Open your eyes, people.

Words by

Bianca O'Neill

A handful of people huddle together one evening, outside, in the dark, in the middle of winter, waiting for a mysterious pop-up shop to open. One guy has been there since 9pm, excited about being 31st in line for a potential opportunity to purchase some of the hottest clothing in town. As the rain drives down the next morning, before the doors even open, the line has grown to over 600 people. 

A couple of months before, the same designer had released a new sneaker. The ebbing throng of eager-eyed buyers pretty much shut down Little Bourke Street, drawing just as many people to bemusedly observe the retail circus from windows above.

But this isn’t the latest release from Balmain or Gucci. This isn’t even a high-powered collaboration between a high fashion and high street brand, delivering ghosts of couture to the masses at affordable prices. 

This is the full force of fashion’s most criticised designer (and music’s most criticised rapper), Kanye West.

I’ve spoken about fashion’s penchant for ripping into Kanye before, but the simple fact remains: he is drawing more crowds for his newest releases than any other brand on the planet right now. You might be tempted to chalk it down to fanbois and Kardashian lovers. But having stood in that pop up line last weekend, I’m here to confirm that this isn’t a normal crowd. 

This is an overwhelmingly well-dressed and well-referenced crowd. This is a crowd who wears pristine Yamamoto sneakers with a Comme des Garçons tee – and when it rains, they bust out Vetements rain coats to keep their Loewe backpacks dry. I’m not exaggerating… I actually saw this happen.

And this wasn’t even for his latest collection – this was just for his merch.

Remember when Kanye released Yeezy Season 1 back in February last year and everyone slammed it as unwearable, with a memeable reference to Zoolander’s ‘Derelict’? And then every single person in the fashion community ran out to buy shearling jackets and bombers about six months later, touting them as ‘the new thing’?

Then he got slammed for Yeezy Season 2 in September last year, where he showed layered basics, spanx, leggings et al. in skin tones – and then everyone wrote op-eds a year later about how everyone loves ‘Tumblr Pink’ right now? And that the hottest style trend rn is monotone dressing? Yeah, those colourways look REAL familiar…

Look, I’m not saying that Kanye started these trends, (although I’d be hard stretched to think of anyone who dressed a sexy-AF hourglass celeb in skin tight spanx and sent her out on the street), but I AM saying that maybe he’s totally on the money in terms of predicting future trends – just like many other designers are. I AM saying that he influences a lot of people – just like many other designers do. 

I’m saying that, while Givenchy is sending women down the runway with feather masks and V Files is channelling Big Bird at NYFW, we’re clapping and nodding and pretending we understand it. But when Kanye sends a nude body stocking down the runway, we’re all like IT’S SO UNWEARABLE!

C’mon guys. It’s time to own up. You don’t like Kanye personally – which is totally fine. I don’t like Lagerfeld personally – you know, with the fat shaming Adele, and the cultural appropriation, and the endless stream of sexist commentary, and all that.  

And if you still don’t believe that Kanye is a legitimate fashion force, after this entire article of sensible points about his fashion cred that have nothing to do with him being a douche, I have nine words for you: Street Smith was shooting street style at his pop-up.

Now if that doesn’t scream #fashun, nothing does. 

Follow Bianca’s decidedly spanx-free fashion journey over at @_thesecondrow

Elijah Lazarus

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