KANYE WEST AND CO
For nearly a decade Kanye West remains one of the most influential artists in fashion. Not only has he populated the streets with his wide range of Yeezys, but his proteges, Virgil Abloh, Jerry Lorenzo, Don C, and Samuel Ross just to name a few, have all made their stamps on the fashion industry.
Yeezy’s conception began in the same year as Mr West’s classic, ‘Late Registration’. Some of Ye’s notable collaborations include the Louis Vuitton Dons, and his efforts Bape. Following this, Kanye worked alongside Nike, making classic pieces like the Air Yeezy 1s, and the infamous ‘Red Octobers’. In 2013, Kanye then left Nike and jumped ship to Adidas, against his former sponsor. To this day, he continues to work with Adidas, releasing the Yeezy 750s, 350s, 450s, 380s and more. Yeezy also released its eponymous clothing line from 2015 onwards, starting with the ‘Yeezy Season 1’ event. This show also saw the premiere of Wolves, from his grammy-nominated album The Life of Pablo. Yeezy’s clothing line is synonymous with earthy colours: brown, olive green and camo. They are simple in design, often without logos and exaggerated features. Kanye currently remains in full control of the brand, and still innovates with new designs such as the FOAM RNNR and QNTM BSKTBL models, along with a recent collaboration with Gap.
On a related note, tracing back even before Kanye stepped into the music industry, Kanye formed an intimate relationship with his ‘creative director’, Virgil Abloh. A student at the time when he met Kanye, and have since worked along with him, Abloh eventually joined initiatives such as the DONDA creative project and eventually embarked on his personal brand Pyrex, later Off-White. It was also from Off-White that Virgil developed his signature design style, citing that in his philosophy, “3%” of creativity is all that is needed to create something. By applying this theory to streetwear, Off-White created its own archive of iconic designs during the peak of its popularity. For example, its traditional crossed arrows ‘sampled’ from Glasgow Airport, taking and reinventing a rather industrial design. Furthermore, this is best displayed in his Nike collaborations, The Ten and The 50 projects, where one type of design was applied to many different variants and models of shoes. Although there are subtle differences between the shoes, from aspects of colour to Virgil’s signature zip tie, Abloh’s designs encapsulated his inventive philosophy that followed him to the house of Louis Vuitton. Following his transition to LVMH, at Paris Fashion Week 2018, Virgil brought Louis Vuitton an awe-inspiring debut show as its artistic director, before sharing a warm embrace with his former mentor, Kanye.
Although Virgil had only previously worked on streetwear, his combination of the “3%” theory, the vibrant colour scheme, and the long-standing luxurious design of Louis Vuitton all provided the golden ratio for a brilliant set of designs. Virgil’s appearance further cements the possibility for streetwear to blend into high-end luxury, as both LVMH and Kering were both looking to collaborate with Virgil and Kanye respectively. Sadly, Virgil passed away on November 28th, 2021. His legacy will be forever remembered and passed on through his designs and past works.
Apart from Abloh, Kanye’s disciples have infiltrated all levels of fashion. For instance, Fear of God is another name that streetwear fans certainly recognise. Its creator, Jerry Lorenzo, embarked on this venture with only $14,000 in savings. He had no previous formal experience in fashion, but with the support of Virgil and Kanye, he was able to successfully launch and develop the brand. Jerry’s design followed Kanye’s ideology in design, as he also used light coloured palettes and formal fits. The Fear of God main line has recently matured into elegant and chic cuts utilising a neutral palate, best exemplified through Lorenzo’s Met Gala 2021 fit. With the release of the ESSENTIALS line, Fear of God also continues to provide a series of simplistic and relatively affordable designs costing as little as $80.
Similarly, Samuel Ross is a British creative and the mind behind A-Cold-Wall*. His work has recently been enlisted as part of Gucci and the Victoria and Albert Museums Fashioning Masculinities, cited as a revolutionary force in streetwear with a militaristic element not too dissimilar to ‘techwear’. (This exhibition is currently on exhibit and runs until November 6th, 2022).
Along with Virgil,Jerry, and Sam, Kanye also has a team of designers and artists crossing both fashion and music, as he owns both a record label and a creative team. With his new attempts to cook up something new on social media following his previous announcement of a three-way collaboration between Yeezy, Balenciaga and GAP, all eyes are on Ye’s next moves.