In a live interview with SHOWstudio, the musician and designer discussed industry discrimination but argued seeing his show as political was racist in itself
In a live interview with SHOWstudio streamed this afternoon, Kanye West addressed the racial politics surrounding the fashion industry and his own struggles to gain legitimacy as a designer, but also asserted that his recent NYFW show was not intended to be political.
“With blacks in fashion... it took me being Kanye West to get this far, I was able to become a multi-millionaire and invest in myself because no one else would have, in a million years,” the musician explained, highlighting the scarcity of opportunities for black people in the industry (under three percent of designers showing at New York Fashion Week are African American).
“If you're born black, if you make it to something like the Met Ball or the Grammys, most likely you've done ten times the amount of everyone else there to get there,” he said. West also pointed to an instance where a stylist approached him and friend and designer Virgil Abloh, and warned him that Abloh might “take his place” – “the one spot for the black guy at the dinner table in fashion, is that what you're talking about?” West responded.
His SS16 presentation drew political analysis due to the racial make up of its cast and the subtext of its performance elements. However, West called the show a “moving expressionist painting”, saying, “I think it’s racist when white people assume that when a black person uses colour that it’s a political statement... People say this show is a statement – that statement is not going to stop the murders in Chicago, that’s not going to help people get jobs, that statement is not going to take guns out of hands in Atlanta... the assumption that my artistic expression of clothing has something to do with race or politics... is racist in itself.”
“If you're born black, if you make it to something like the Met Ball or the Grammys, most likely you've done ten times the amount of everyone else there to get there” – Kanye West
On the criticism he’s received on his Yeezy collections (“This second round of drab, broken-down basics proved he can’t be taken seriously as a designer” renowned fashion critic Cathy Horyn said of his latest show), Ye was dismissive, claiming that those who saw the Yeezy 350s and pretended they didn’t like them were “not only racist against black people but (discriminatory) against celebrity.” While it’s true that West has faced extreme scrutiny for his work as a designer thanks to his fame, that disliking a shoe makes someone racist is not going to be a point everyone will agree with him on.
Still, West firmly believes in the power of fashion, comparing how he feels about it to how he felt about hip hop in the 90s. “Right now, the highest art form is actually fashion,” he commented. “With music it’s in question if sometimes a song is popular if that person is really a good artist or not. In fashion, for the most part, if someone's really popular it’s agreed upon that they’re an amazing artist, that they are amazing at what they’ve done.” Whether he would himself be remembered as one of the all time greats of fashion, he responded “of course”.
Watch the interview below: