Kanye West Uncensored: On Kim Kardashian’s Reality Shunning, Racism, and Fashion Elitism
When he wasn’t throwing out Kim Kardashian’s old, funky clothes, collaborating with the likes of Paul McCartney and Rihanna on country anthems, and telling Beck what time it is, the ever-creative Kanye West has been hard at work designing his Adidas Originals fashion collection. The eclectic sartorial display, which debuted Thursday during New York Fashion Week, consisted of his limited edition Yeezy Boost sneakers, oversized coats, and skintight bodysuits. It was a tense moment for West, who was given a rough go in the fashion mecca of Paris when he debuted a pair of ready-to-wear collections in 2011 and 2012.
But, a runway tantrum by baby North West aside, the Adidas Originals duds seemed to garner a far better reception than his disastrous Paris rendezvous.
On Monday, Style.com published a lengthy sit-down interview with West about his long, bumpy road to New York Fashion Week. West, whose braggadocio is the stuff of legend, comes off surprisingly humble in the candid, insightful chat—addressing his previous fashion failings and hopes for the future.
A large portion of the interview is dedicated to elitism in the high fashion world, with West railing against it in favor of a more democratic, less classist approach.
“One of my dreams was to be the head creative director of the Gap,” West said of the non-luxury brand. “I’d like to be the Steve Jobs of the Gap.”
He expanded on his opposition to fashion elitism, in particular the ready-to-wear approach with its exorbitant prices fit for one-percenters only. “I think high fashion is about elitism and separation, and I am completely opposed to that,” said West. “I hate the concept of limited edition completely. I hate the concept of separatism. Elitism. Classism. We’re all equal. The only thing that’s valuable is time. It’s the only thing we can’t get back. The only luxury is time. Let’s stop playing games with each other and let’s start helping each other.”
West also spoke at length about how the fashion world—and high-ranking members of the celebrity-industrial complex—treated him and Kim Kardashian with contempt when they first became a couple because of the latter’s “reality star” stigma.
“As we started dating, fashion people were really opposed to the idea of reality stars,” West said. “And all the relationships, the somewhat friends that I had somewhat built up, completely turned their backs on her and me. They already had their back to her, and now they turned it to me. The so-called traction that I was getting in the high-fashion world was completely thrown out the window and I was finally allowed to go to school, where every day I was in my mom [Kris Jenner]’s house, in my little brother’s old room, Rob’s old room, re-tailoring a Céline skirt, re-tailoring a Saint Laurent jacket, re-tailoring a Zara top, re-tailoring Wolford … And day by day by day, [Kim and I] learned, we got better. We looked at the photographs together and she improved my style, we improved each other.”
At one point, the interviewer asked about racism in the fashion world, citing Vanessa Friedman’s recent New York Times piece “Fashion’s Racial Divide,” about the disturbing dearth in black designers, and the struggles they so often face attempting to break in to a very myopic—and, in some cases, outright racist—industry.
“Racism and the focus on racism is a distraction to humanity,” West said. “It would be like focusing on the cousin from your mom’s side versus the cousin on your dad’s side. We’re all cousins. We’re all the same race. To even focus on the concept of race, it’s like—perhaps people give me an extra cookie for the fact that my color palette is so controlled and I’m black. When someone that’s like, racist, comes up to me at A.P.C. and says, “I thought it would be a bunch of animals on your shirts,” because they heard that I rapped. But it just makes the journey interesting. We came into a broken world. And we’re the cleanup crew. And we’re only cleaning up by helping each other.”
One of West’s most charged—and best—answers came when he was asked what his fashion influences are. And the Yeezus rapper didn’t mince words.
“You guys know my fucking influences,” said West. “I've got four influences and it’s written all over the face, you know the combination. Just as much as Drake is influenced by Kanye West, you know my fucking influences. You see Raf Simons right there, you see Helmut, you see Margiela, you see Vanessa [Beecroft], you see Katharine Hamnett. It’s blatantly right there. I’m not going to try and act like I was influenced by a fucking dog walking down the street that broke its ankle that I had a heartfelt discussion with. I had a heartfelt discussion with all of these fucking Helmut Lang images that I stared at for so many years. I had a heartfelt discussion with my Tumblr.”
If anyone has audio (or a transcript) of West’s heartfelt discussion with his Tumblr, please let us know.