From his first sneaker collaboration with Louis Vuitton to his own line at Adidas and his monologues along the way, it's become harder and harder to remember a time when Kanye wasn't a fashion insider. But, according to Kanye, he credits that one time he wore a (divisive) leather Givenchy kilt as the moment he crossed over. That look has since gone on to inspire so many other rappers to take more chances with their own wardrobes. In conjunction with his latest magazine cover, Kanye penned an essay for Paper on his own fashion awakening.
"When you sit down with Riccardo Tisci at the Louvre," Kanye says, "and he pitches the idea of you wearing a leather kilt, which could be considered by all of your gangbanging friends as some sort of a dress or skirt, at that point you are now a part of the fashion world."
While most fashion insiders don't become such until they "pay their dues"—usually by attending a prestigious art school, interning for established designers, etc.—for Kanye, being an influencer has been its own way of paying dues. "I paid my dues when I had to wear a kilt in Chicago, and friends would say, 'What's your boy got on?'," he explained, before bringing up an excellent point: "There are warriors that have killed people in kilts in the past. Who gets to decide what's hard and what's not hard?"
There is a great truth in Kanye's words here, a delineation between "fashion" and "style." Style is (or at least should be) more about mirroring your own personality and ambitions than showing off the hottest new brands. "When I saw this kilt, I liked it. I was into it," he writes for Paper. "It looked fresh to me. I felt creative; I didn't feel limited by some perception." Kanye might have a while to go in convincing everyone of his vision, but there's a long list of people who can identify with that.