When you’re the best, you get hated the most: Kanye West

31 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Clothes maketh the Kanye.

Kanye West returned to Los Angeles Trade Technical College on Friday night – the school where West taught after being ordered to serve community service following a scuffle with a photographer – to address this year’s graduates. “It’s a tough world out there. You’re going to prepare yourself for politics, bad bosses, hatin’ employees,” West said during the speech, before hitting the money line: “And usually, when you’re the absolute best, you get hated on the most.” West told the grads to “never stop fighting” no matter the obstacles. “If it’s in your gut, if it’s in your soul, there’s nothing – no worldly possessions – that should come between you and your expression,” he said. People always try to box you in to what they know you best for,” he continued. “I feel extremely honored to see new talent fighting or their voice.” Meanwhile, Glastonbury co-organiser Emily Eavis has revealed that she received death threats after booking Kanye West to headline this year’s festival.

ON a Sunday afternoon in early February, Kanye West was in a makeshift conference room at the downtown New York showroom of Adidas, mapping out his vision for fashion. But in what has resembled the backlash sparked by the booking of Jay Z in 2008, some festival-goers have been angered by the selection, with an online petition calling for Kanye to be replaced by a rock band attracting more than 133,000 signatures. Produced in collaboration with Adidas Originals, Yeezy was the culmination of a decade of striving, self-teaching, self-humbling and agitating for attention. In a new interview with The Times, Eavis, who organises the festival with her father, Glastonbury founder Michael, has asserted that attracting West is “an amazing coup”, but said some of the abuse she’s received has been “just horrible”. “I had death threats and stuff. The Yeezy presentation — Jay Z, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Alexander Wang, West’s wife, Kim Kardashian, and their squalling daughter, North, sat in the front row, alongside Anna Wintour — was not a traditional runway show.

The aesthetic of the unisex clothes borrowed from contemporary ‘athleisure’ wear and traditional military surplus, distorting familiar silhouettes and distilling high-minded influences into street-ready looks. Not all the feedback was positive, but West seemed unfazed. “We destroyed the first village, the fashion village,” he told the group of approximately 10 graphic designers obliged to attend a Sunday lunchtime meeting.

West, who is partial to lofty rhetoric, is most at ease when sermonising, delivering extemporaneous speeches that are part Vince Lombardi, part Tony Robbins, part Martin Luther King Jr. (“They classify my motivational speeches as rants,” he has said.) As the group listened, rapt, he segued from his plans to teach feng shui and colour theory in schools, to having turned down a multimillion dollar partnership with Apple, to — in language both admiring and profane — the surpassing perfection of Kris Jenner’s progeny. This incredible onslaught worldwide.” “It was quite upsetting because we were talking about something that was so exciting and interesting and fresh and brilliant for the festival. I know this is really harsh, but it’s like, ‘Before Yeezy’ and ‘After Yeezy’,” West said. “This is the new Rome.” He was referring to his thunderous arrival in the fashion world, to his oft-mocked bid not merely to design clothes but to build, in his words, “the biggest apparel company in human history”. But he could just as easily have been talking about his own life and his self-transformation: his dogged efforts to remake himself, to balance the self-proclaimed genius and provocateur with the hair-trigger temper that he has been, and the more moderate, approachable, self-controlled designer-of-the-people he’s trying so strenuously to become — all without losing his essential Kanye-ness.

In the car on the way home from the meeting, West took a call from Kardashian, the high priestess of reality television and America’s leading entrepreneur of the self, whose own towering fame has combined with West’s to create a blizzard of celebrity. When the couple appeared together on the cover of Vogue last year, it was either a stroke of PR genius or a naked plea for highbrow validation. “It went really good up at Adidas today,” West told Kardashian, and they chitchatted like any married couple.

He enjoys being collaborator, producer, Pygmalion: “I like the black latex, also with the black fur, and then, maybe, with tights and the Alaïa high lace-ups,” he said. West is one of the true music superstars of the 2000s, the rare artist respected as both a pop musician and experimenter, renowned as much for his creative endeavours as for his tabloid exploits. In 2013, West inveighed against the gatekeepers he perceived as impediments to his success: the designers who wouldn’t collaborate with him, the financiers who wouldn’t back him. He did this in interviews, as well as on stage, from the 60-foot tall mountain that was the centerpiece of his Yeezus tour. “I would scream — ‘Look at this mountain I just made! You don’t think I can make a T-shirt’??” he told me. “?’Look at everyone in the audience — we’re selling $300,000 worth of T-shirts every night’.?” To West, his struggle was against skepticism and prejudice.

