West turned dysfunction, rage and recklessness into art. My argument for giving him the credits for his influence.
In recent years, we’ve seen a new development in the fashion culture: musical influencers like Travis Scott, Migos and Rihanna are among many artists who’ve collaborated and/or featured brands such as Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Chanel into their brand image. From incorporating a brand into a song, signing an endorsement, to creating their own brands.
I’d like to think the fashion industry made a real shift in culture when Kanye West released his debut Yeezy apparel collection, starting off with his iconic Yeezy Boost 350 sneakers in 2015. As a brand that started off with $53 million in debt, and has grown into one of the biggest success stories of our generation, West’s unique (and at times foreign) approach to fashion has created a new wave in style and fashion trends. Facing heavy critique and getting clowned in the beginning, it paved the door for the underground and music scene in fashion.
On a cultural scope, this was a massive step in fashion: as a man of color, who was known for his commercial music (I would obviously argue this) rather than luxury fashion, the cards were stacked against him. West both influenced and represented the existing youth and the underground culture which at the time was hungry for new direction, inclusivity and a voice that echoed their desires. Established brands such as Chanel and Louis Vuitton had long struggled to connect with this audience.
West expanded about an experience he had working with a brand during the middle of his Wireless Performance in 2014 saying: “I’m not dissing Louis Vuitton, I’m not dissing the Gucci group. I’m just saying, don’t discriminate against me because I’m a black man or because I’m a celebrity and tell me that I can create, but not feel. ‘Cause you know damn well there ain't no black guys or celebrities making no Louis Vuitton nothing.” In an intense viral interview with radio host Sway Calloway in 2013 ("you don't got the answers, Sway), West expressed his irritations with the fashion world and opened up about the lack of support and creative freedom from big fashion brands he'd reached out to or collaborated with. This, in my opinion, was most likely a result of both his fame and his background.
The truth of it is that West’s “foreign approach” was only foreign to those not at the center of the culture. Those who I personally could consider white-washed and overly privileged, who considered themselves innovative but only appealed in the direction of one market segment.
Please don't get me wrong, I love me some Chanel and LV. Nonetheless, I don't believe they would’ve been so fast to relate to and understand a younger or diverse audience if brands like Yeezy and Off White didn't demonstrate their marketing formula and had introduced high-end streetwear as a new fashion genre.
Brands like Yeezy and Off White helped open the door for new cultural movements that merged both music and the underground culture in high fashion. West turned dysfunction, rage and recklessness into art. Fast forward five years and fashion has shifted completely. The industry is now dominated by streetwear, and has welcomed brands such as Daily Paper and Patta to be able to create high-end streetwear. I already know what you’re thinking: I've given Kanye a lot of credit in this post. However, I can’t deny how heavily impacted our current culture is by Mr. West's foray into fashion.
Who do you think has influenced the current youth culture the most?