Kanye West resurfaced last week. He reactivated his Twitter account and in an interview published by Hollywood Reporter, exchanged thoughts with widely-respected interior designer Axel Vervoordt. Making sure his fans saw the interview, the link for the article was forwarded to subscribers of yeezysupply.com.
The article kicked off by pointing out West entered into the exchange preoccupied by the news of Virgil Abloh’s appointment as head creative for Louis Vuitton’s men’s label. “I had been dealing with a very heavy concept this week that I couldn’t get out of my head. Just the way you’re expressing yourself has lifted the burden on me,” he told Vervoordt.
When Vervoordt asked him if the burden was something bad, West said, “It’s not bad or good, it’s my creative collaborator being the head of Louis Vuitton. Because [Abloh and I] have been fighting to make apparel at a certain price that still has the same credibility and desirability as something at a higher price. … But when they say he was my creative director, that’s incorrect. He was a creative collaborator.”
And indeed, Abloh has always been referred to as West’s creative director though in the case of the LV announcement, the CEO didn’t bother mentioning West at all, stating in a press release, “Having followed with great interest Virgil’s ascent since he worked with me at Fendi in 2006, I am thrilled to see how his innate creativity and disruptive approach have made him so relevant, not just in the world of fashion but in popular culture today.” The omission is utterly crazy given the original relationship was with West who brought Abloh with him to Fendi.
One has to figure West has mixed feelings about Abloh’s ascent. Once the humble student, fortunate to be West’s apprentice, Abloh has leaped past him in the fashion world and will now lead one of the world’s most prestigious fashion labels.
Adding another hard pill to swallow, along the way Abloh entered into a partnership with West’s nemesis, Nike, and created a collection that help reignite the brand and put Adidas back on its heels among the cool kids. (All the more noteworthy if it’s true that Abloh was originally going to sign with Adidas until West–allegedly–put the kibosh on the deal.)
Meanwhile, the success of Yeezy remains patchy at best. While the aesthetic was ground breaking when the line first debuted in February 2015, and deserved much more credit than it received, the heritage ath-leisure look has been widely copied and three years later it feels lackluster. Compounding matters for retail accounts, West has struggled to build a supply chain capable of building and fulfilling orders in a dependable manner.
Looking back at West’s entry into fashion from his first Paris runway presentation in 2011 that was never produced up until his Roosevelt Island presentation, he’s been subject to unprecedented levels of negative criticism from members of the fashion establishment. Case in point (and this is a mild and more recent example), an editor on the The Cut in 2017 wrote, “When Kanye West debuted his first Yeezy Season at New York Fashion Week one year ago, he gave the world $2,600 hoodies and unflattering nude bodysuits,” feedback revealing a level of cynical negativity no establishment label has or probably will ever be subject to.
Even independent of his presentations, it was common on social media for a period to see editors weigh in seething with anger whenever he garnered a front row seat at a fashion show. Having a lightening rod wife only added to the bitter comments. And while he’s now cheered within sneaker culture, he was almost uniformly derided for daring to demand of Nike more money for and control of his creative contributions. What he fought for has become commonplace in deals struck between brands and collaborative creative partners.
Anna Wintour’s blessing and his successes with Adidas have provided him cover as of late, but still, the damage has been done. And yes, part of the issue is he’s a wildly successful and highly-respected musician. People laud history’s renaissance men, but want their living celebrities to pick a lane and stay within it.
Among the Illuminati-obsessed, there’s a belief that one can only reach super levels of fame through deep personal sacrifice, usually the death of a loved one. Channeling their line of thinking, one could say West sacrificed his status as a well-regarded fashion designer to let the concept of not just Abloh, but also of high-end streetwear to exist.
Without Yeezy, there is no Off-White, no appointment of Abloh at LV (which is not an indictment of Abloh, everything he has he earned and deserves–110 percent!), but also no A Cold Wall, or A$AP and Guess and Under Armour, no Jerry Lorenzo, Just Don, Halima Aden and clearly Ian Connor would not be selling Revenge Storm sneakers at $300 a pop (which, not every sacrifice results in an equal but opposite positive, the world has its pockets of chaos) without West. This is a very short list. There are many more media platforms, labels and individuals whose careers were launched or took root from the fertile platform West created.
But one need not dip into wild conspiracy theories. NBA player Allen Iverson put it simply with an interview with Michael Rappaport in May 2017 when he explained the impact of him bringing hip hop into the NBA.
“I took the ass-whooping for it, for guys to look like and be who they are and have their own identity today,” explained Iverson. “To the people that it’s not their cup of tea they now accept it because there’s no choice.”
The Answer then concluded, “But it’s bittersweet, it feel good now. The fact you look on TV and it it’s normal to see a guy with a bunch of tattoos. It’s normal to see Kawhi Leonard with cornrows. I feel good about that part.”
West will now have to come to terms with the fact that it’s highly unlikely he’ll see the same fashion success as Abloh. Indeed, the student has become the master. At the same time, given all West helped create, the man deserves his propers and under no circumstances should companies like LVMH, which absolutely knows better, be allowed to erase his contributions.
In the Hollywood Reporter interview, Vervoordt did his best to console West, telling him, “In every loss there is something you gain, and in everything you gain there is something you lose. But some people will always look at the thing that doesn’t work as a sign of destruction. We have to accept it like a samurai. Then nothing can hurt you. Acceptance is a learning process.”