Moments before showing his sophomore women’s collection at Paris Fashion Week, Kanye West admitted he was taking his fashion career slowly. Or, at least as slowly as someone who goes from designer collaborations to designing a full collection can. Massacred for ill-fitting clothing, unseasonable designs, and, mostly, a lack of editing in his Spring 2012 production, Kanye West could have used some of that patience last time out. Kanye took a leap of faith when he returned to the runway on Tuesday and showed his fall collection in Paris. Distinguished by high level concepts, hand-labored details, and top tier ateliers, Paris Fashion Week is a risky place to test out a new hobby.
“The biggest surprise of Kanye West’s fall 2012 collection wasn’t that he did his homework; Mr. West maybe overdid his homework.”
The risk is real for West, who– as he tweeted during a late-night rant in early January– is the sole financial backer of his DW line. On the defensive about the poor reception of his spring show, West also tweeted his résumé, which includes a consulting gig with Fendi, bumping elbows in his studio with the great Azzedine Alaïa, turning down a job offer at Versace, and designing for Louis Vuitton, Nike, and the 1%’s most avant prêt-à-porter shoe producer Giusseppe Zanotti. Combine these gigs with West’s rotating personal wardrobe of Balmain, Lanvin, and Givenchy (whose head Riccardo Tisci created the artwork for Watch the Throne and West’s outfits for its tour), his eye for high fashion in his short film Runaway, and savvy designer drops within his verses, and you might actually be scratching your head, wondering how his spring show flopped.
Yet high hopes for that debut collection were squashed when Yeezy sent his models down the runway wearing hastily-sewn trousers and jackets, barely-there hemlines and dangerously plunging necklines, and Christmas-tree weight ornamentation. There were also the problems of clashing textures, misplaced metallics, half-baked cutouts, warm-weather furs, and too many colors. The collection lacked cohesion and conceptual development. If Kanye had a future left in fashion, he’d first have to nail the basics of fit, cut, fabric, and color; step up his editing skills; and work towards an elevated concept.
For fall, Kanye showed a tight collection of 20 looks with an edited range of accessories too. His primary talent is with footwear, which can be explained by his decadent collaboration with Giusseppe Zanotti (which Kim Kardashian flaunted at West’s show) and, most recently, a more commercially viable collaboration with fast-rising Australian designer Dion Lee. DW’s spring collection of shoes came in five distinct styles with varying colors and fabrics. The standout, though, was a car-to-door pair of thigh-high boots with stacked ribbed straps– a more successful play at draping than the mummy-wrap dresses and skirts he showed for spring.
Handbags were another area in which West improved. Last October’s camper backpack with a breast-placed buckle that model Bambi Northwood-Blyth bore was thankfully replaced this season with a textile blocked handbag that could have been lifted from the showroom of the Olsen Twins’ runway line The Row. The Olsens’ upscale label also works as a point of reference because it’s the rare celebrity-run fashion line that’s gained the respect of critics and has wide-spread appeal; another is Victoria Beckham’s DVB.
It might be a challenge for some to assess the success of West’s fall collection though, without filtering it through his celebrity status. To his credit, Kanye has admitted this is a handicap. The guest list at his show was marked by the rich and famous, in music and fashion: Jay-Z, Diddy, Azzedine Alaïa, Riccardo Tisci, American Vogue editoir-in-chief Anna Wintour, YSL’s former head Stefano Pilati, Japan Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Dello Russo, former American Vogue editor-at-large André Leon Talley, London fashion designer Christopher Kane, Alicia Keys, Waka Flocka Flame, Kim Kardashian and fashion blogger Bryanboy posted up early and waited for the show, which was late to start. Tisci’s appearance at the show was no surprise; you’d be hard-pressed not to find Givenchy’s influence within this collection.
Taking dark romantic cues from Givenchy, DW’s tough-looking sportswear is a conceptual improvement and a complete break from his spring collection. West’s toolbox now includes unexpected, forward cuts like a backless biker jacket and classic peplum detail that West modernized with an unfinished leather hem. He also explored the duality between relaxed and severely structured silhouettes via wind-swept, sheer hems and high neck, crocodile chokers (which looked misplaced with West’s voluminous outerwear). West swung in the other direction with color, here limiting himself to a few shades — a missed opportunity to put his stamp on the fall market. Sadly then, from such a showman, the collection had few moments of drama.
The biggest surprise of Kanye West’s fall 2012 collection wasn’t that he did his homework; Mr. West maybe overdid his homework, and over-corrected his rookie mistakes. The aesthete who once rapped “When you try to hard is when you die hard” showed a thoroughly-researched and on-trend collection at Paris Fashion Week, but West’s vibrant personality was nowhere to be found within it.