Does Kanye West’s Insane Adidas Collection Count as Fashion?
Yesterday, in his own attempt to break the Internet (or at least win Instagram), Kanye West debuted his collaboration with Adidas Originals on the first day of New York Fashion Week.
Kim and baby North West were there, with Kim in his designs. As was a Who’s Who of the music industry: Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Jay Z, and Beyoncé. (The least she could do, after his public championing of her superior artistry … again.)
An impressive front row, sure. But the clothes? Eh.
Let’s just say the reviews, like all thoughts and feelings regarding Kanye, weren't kind.
My review in a nutshell: I hated it.
To Yeezy, I say, "The Hunger Games called and they want their look back." I mean, the wig caps and flesh-toned body stockings were a creative flourish, but I didn’t like this post-Apocalyptic/Depression look the first time I saw it. We were promised awesome (to paraphrase Kanye’s voiceover before the start of the show). What we got was a lineup of tattered sportswear, oversized knits, and schlumpfy outerwear. And tights—lots and lots of sheer hosiery. It was like Flashdance meets American Horror Story.
The thing is: As surreal as it is, Kanye's collection isn't totally divorced from the world of fashion.
Tucked into the moon boots and the body stockings were some commercial pieces, ones that reminded us of looks we liked from the European fashion circuit. Kanye clearly is aware of global trends, and he referred to a lot of things we've been seeing around lately. Below, we've put Kanye's fashion "statements" into the context of the larger design moment.
Basically, here's what didn't work—and how he could have gotten it right.
Teddy Bear Coats
I first noticed this cuddly outerwear trend during Paris Fashion Week, when designers (such as Cavalli, pictured right) strutted it down the runways. Tip for first-timers: Go with black. It’s more rock 'n' roll, less Fozzie Bear. The Kanye Effect: The addition of bell sleeves to an otherwise nice bomber-style coat ruins this look. Also, no matter how much the Grammy-winning artist loves man cleavage, it'll never be tasteful. Ever.
Updated versions of the bomber jacket have been off and on the catwalk for years. They’re usually snug, smart, and flattering on both men and women. Usually. The Kanye Effect: While the hallmarks of the bomber are still there (the elastic cuffs and collar, the useful sleeve pocket) all form and attractiveness have been drained, along with color. The Neil Barrett version on the right is ready to be worn straight off the runway.
Outerwear-as-armor is actually a theme of the new film, Kingsman: The Secret Service, out this week. It’s been a staple of menswear ever since military uniforms seeped into popular culture centuries ago. The vest by Emporio Armani, above right, has a futuristic, dystopian vibe without seeming scary. The Kanye Effect: What is that strapped around her chest, on the left? We don’t want to know.
Deconstructed Chunky Sweaters:
Much of Kanye’s collection was reminiscent of “Derelicte,” the hilariously bad, garbage-inspired clothing collection from the fictional designer Mugatu in the movie Zoolander. While in the fashion world, “deconstructed” can mean code for “worn in,” or even “ratty-looking,” Giorgio Armani proves there’s a way to make deconstructed clothes that don't look as if they’ve been left in a moth-filled closet for three years. The Kanye Effect: Looking at that shredded sweater on the left, it’s hard not to imagine Will Ferrell in his white Mugati wig, cackling somewhere in the distance.
Tunic Tops for Men
Tunics are not for every man. In fact, they’re not even for most men. But something about the Dries van Noten version here, with its firefighter-inspired stripe, seems not too far from something you might already have in your closet—like a surf shirt or a graphic tee. The Kanye Effect: Kanye’s look on the left is very Hunger Games, District 12, right?
Sweats separates are a great look, when done with clothes that fit and don't look like something left over from your heftier days. They especially work tonally, as at Emporio Armani, in blacks and dark blues (seen above right). The Kanye Effect: Guess how much Kanye is going to charge us for that beaten-down, stretched-out sweatshirt? Actually, let's not. Bring yours to me, y’all, I will wear it in for free.
The Deep V
We are not advocating that you wear either of these looks out on the street, at least not without something underneath. (If you didn’t undo a button to expose that man cleavage of yours, then put it back away, please.) Still, Dries van Noten is nodding to a trend we’ve seen in a lot of collections this season: a waifish exposure of the flesh, achieved by combining bulky fabrics and open collars. The Kanye Effect: If it looks like your shirt got ripped when someone tried to pull it over your head to stop you from punching them back, it’s time to rethink your choices.
It’s true, bulky sweaters have been all over fashion week. Usually they look comfy and cheery, as in the Steven Alan look on the right. The Kanye Effect: At left, has anyone ever looked like they were having less fun in a sweater?
I am not mad at a backpack moment. But it’s best executed (for men) when done minimally—solid color with thin straps. This works at AMI because it’s part of a outfit, not the outfit. The Kanye Effect: Beyond showing off his chest, Kanye must also be a fan of the a chest-strap backpack. His first collection, shown in Paris in 2011, also included one (albeit a big, furry item). But here, with nothing but a bodysuit underneath (above left), I choose to believe her clothes are in that bag.
There is a difference between oversized (Valentino) and shapeless (Kanye). To be fair: Kim kinda pulled this look off. (Leave it to Kanye to lend her the best piece in the collection to wear—tailored, of course). The Kanye Effect: The lack of a strong collar or lapels, plus added length, leaves his version literally hanging off the model.
Tights as Pants
Okay, there are tights, the cold weather staple (as seen at Polo Ralph Lauren, above, under a blazer and shorts). And then there are nylon bodysuits. The latter are not clothes; they are body shapers. Like wealth, they should fade into the background and not be flaunted ridiculously upfront. The Kanye Effect: Basically, he just exposed America to Kylie Jenner in her undergarments. (Or at least her 17.5 million followers on Instagram).
Chunky layers of neutral tones, like this look at Polo Ralph Lauren on the right, work because of the contrasting textures and tones. Oh, and because they remembered to dress the bottom half of the model. The Kanye Effect: That slouchy top ain't half bad, but someone’s steaming her pants backstage, right?