text by Adam Lehrer
I, admittedly, am a Kanye West apologist. I find myself profusely defending the man anytime a friend of mine has something even slightly negative to say about him. I, truly, am a massive fan. And then he has to go and drop a bomb like the “COSBY IS INNOCENT!!!” tweet and I’m left thinking, “Kanye why you doing this to me bro? You’re putting me in a tight spot.” So heading to Madison Square Garden in sub-freezing weather for an upclose viewing of Yeezy Season 3, (thank you Adidas) I had an unexpectedly sour taste in my mouth. It didn’t matter though..
Anyone who tells you something as blasé as “it sucked” clearly has a very personal hatred for the man in question. This was fashion as pop art and pop art as high-octane “Holy Fuck!” entertainment. Big is the operative word here. A filled Madison Square Garden gazing upon what seemed to be at least 500 models. For those naysayers of which I’m sure there are many of (though perhaps not as many as the 20 million fans that tuned into the presentation’s live stream however), try putting this into perspective: it was the biggest conceptual art project of all time and certainly the biggest presentation Vanessa Beecroft has ever assembled, the biggest listening party of all time, and quite easily the biggest fashion show of all time. It was so much more than fashion though.
As expected, celebrities came in spades for this show. The whole Kardashian clan: Kim, Kris, Kendall, Kylie, Kourntey, Khloe, and Caitlyn all came out to support. Pusha T swayed his head behind his brother Kanye throughout the entirety of the listening session. Vic Mensa showed up to play a new track of his own. I could have sworn I saw actress Shailene Woodley walk by as I found myself entrenched in the scene. Even our friend and artist extraordinaire Ryan Mcginley was sitting a few rows ahead of me wearing an excellent self-patched denim vest and dancing along with all the new Kanye tracks. The models, of which there were so many it was near impossible to identify them all individually, had a few celebs amongst them as well. In addition to Yeezy regulars like Ian Connor and others from the previous two seasons, Atlanta weirdo art rapper Young Thug and super super super model Naomi Campbell both found themselves center stage adorned in new Yeezy looks.
At this point, you have probably decided whether or not you like Kanye’s clothes. Personally, I love them (I’m wearing a Season 1 short sleeve sweatshirt that I got 80 percent off at Antonia in Milan as I write this, it makes me look like some sculpture artist or something), and it’s hard to doubt that Kanye has identified a look. I mean, every brand is ripping him off after just two seasons, from his friends like Jerry Lorenzo of the Fear of God label and Ronnie Feig of Kith to fast fashion conglomerates like H&M.
It appears that every season Kanye maintains his interesting palette of beige to black military garb but also implements new styles into the mix as the brand goes on. This season, he seems particularly taken with his young co-hort Ian Connor’s urban normcore look, as there were amazing overalls, college logo sweatshirts, and workwear pants in seemingly magnificent materials. At the same time, Kanye’s claim at the show that he sought to one day be creative director of Hermés wasn’t as ludicrous as it should have been with the introduction of some of his most capital “F” fashion pieces. Campbell led a group of stunning female models wearing honest-to-gooness mink coats. One couldn’t help but be shocked at the sheer volume of clothes. Yesterday I thought Saint Laurent’s 90 looks was pretty astounding, but this show numbered in the hundreds. There is such a cool posse mentality to the Yeezy brand. Like, you’ll look pretty cool on your own in this stuff but if your entire group of friends starts donning these looks, you guys will be a goddamn wrecking crew.
I don’t want to say much about the album, but I will say that TSOP (The Story of Pablo) is in no way a let down. It has that propulsive energy that I so loved about Yeezus but Kanye is once again opting to amp up soul and funk melodies to house tearing effects as opposed to experimenting in atonality. Most songs are bangers, but the record ends beautifully with the haunting Sia collaboration Wolves that was premiered at Yeezy Season 1. Kanye tweaked the sound a bit and it sounded crystal clear and almost psychedelic in its atmospherics.
The sheer spectacle of Yeezy Season 3 was unprecedented. Beecroft’s choreography was fantastic, applying the minimal approach of the first two seasons to an army sized diverse casting of youths. You’d find yourself gazing amongst the models and then catching an interesting detail: a female model puts her fist up like a civil rights sign (pun intended) or Ian Connor lights up a cigarette and puffs away. How this thing worked is beyond me, but Kanye’s DONDA creative team is really doing tremendous things. I’ve never really seen something so massive and mainstream present itself at what can’t be described as anything other than a magnificent temporal art work.
And it didn’t stop there. After Kanye’s record played, he expressed excitement about a video game he developed chronicling his mother Donda’s travels to Heaven. Yes you read that correctly. After a clip from the game was shown on the jumbotron, the crowd responded lukewarm. Kanye, looking stunned, scolded us, “You act like making a game about your mom traveling to Heaven is regular,” he said with a smile. And then he played the clip again. The crowd cheered loud the second time around.
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