Stop the world: Ye’s in town.
The rapper formerly known as Kanye West staged a surprise show during Paris Fashion Week, gatecrashing the official schedule with a show for his Yeezy label — never mind that the timing clashed with displays by smaller brands who had been working toward the moment for six months.
“I am Ye,” he said in a speech introducing the collection. “And everybody here knows that I am the leader.”
While billed as season nine of Yeezy — or Yzy, as he spells it — the collection also marked a reset for West’s own label following his recent split from former partner Gap. “We’re starting our own house tonight,” Ye said, announcing his intention to take on LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the world’s largest luxury group, and its owner. “Bernard Arnault is my new Drake,” he declared.
Arnault’s son Alexandre, as well as designers including John Galliano, Demna, Riccardo Tisci and Stefano Pilati turned out to see the show, held in a vacant building a stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe. Guests found three bars of gray soap on a rope on their seats.
Designed with Shayne Oliver, founder of Hood by Air, the lineup had a dystopian vibe similar to the recently launched Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga collection, and to the look that Ye wore to open the Balenciaga show the day before his own event. Call it dressing for the apocalypse.
To a live performance from a children’s choir from his Donda Academy, models stepped out in looks that were devoid of hardware and could be simply pulled on and off. They included bodysuits with face-covering hoods in shades of brushed concrete; a black quilted rain poncho, and a “Mad Max”-style crinkled gray dress with bulky shoulders.
Matthew Williams, creative director of Givenchy and longtime creative partner of Ye, showed off his tattoos in a black camisole vest and shorts. Michèle Lamy, the partner of Rick Owens and fairy godmother of the alternative Paris fashion scene, stepped out in wader boots and a bulbous black puffer top that seemed guaranteed to win in a showdown with Michelin Man.
Ye courted controversy with a top featuring an image of Pope John Paul II on the front and the slogan “White Lives Matter” on the back. Wearing a similar T-shirt himself, he declined to elaborate backstage after the show. “It says it all,” said the rapper, who has drawn criticism in the past for supporting President Donald Trump and describing slavery as a “choice.”
According to the Anti-Defamation League, “White Lives Matter” is a white supremacist phrase that originated in early 2015 as a racist response to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Its inclusion in the show was the latest in a pattern of erratic public behavior from the rapper. Recalling his hospitalization in 2016, when he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, he said: “It’s the ultimate stigma. People feel like they have the right to come to my face and call me crazy, like it doesn’t hurt my feelings or, like, you don’t have to be crazy in order to change the world.”
While his unpredictable nature may make him a challenging partner for corporate giants, Ye knows he has the power to move the cultural needle. By returning to Paris, where he first mooted his own label, he signaled he’s ready to take Yeezy to the next level.
“Now sometimes a cut could be slightly off, a stitch could be slightly off, but we did change the look of fashion over the past 10 years. We are the streets,” he declared.