Kanye West drew a large crowd, something like 20,000 people, to Madison Square Garden on Thursday for the unveiling of his Yeezy Season 3 collection, which rather unsurprisingly looks a lot like the two seasons that came before it. You know the Yeezy aesthetic by now: the distressed, neutral-hued athletic-esque gear that includes riffs on vintage Belgian designs and other garments that are currently in West’s wardrobe. Staying his course arguably makes sense for West; regardless of how good (or better yet, not so good) the garments are, they have worked for West up to this point. They have, for example, permeated the high street, as a testament to their appeal.
In his defense, West is simply not required to prove himself as a designer. He has an enormous pool of built-in consumers, who will buy anything with the Kanye West name on it, as a result of his star power. Unlike little known designers that are forced to make their mark by way of technical design talent, West’s garments will sell no matter what. So, why do more when he can succeed (in terms of sales and influence) by doing yet another rendition of what he did last season?
With this in mind and the clothes being a relative constant from season to season (at least in terms of creativity/innovation), yesterday's production was more about the debut of West's latest album. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the fashion industry has largely been on board for West’s forays into fashion. Few publications have been truly objective (but why would they be?) regarding his collections. One critic, however, Cathy Horyn, formerly of the New York Times and now writing for New York Magazine’s The Cut blog, has provided consistently unbiased and insightful commentary. Here are some excerpts from her review of Yeezy Season 3, entitled, “Relax, Kanye: You’ve Won Fashion, Music, Everything” …
This is where West succeeded with his Garden spectacular — the idea of it more than the actual content of the two-hour show. He drew in a predominantly young, racially mixed crowd. He spoke directly to them — and, you might say, rather awkwardly bared his insecurities — after he’d played his new album. And despite the ridiculous scale and design of the presentation, which included several hundred models dressed to resemble refugees and grouped on a rag-draped platform under the Jumbotron, West managed to make things seem intimate.
Don’t get me wrong: The presentation was extremely muddle-headed, and there’s not much really happening with the clothes. Yeezy Season 3 looks pretty much like an expanded version of seasons 1 and 2, though I’m told that the top stylist Joe McKenna was involved this time, and that may account for the feeling that the collection had more substance.
Some people said they detected a trace of 1980s Alaïa in the close-fitting shapes (partly, I suppose, because Naomi Campbell and Veronica Webb, both close friends of Alaïa, were briefly in the show, wearing long fur coats). But that claim seems a stretch to me. Besides, Alaïa’s influence is so powerful it’s pretty much embedded in the cosmos.
The show’s problems were of a different sort, and in a way they reflect the general state of the fashion world — in particular, the sense that an experience often begins with delight and almost always ends with a feeling of nothingness.
Note that Wintour was seated in the Kardashian section. Frankly, this was a mistake: She needed to be seated with her own people, where her power is clear and separate. Instead, she looked diminished, like a Kardashian accessory.
But, in the end, I just wanted to tell Mr. Kanye West: Shut up. Relax. You have won.