Kanye West was the enfant terrible at New York Fashion Week in September, throwing a wrench in the schedule with his last-minute show, which looked remarkably like his previous collection (hoodies, baggy pants, nude bodystockings).
But the people have spoken: the rapper and presidential hopeful’s Yeezy Season 1 collection has sold out within a week of its release.
Perhaps it’s all in the name. Despite lackluster reviews from fashion critics, retailers and consumers can’t get enough of West’s clothes.
Some 30 clairvoyant buyers rushed to fill their inventory with West’s Fall/Winter 2015 collection shortly after it launched at Fashion Week last year—a smart move for business this season.
Indeed, there were long lines outside Barneys New York’s flagship store on Madison Avenue when the collection launched on Thursday, according to Women’s Wear Daily.
Of the 18 menswear pieces Barneys plucked from West’s first collection, the black 950 boot—a $585 variation on the traditional duck boot—was the first to sell out. A $1,690 bouclé sweater was another best-seller.
Tom Kalenderian, executive vice president of men’s merchandising at Barneys, told the Daily Beast in an email: "The buzz surrounding the launch of the Kanye West x adidas Originals 'Yeezy Season 1' was amazing, yet anticipated. This designer has had a profound influence on music, popular culture and fashion; with his finger on the pulse of his followers. The excitement extended well beyond his fan base; reaching fashion customers all wanting to experience his vision with this collection."
West's clothes, shoes and accessories were "great," Kalenderian added, and "as relevant today as those we see and buy from designers all over world. No question that these particular items come with the endorsement of what is important to this designer and reflect his point of view; and that is without a doubt, important to his audience."
West has long been desperate to infiltrate the fashion elite, and his earnest attempts over the years have humanized him.
He may be a megalomaniac musician, but when it comes to fashion, he just wants to be part of the club.
All those years of being a fashion hanger-on paid off for West when he presented his first collection in collaboration with Adidas at New York Fashion Week last year. (The rapper’s debut as a designer—an eponymous collection presented in Paris in 2011—completely flopped.)
West described his Fall/Winter 2015 collaboration with Adidas as a “solutions-based” range of basics and outerwear, which translated to an abundance of sportswear pieces, camo, and $575 nude bodystockings, one of which was modeled by Kylie Jenner.
Predictably, coverage of the show focused more on the the standing ovation given by Russell Simmons, Beyoncé, Jay Z, and Rihanna than on the clothes themselves.
Longtime New York Times critic Cathy Horyn was shocked that the reviews were so uncritical. Writing on The Cut, she argued that “the fashion world should be holding West’s feet to the fire—expecting more integrity and discipline from him.”
Horyn herself did her part, criticizing West’s “vacant presentation” and concluding that West’s “merits as a designer are still in doubt.”
Others who focused on the clothes were generally unimpressed. Fashionista editor-in-chief Lauren Indvik wrote that “[The clothes] were urban cool, athletic—but in their drab colors and conventional shapes (sweatshirts, parkas, drop-waist pants, cargo vests), indistinctive and unremarkable.”
Kanye’s latest collection for Spring/Summer 2016 was more of the same. But this, too, will likely be a runaway commercial success. Barneys and other retailers have already confirmed that they’ll carry Yeezy’s spring collection.
"The collection works well, both as whole styled in its specific tonal and layering effect, right down through to the individual pieces that are well-constructed and easy to separate outside of the collection," Sam Lobban, buying manager for fashion site Mr Porter, told The Daily Beast.
Mr Porter bought 16 pieces to sell from West’s collection: 14 ready to wear, and two shoe styles. "Ultimately, this is a collection of reinterpreted Menswear staples; fashion forward sweats which can be worn very directionally or built into your existing wardrobe," Lobban said.
Consumers have evidently not yet had their fill of Kanye-fication. Not even close.
This copy was amended to add comments from Sam Lobban and Tom Kalenderian.