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KANYE WEST: A Struggling Artist or Publicity Stunt Genius?

Love him or hate him, Kanye West is an icon, and he knows how to make a statement.  On Thursday, February 11th, West launched the third series of his collaborative clothing line with Adidas, “Yeezy Season 3” at Madison Square Garden. Alongside his new set of threads, Kanye took the event as an opportunity to debut his new album, “The Life of Pablo.” It is unsurprising that West set out with a bold, artistic mission to captivate the audience of his sold-out show, but is ego and fame really enough to rule in the world of fashion?

Let’s be honest, West’s spectacle at the Garden cannot be called a “fashion show.” Somehow that designation seems too puny for the magnitude of what was accomplished on Thursday evening. Fashion critics at the event have referred to it more as a “listening party” than a concert or fashion preview. Instead of walking down a traditional runway, models stood stock-still and unemotional on elevated platforms. Additionally, the event was open to the public, with tickets selling out in mere minutes of going on sale. As Jessica Iredale of WWD writes: “[the event] felt serious, especially in light of current events, as closeups of expressionless faces played on the Jumbotron. But it was difficult to draw a conclusion about West’s message.”

It seems, after the two hour and forty-five minute event – doors opened at 3pm and closed at 5:45pm – that critics alike are still not quite sure what to make of West’s show. Though Yeezy Season 3 included more colors and prints than in his previous lines – Harper’s Bazaar notes that the collection distinguished itself by “weaving in reds, oranges and blues into a range of dark browns and nudes” – for the most part, West’s newest collection was not an inspired breakthrough. Season 3 includes the same ready-to-wear fundamentals – oversized and tattered sweaters, tight body suits, shearlings, hoodies and furs – that we’ve seen before. What was different this time was the spectacle in which the clothes were debuted.  

(Picture from Getty Images on Harper’s Bazaar Website)

Instead of West’s line speaking for itself, he seemed to be the main event. Not only was his music blasting – T.L.O.P. played in its entirety over the Garden’s sound system – but he personally walked in V.I.P guests, like Lamar Odom, and stood on the sidelines, in view, almost the entire time. As Tim Blanks of The Business of Fashion writes: “[West’s] obsessive need to communicate often makes him turn his stages into soapboxes. When he’s in the live moment, his thoughts pour forth in an unmediated verbal stream that sometimes gets him into trouble.” This was definitely true on Thursday night when, according to WWD, West asked the crowd, “Tell me how ya’ll feel about the clothes?” to which a random audience member in the bleachers yelled “make them cheaper.”

While West seemed to confidently include himself in the NYFW scene, he continued to make news on Saturday, February 13th as he was about to grace the stage of Saturday Night Live. He tweeted: “I write this to you my brothers while still 53 million dollars in personal debt… Please pray we overcome… This is my true heart…” West then followed up with a tweet pleading for money from the Founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg.

Public reactions to West’s statements were, again, quite mixed.  While some view his messages as completely foolish considering that Zuckerberg is the CEO of Facebook and not Twitter, others saw his tweets as a genuine cry for help.  Coming from a man with such an ego, is there really a possibility that Yeezy could be showing us his more vulnerable, humane side?

This week, West even took a moment to reflect on one of his previous goals to “take the rap throne” and backtracked as he accepted that everyone has favorite rappers, and for many different reasons.  West ended by admitting:

While it is uncertain whether West is actually in debt or if this is just another publicity stunt for the outspoken musician/designer, it seems he is serious about showing the world that he is a multifaceted artist, unafraid of taking on new endeavors.   

To watch the entire Yeezy Season 3 “listening event” go to http://tidal.com/us/tidalxyeezy3-live



A 20-something year-old New Yorker who loves food, travel, fashion and fitness.
Emmy is currenty a senior at Bucknell University studying Managing for Sustainability.  She's a believer in horoscopes, a Jersey girl at heart, and a lover of all things outdoorsy.
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