Susie Bubble delves deep into Yeezy Season 2 and attempts to decipher its meaning
In the flood of news stories and pap pics of the starry front row that emerged from what has been the most talked-about event of fashion month yet, few have analysed the actual composition of the presentation itself. Its similarity to the first season of Kanye West’s Yeezy show might have had the audience confused as to whether they were seeing the same thing repeated. Upon closer inspection, the make-up of Yeezy Season 2’s tableau had some striking differences to its predecessor.
The Yeezy army metaphor was taken a step further by both Kanye West and artist Vanessa Beecroft, who also created the performance of the inaugural show. The first group of models in ballet beige – deliberately platinum blonde and eerily Aryan looking – filed out and fell in line in accordance with their drill sergeant barking at them. The second row, gradated in a darker beige and matching up with the Asian and brunette models, also fell right in line and marched forward. The third line-up of all black models in their darker taupes and light browns, when asked to fall in line, meandered forward in haphazard fashion. The final group of darker-skinned black models dressed in dark browns and blacks trudged out lifelessly. When the entire cast filed out together in their utilitarian garb, shaded like a skin foundation counter, this didn’t feel like an empowered army but an imprisoned one.
There was something uncomfortable about the set-up. The choreography seemed to deliberately conform to stereotypes that West himself has fought through his lyrics to dispel. Most markedly, Ian Connor, was singularly and very purposely smoking like he didn’t give a shit, as his model cohorts stood deadly still. Lo, the lone rebel, who won’t fall into line, and happens to be black. It couldn’t be more overt in its reference to the racial inequalities of America and beyond.
In a brief backstage interview with vogue.com, West insisted he was just creating a “painting” where the clothing became a canvas for colour. And yet it’s hard not to read into the choreography of the show as West’s personal piece of social commentary. The blackest of black people enslaved. The whitest of white people following orders like minions. And in between, dissidents flouting the rules.
“It’s hard not to read into the choreography of the show as West’s personal piece of social commentary. The blackest of black people enslaved. The whitest of white people following orders like minions. And in between, dissidents flouting the rules”
The clothes in contrast were straightforward. In comparison to West’s first attempts at high fashion back in 2011, where he opted for over the top “in yer face” embellishment, here the layers have been stripped back. In an interview with style.com, West was clear that he now has the facilities to create something relatively inexpensive (in comparison to his first stab at high fashion). There’s a no-nonsense directness about the clothes and the role they play for West’s hard-core fan base, who flocked to the cinema to see a screening of the show. They’ll sell in their droves – just look at the 9,000 Yeezy adidas trainers that flew out of the shops in ten minutes.
In a week where message, sentiment and gesture were often the biggest talking points, this show slotted right in. The performance lingered. As do questions. Is West saying society is penned in by the colour of the skin? Has he yet again backtracked on himself, when just in February, he said: “Racism is a distraction to humanity. We’re all the same race. To even focus on the concept of race, it’s like – perhaps people give me an extra cookie for the fact that my colour palette is so controlled and I’m black.” The frustration that has prompted West’s numerous race-related comments over the years doesn’t seem to have diminished, judging by Yeezy 2. And if he does indeed fulfil his promise to run for president of the United States in 2020, perhaps he’ll attempt to solve the problem that his army of models seemed to articulate.
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