It’s hard to imagine a time when the masses weren’t drawn to artist and fashion designer Kanye West, a man who spearheaded some of the biggest cultural shifts and trends that have shaped the world. era since it first entered the industry spotlight.
But the Netflix documentary Jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy chronicles the time when West was a quietly confident producer known for his soulful beats, but struggling to land a recording contract as a solo artist.
The first two episodes of the three-part film, titled ‘Act I: Vision’ and ‘Act II: Purpose’, are pieced together from 20-year-old footage recorded by the current director. Coodie Simmons, which gave viewers a glimpse into the song recording sessions that made West a household name. Simmons, who directed the project with fellow filmmaker Chike Ozah, first turned his camera on West with the belief that he would become a rap superstar. But even with his remarkable foresight, even Simmons had no idea what kind of force West would become in the fashion world.
No one knew except Ye.
“Don Louis Vuitton”
The self-proclaimed “Louis Vuitton Don,” a nickname West first christened himself on the song “Last Call” from his debut album University dropoutmixed pieces from luxury brands like Dior, Gucci and others with streetwear essentials – which forever blurred the lines of modern tailoring.
leather kilts, Margiela Masks, and Venetian flappers, hip-hop fans and high fashion mavens were drawn to West’s influence. And for the 44-year-old rapper, conquering the fashion industry was a goal he set for himself when he signed his record deal with Roc-A-Fella Records.
“If West’s rubber Balenciaga rain boots are not obvious enough, his style has always been against a current.”
In “Act II: Promise,” West made his intentions clear during an interview after his car accident in 2002“I had an accident and I almost died and everything, right? But I was sitting in the hospital for the first seven days, and I was just watching TV and I just had this revelation…. people say, ‘You just died. What comes of this? And I just sat down and decided I was going to be the best, best dressed rapper in the game because their gear was crazy.
If West’s Balenciaga rubber rain boots aren’t obvious enough, her style has always been against the grain. On his song “Touch the Sky,” West explained how his stylistic choices early in his rap career hindered his success: “Back when they thought pink polo shirts would hurt the Roc / Before Cam did pop the shit out / The doors were locked / I felt like the Bad Boy street crew: I couldn’t get the locks to work. »
In the same way that he was considered an artist, West’s style of dress didn’t fit the mold of a “rapper”, which better fit the gangster rap image that dominated the genre in the early 2000s. When everyone wore XXXL Mitchell & Ness jerseys, jump rope chains and baggy jeans in the early 2000s, he was draped in bright rugby shirts, a monogrammed Louis Vuitton backpack and Ralph Lauren sweaters adorned with the “Polo Bear”. later inspiring the “Dropout Bear” that was placed on his first three album covers.
Throughout the documentary, West was also spotted in superhero and movie-themed graphic tees, knit turtlenecks, and a servant who was far from shy in front of the cameras. Although maligned at the time, many of the pieces West wore 15-20 years ago are now being touted in high fashion circles, a true testament to his vision for future trends. The vintage polo pieces and other brands that West donned during his “College Dropout” days are prized possessions for fashion beasts and online stockists, and some pairings are said to even hint at future collaborations from brands.
During West’s Def Poetry Jam performance of “All Falls Down” titled “Self Conscious”, he wore Adidas Superstars and even sported a Gap shirt throughout the series, foreshadowing the release of his “Yeezy Gap designed by Balenciaga» collection at the end of February.
But over time, everyone would start rapping, producing, and dressing like West.
Before becoming a rap superstar, West maneuvered through the industry on his own, using whatever scraps and resources he had to bring his form of artistic expression to the fore. And it was the same when it came to fashion. Even with a Louis Vuitton shoe collection, West arranged to intern at Fendi in 2009 alongside the late Virgil Abloh, who was artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection before his death in November 2021. .
The New York Times reported that the two earned $500 a month for shopping and getting coffees from the famous fashion house. And in a interview 2013 with former BBC Radio 1 host Zane Lowe, West reaffirmed his genius, saying he and Abloh introduced the idea of leather track pants to Fendi – a trend that would emerge in high-end circles from years later.
In 2009, West enlisted industry notables such as Abloh, Don C, Kim Jones, who at the time was the artistic director of Louis Vuitton for men, and others to create his first line of clothing in 2009: Pastel. It wasn’t her first dive into the depths of fashion design — it was K West’s Mascotte, which was discontinued in 2004, but Pastelle was her first full-fledged attempt at creating her own brand.
But after West’s outburst against Taylor Swift at the 2009 Video Music Awards, Pastelle’s Los Angeles office closed, and her plans for flagship stores and brand events soon followed suit, according to Complex. His frustrations were made public during an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live!where West opened up about the resistance he faces at the gates of the fashion world.
“I want follow up Ralph Lauren.”
“I spent 10,000 hours on this; I have dedicated my life to this. And a lot of people say, ‘OK, you know, you have to make music.’ I will continue to make music, but if people told me that I could not rap. What would have happened? What if people told me I couldn’t play? “, did he declare. “I’m only 36, I have other goals and other things, and I’m going to use my platform and all the platforms to stand up and say, ‘I want to do something. I want to do the next one. Ralph Lauren.'”
Although the interview took place almost a decade ago, it is reminiscent of when Jeen-yuhs when West played “All Falls Down” to a puzzled music director, whose co-workers were running in and out of the room, and he left Roc-A-Fella’s office momentarily deflated.
After shoe deals with Louis Vuitton and Nike, West continued to push for his own clothing line and eventually took the reins of his Yeezy brand in 2015. And in the seven years since its inception, the brand’s apparel and sneaker releases have helped boost West’s estimate $1.8 billion net worthaccording to Forbes.
Yes, the numbers are astronomical, but West’s impact has been nearly unparalleled due to the stylistic trends he ignited. He broke new ground years ago with collaborations and shoe deals with high fashion brands, inspiring other rappers to up their drip game and even dabble in the fashion business.
While Yeezy has generated millions of dollars – and quenched the thirst of fashion beasts around the world – it has opened doors for others to succeed in fashion and has consistently attracted the industry’s top talent. Creators love Heron Preston and Matthew Williams, who is now the creative director of Givenchy’s women’s and men’s collections, have made their mark in fashion after working alongside West and his extended creative team.
So while many will point to West’s polarizing statements, his failed presidential campaign, his chunky rubber rain boots (for now, at least) and his social media antics, which half the country calls Pete Davidson” Skete”, his impact on fashion is undeniable and will remain an integral part of his legacy – just as he envisioned it.
This article was originally published