But West wants to design what might be called fast high fashion: clothes that are truly avant-garde, made from the finest materials, and that would arrive with lightning-quick speed in stores where they could be bought by the public at affordable prices. The Adidas deal is one step — his contract guarantees him a retail location, he said, and stores have begun placing orders — toward a future he’s still working out. West’s ambition is to be to fashion what he is to music: a mainstream innovator, a translator of tomorrow’s ideas for today. “Before the internet, music was really expensive. The very thing that supposedly made me special — the jacket that no-one could get, the direct communications with the designers — I want to give that to the world.” But there are different paths to success in either field.

It’s harder to get from the fringes to the centre in fashion; a designer needs money, infrastructure and channels of distribution for his/her work to be seen. The looks shown at NYFW were a streamlined, democratised version of what West (who has said, of his personal style, “I want to dress like a child as much as possible”) usually wears.

Lately, that’s often been a velour sweatshirt, by Haider Ackermann (retail price: $768), topped with a modified, MA-1 bomber jacket by Takahiro Miyashita ($1,778). He says that he’s not wearing luxury for luxury’s sake, but as a form of research. “There’s a transition,” he says. “I need to partake in what’s of value, and of quality and soul, in order to understand it, in order to give it back.” signer Jeremy Scott’s runway show, one of several front rows he’d enhance. It was a far cry from 2009, when West and a few flamboyantly dressed friends barnstormed their way through the Paris men’s collections. “That was the beginning of the sit-in,” he recalled, likening his quest for fashion-world access to an act of social justice. “I dreamed, since I was a little kid, of having my own store, where I could curate every shoe, sweatshirt and colour,” he said. “I have sketches of it. He connects the sense of justice with which he was raised to his quest to do away with elitism in fashion. “I’m not a celebrity, I’m an activist,” he says. “The fact that when I see truth it’s really hard for me to sit back and just allow it to happen in front of me, on my clock, makes me, a lot of times, a bad celebrity.” Or maybe the best celebrity.

He takes his role as a husband and father seriously. “I feel like now I have an amazing wife, a super-smart child and the opportunity to create in two major fields,” he said. “Before I had those outlets, my ego was all I had.” But he also speaks “all the time” to a doctor who specialises in anger management therapy, a fortuitous byproduct of an altercation with a paparazzo at Los Angeles International Airport. (He had two such incidents; the second time he was court-ordered to anger management.) West says he’s trying to let things go. When Beck beat out Beyoncé for ‘best album’ at the Grammys in February, West walked on stage in a near-farcical echo of what he’d done to Taylor Swift, but then thought better of it and returned to his seat. (He later apologised to Beck on Twitter.) And adversaries are being greeted with warmth, which may be shrewdness. On Twitter, he invited Fern Mallis to meet: “If you wanna have a drink with me, book a table at the Spotted Pig when I’m back in NY.” More recently, after publicly chiding Bernard Arnault, LVMH chairman and C.E.O., for refusing to take a meeting with him, West arranged a series of impromptu concerts through Arnault’s 22-year-old son, Alexandre, and performed them at Fondation Louis Vuitton, in Paris.

The elder Arnault attended the first concert, later congratulating West backstage. (He got his meeting.) The newly mellow West is also beginning to come through in his music. Then came ‘FourFiveSeconds,’ a stripped-down folk song with Rihanna and McCartney. “I have this table in my new house,” West said, offering a parable. “They put this table in without asking.

No matter what you put around it, under it, no matter who photographed it, the douchebaggery would always come through.” WEST resists calling himself a designer — out of humility, maybe, or to pre-empt criticism. And, like many established designers, West took counsel from Louise Wilson, the Central Saint Martins professor who mentored Alexander McQueen and Mary Katrantzou, and who died last year.

West’s poorly received ready-to-wear women’s collections were paid for out of pocket, which he says put him in debt. “I gained because I had the privilege to be educated,” he now says. “I had enough of a value to be able to go into debt, and that was a blessing. He then took a preschool-size denim jumpsuit off the rack and added it to his haul. “Who’s this for?” the clerk asked. “It’s for reference,” he said. At the other, makeup artists were trying out explosions of colour around models’ eyes, and pattern-makers and seamstresses appeared to be building garments from scratch. From time to time, he sneaked behind a rack of clothes and tried on an ensemble himself, seeing how the clothes hung on his body. “Too shiny,” he said, when presented with a pair of Tyvek pants. “I want them to look matte.” Some critics called the collection derivative, citing Raf Simons and Helmut Lang as far-too-obvious references.

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