. That was quite a shocker since the fashion world has given Tom Ford the biggest blow job since his rise at Gucci.
Editor: I think the Baby Phat reference is interesting [writer].
[Stylist], to answer your question of where those hip-hop brands are now, many of them live on in the pages of Essense and Vibe — but that’s a specific market. I’m sure said publications will be all over Kanye’s collection, but, like Givhan, her angle isn’t about representing a race’s voice, but an industry’s. I think Kanye was trying to play with the big boys. Again, not sure if he’ll get access to the gentelman’s club based on this collection. However, I do still stand by the fact that the collection presented on the runway, regardless of its availability at the retail level, wasn’t half bad. For instance, I’d wear look No. 2 on Chanel Iman — fur and all. When Stella McCartney put out her collections, Anna Wintour commented that her collections read as high-end streetwear — and you know what? I love Stella’s clothes. I think Kanye’s stuff falls somewhere in this pool.