It's comeback season for Kanye West, whose Yeezy 5 show did away with the extras and kept it clear-headed and cool
Torture is out this season. Yeezy 5 sounds a bit like a horror sequel, something that was avoided last night at Pier 59, where Kanye West staged his latest collaboration with adidas. Likewise, it wasn’t a drama, nor a disaster epic – two experiential genres which have alternately plagued West’s fashion productions up to now.
Though a few requisite crashers held up the entrance, the comings and goings were largely smooth sailing. The show was held in a tight, pitch-black space. It started on time. There were no rants. Nobody fainted, and the performance art took a hike. Not only that, but West filmed his models on a rotating platform backstage, projecting the looks on four 30-foot LCD screens, one rapidly after the next. This meant that every look was shown from all sides, in detail, to each spectator in the room. Fortunate to be seated at a corner angle to the video cube, I was able to see that the models were shot from multiple angles and projected as such, to give the impression that they were truly rotating in the space.
All the while, a song by The-Dream played on a loop. It was the 2007 demo for J. Holiday’s “Bed” – a song that, according to Dream’s own annotation changed the way he thought about R&B composition, fortuitously altering the landscape of pop as we know it. Of course, Kanye has always been preternaturally insightful when it comes to a soundtrack. Could Yeezy Season 5 be his own epiphany, clearing away the clouded past for a more clear-headed future?
“Having played the role of intermittent agitator throughout America’s long, national election nightmare, pop’s reigning demagogue seems to be taking a step back and letting us breathe for a minute”
Because the cumulative effects verged on resplendence. Call it Kanye’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome. Having played the role of intermittent agitator throughout America’s long, national election nightmare, pop’s reigning demagogue seems to be taking a step back and letting us breathe for a minute. It felt like a palpable sigh of relief. Last season, adidas came away embarrassed. This season, they should be patting themselves on the back.
The collection itself riffed on the merch of Yeezy yesteryear, somehow liberated from its burden of solemnity. The oversize shearlings, furs, and parkas were mixed with adidas tricot joggers in searing red stripes. Sweaters, sweatshirts, pants, and baseball jackets came emblazoned with San Fernando Valley-isms: “LOST HILLS,” “MULHOLLAND,” and zip codes affiliated with Agoura Hills and Calabasas. Speaking of Calabasas, those track pants made a late-breaking appearance.
Last season, we lamented the way West omitted those self-aware pieces, and to see them in the mix brought a sense of levity. So did the denim. And the GORE-TEX® windbreakers. Invoking emo, Valley girl, and varsity elements, Yeezy 5 felt in line with Raf Simons’ M.O. for Calvin Klein, only darker, and a bit less strange. If Calvin’s kids spend their free periods in art class, Kanye’s crew might skip class to smoke under the bleachers. One standout piece was an industrial, rubberized catsuit. It looked like something Ripley would have worn on the Nostromo in Alien. The finale sneakers were genuinely amusing, resembling a mutant breed of Skechers. These felt like fresh territory, and ended things on a high.
In his five collections for adidas, Kanye West has held onto certain influences: obsessions about how he sees a generation dressing. Military surplus, afflicted knits, bodysuits, and combat boots survive the seasons: structural basics for an aesthetic language that tends to provide ammunition to critics. But at this point, the only person Kanye West ought to be judged against is himself. Part creative polyhedron and part pop maniac, with a showmanship and turbulent genius brewing beneath his shifting surfaces, West has become his own industry, and he produces on his own terms. Fuck it if fashion has anything to say about it.
However, that doesn’t make him unimpeachable, and he seems to have learned it the hard way last time. Earlier this year, West deleted his tweets that bore mention of any endorsement of Donald Trump. He’s now distanced himself from the association further by proving that he not only cares about what people think, but that he actually wants to do better. It’s our job not just to lambast his audacity, but to commend him when he does it right. As buyers and editors filed out into the street, an idea swelled to mind like a THX bumper. When it comes to the Yeezy franchise, the artist is listening.