A History Of Kanye's Adventures In Fashion Design

by Tyler Atwood

As of late, it seems like Kanye West's fashion design adventures are a priority for him. However, though his pride and arrogance is a notorious and defining characteristic, Kanye West admits he's not a fashion designer. During an interview with Los Angeles Times, the rapper who once interrupted a then-green Taylor Swift's VMA acceptance monologue, explained to the publication that he does not fancy himself a visionary couturier, stating,

I'm not a designer. Even the best designers living right now can't become Prada overnight. I didn't just wake up with the sensibility of Raf Simons or something, but I've got a purpose and a reason and I'm learning in front of people.

The words seem earnest enough, if only West acted so humbly in his endeavors as an artistic aid to top brands. Indeed, West's fashion resume is impressive, ranging from collaborations with Adidas to Nike and now a reinstatement of bankrupt brand Karmaloop. However, his somewhat fundamental designs are another story. But how did the "Gold Digger" and "Stronger" singer alight upon the idea that his talents would be best utilized crafting clothing? In order to mentally prepare for a world overrun with Kanye West-approved clothes, here's a short refresher on exactly what the triple threat has contributed to the fashion industry.

You may think of West's Louis Vuitton collaboration as the world's first introduction to the rapper's aesthetic, but West's first design was much humbler. West's fashion career in actuality began with a sneaker. After dubbing the "Dropout Bear" his personal crest, West added the symbol to A Bathing Ape's Bapesta trainers. In comparison to the rapper's neutral, earth-toned palette for Kanye West x Adidas Yeezy Season 1, the shoe is a veritable rainbow of color.

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Shortly after, West debuted the much talked-about Nike Air Yeezy, a simplified departure from his more complex Bapesta design. The shoe was later reinterpreted as Yeezy 2, and most recently influenced Kanye's 2015 Adidas collection. A multicolored letterman jacket for Pastelle followed in 2008, along with a turning-point, crimson sneaker design for Louis Vuitton in 2009, which later tripled into a set of unique designs including the Mr. Hudson, the Don, and the Jasper.

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After several years of various dalliances with designers, West released his own eponymous line of women's clothing in 2011, with a not entirely anticipated follow up in 2012. Dominated by slim leggings, boxy blazers, and slouchy overcoats, the collection was innately wearable, but critics were displeased. In hindsight, the collection boasted large swaths of skin and more experimental silhouettes than essential staples, a bold move for a new designer. By July 2013, Kanye's taste for design was a well-established fact, further solidified by the singer's four-piece collection for cult favorite French clothing brand A.P.C. In much the same way as Gap provides elevated closet fundamentals to fashionistas, West's A.P.C. pieces were charming but largely unadventurous. In 2013, West agreed to partner with Adidas, and the rest, as they say, is history.

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What the world is left with is a somewhat conflicting portrait of a man who may occasionally plead humility in interviews, but desperately craves the praise and recognition of the fashion industry. On multiple occasions, West's inherent need for validation by fashion insiders caused the rapper to make assertions about his contributions to the industry, which may or may not contain a grain of truth, along with a fierce narcissist streak that prompts the celebrity to lash out at critics. Claiming credit for the idea of leather sweatpants and insinuating that top footwear designers's best-selling styles were his own brainchild in fact hurt West's fashion career more than helping it.

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So what are the hallmarks of Kanye West's signature style, and has the singer really influenced the face of fashion? West's Kanye West x Adidas Yeezy Season 1 collection inarguably dominated Fashion Week, even if the clothes themselves looked like something out of a post-apocalyptic science fiction film. The world has latched onto the notion of the designer sneaker, and shows no signs of letting go — just take a second look at Isabel Marant's Beckett Wedge Sneakers.

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However, West as a designer possess several fundamental flaws, which have undone other, more notorious creatives in a heartbeat and comprises his potential influence. In addition to a widely recognized god complex which often induces adult tantrums in the 37-year-old rapper, West's current designs are also decidedly basic by definition. As the newly reinstated John Galliano can attest, an overinflated sense of godliness — which West, who has essentially dubbed himself "Jesus," possesses in spades — can lead to a quick fall from grace, even for the most talented designers.

Kanye West does have a distinctive approach to the design of casual wares, and his shoe collections are inarguably one reason behind 2015's sneaker trend. However, until West approaches the late Alexander McQueen or Oscar de la Renta in terms of design prowess, it seems to me that the rapper doesn't deserve to "win" fashion week more than the array of other, more visionary designers.


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