Kanye West is taking the fashion industry to church.
On July 19, West reportedly applied to trademark the phrase “Sunday Service,” a reference to his series of invite-only, sermon-like concerts. The application was filed by Mascotte Holdings, Inc., the rapper’s intellectual property holding company. Should his application be approved, he will be able to produce Sunday Service bottoms, tops, dresses, headwear, footwear, jackets, loungewear, scarves, shirts, and socks.
Beginning on the first Sunday in January, West’s church-inspired gospel performances, called Sunday Service, have garnered media attention for their spectacle and religious ambiguity. In an April appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the Kardashian sisters awkwardly stumbled through questions about Kanye’s Sunday Service. Kim rebuffed Kimmel’s description of the experience as church, explaining, “We didn’t really have a name for it because it is more of a healing experience.”
Khloe expanded on the difference between a house of God and the House of West. “We have so many friends that maybe feel a little too judgmental when they go to church,” she said. “When they come here, they feel so free and safe.” According to Kim, there is no praying, though Kourtney definitively clarified, “It is Christian.” With a smirk, she added, “They sing ‘Jesus Walks,’” referring to West’s 2004 hit song endorsing Christianity.
West’s congregation of celebrities includes Chance the Rapper, Katy Perry, Diplo, Busy Phillips, and Courtney Love. As with any Kardashian-West venture, the services appear to be professionally creative, directed in the couple’s signature minimalist style—down to the muted color palette and strobe lights. One aerial image from the Coachella service even featured the performers standing in a layered circular formation, a photo op I can only assume took hours to coordinate.
Photos and footage from the services (broadcast on Keeping Up with the Kardashians, of course) could easily be mistaken for shots from a Yeezy Season 9 fashion show. Kanye and his gospel choir wear matching monochrome uniforms of loose-fitting shirts and pants in various earth tones. In accordance with the event’s increasing popularity, the location has shifted from an indoor warehouse-type setting to a grassy clearing somewhere in the Southern California wilderness.
Naturally, the bizarre weekly event has piqued widespread curiosity. What does it take to score an invite to this cult-like gathering of the rich and famous? And, as Ye’s trademark application suggests, is this all just another way for him to score a buck by pandering to his devout followers?
In the past, West has not been shy about comparing himself to deities. The polarizing star appeared on a 2006 cover of Rolling Stone dressed as Jesus, crown of thorns and all. His 2013 album Yeezus features a song called “I Am A God.” His fans—who have stood by him through countless scandals, struggles, and an underwhelming album drop last year—are nothing short of disciples.
If West’s Sunday Service is simply an exclusive friends-and-family sing-along, as Kim described on Kimmel, then his decision to sell related merch hardly warrants controversy. We are, after all, talking about the ever-entrepreneurial Kardashian-West clan. However, given West’s track record of holier-than-thou behavior and the overtly Christian elements of the services, the issue of branding is complicated.
West already faced backlash for packaging Christianity for profit when he sold pseudo-religious clothing at his Coachella Easter Sunday service. From a tent labeled “Church Clothes” (in all-caps, except for the “t,” which retained its cross), he hawked $235 hoodies emblazoned with slogans like “Holy Spirit” and “Sunday Service at the Mountain.” For the totally reasonable price of $50, fans could purchase “church socks” bearing the phrase “Jesus Walks.”
Twitter users were quick to mock the moneymaking scheme, most of them pointing out the steep prices of the products. One user wrote, “Jesus didn’t walk for $225 man” and another said, “Umm 225? Better be my ticket to heaven.”
Whether the criticism will actually give West pause is yet to be seen (although it is probably a safe bet that it won’t). In the meantime, Jesus enthusiasts and hypebeast fashion aficionados alike can snag their own set of “church socks” on luxury e-commerce sites for a cool $256.