A guy I’m familiar with said ‘Kanye made fashion cool for the lower class’ and it made me pause, only for the way it was stated, because lower class is formally black people in this statement. Bar that the statement isn’t entirely wrong. However, the statement was slightly a rebuttal and he was made to recant. That being said as soon as I saw it I came with facts on why it was true.
Kanye being the biggest thing in hip hop for the majority of the Millennium has been saying names like Bernard Arnault Tom Ford, Drexler, Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Margiela, Marc Jacob and his teacher Louise Wilson = some of the most influential people in fashion for the past 30 years. What does saying name have to do with anything? you may ask, Well the evocation of these names provoke further insight into understanding the language of Dr. West, if you’re a fan you want to understand this language it sparked research for a generation listening to Kanye interviews and for those of us into fashion these names created a road map to understand the industry as it stands.
I know what people are thinking, how does this make him the most influential, well you have to be able to contextualise how the world of fashion was before Kanye West.
The language of the 70’s
To put a small piece of what was happening – It’s the 70’s cocaine hit the streets in America, while Segregated has just been abolished. America is still sore after The F.B.I. killed Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Britain is adopting punk styling, Wind rushing in from the west for more people on the workforce after a loss to Japan. The Berlin Wall is still raging and Cold War is dominating headlines. The fashion on people’s minds were nothing too avant-garde Ready to Wear was just no getting envogue and Cristobal Balenciaga just died so you’re coming out of the high society into, the new wave. Denim is the flavour of these seasons and no one really cares about any of these houses. One after the other they die off while the world is trying to rebuild after the world wars whilst trying to avoid another one.
Long lasting thoughts are on people’s minds things that can last and keep forever plastic denim leather was all the rage and because of the way retail operated it was humble for most businesses. A little store called Walmart was about to change that. The Fashion Magazines we see are in their height as women are in their revolution and they are coming out the house to earn their keep so what does a woman wear to work ? These questions were best answered in Vogue
The Language of the 80’s
Crack cocaine, Aids, Mass Incarceration, racism is running hot Again as police beat down black men as 3 strikes recidivism/ stop and search put these men in the most terrorised areas in harms way. In Britain Vivienne Westwood is an honorary Queen that runs her Kingdom, Youth culture starts its insurgence as the old way of working isn’t working and British Caribbean citizens have jobs white British citizens don’t want so they go to African immigrants too causing massive racism to ensue there’s not much here for them so Brixton riots. We don’t want that again so we are going to change that. In France & rest of Europe there’s a resemblance of fashion week but nothing is really taking hold we’re all still suffering from the Cold War and still trying to figure out how to navigate dealing with non high society citizens.
All this while Ralph Lauren, Yves Saint Laurent, Armarni, are reigning supreme and Versace is well on its way meanwhile Louis Vuitton merges with Moet Hennessy, something big is about to happen Rei Kawakubo & Yohji Yamamoto and Maison Margiela along with the Antwerp 6 are plotting to take over the fashion industry. Hip hop is still in its infancy but the fashion stylings are infamous, Adidas shell toes and Kangol – Karl Kani is moving while Cross Colours is bound to touch the streets, Prince is doing what prince does all the while no one but the trans and drag scene is doing it too. All the while Dapper Dan follows the high society blueprint of dressing the most richest and most luxurious people around. His style never really effected the streets with nothing but aspiration as who could afford it but the street millionaires.
Vogue Harper’s Bazaar have only gotten bigger as youth culture gets involved and they start creating trends for people to latch onto, what Anna creates for them were new narratives for women ‘There’s a new kind of woman out there.’
The Language of The 90’s
The Cold War is over so is the Berlin Wall the dissolution of the Soviet Union means capitalism won. An absolute turning point in the world the mindset of “the west” kicks in the American dream is one of capitalist intent get what you can and kill for it some people take that literally as Versace dies in this decade we’re about to be involved in a new millennium and Kering** and LVMH* devise plans for corporate roll ups of some of the biggest fashion houses Francoise Pinault** and Bernard Arnault* have been getting families to sell off their names and revise and market the houses the way they saw fit. A big part of Fashion today is heritage. A Big part of the mindset back then wasn’t fast and easily consumable it was long lasting aspiration in the new millennium that is what we got.
We were programmed to see all of these houses as heritage and they take out the biggest ads in the biggest way. We look at Nike with their Jordan Collab is doing excellent as well as the uptown’s become famous in New York, not to forget Dennis Rodman dressing flamboyantly to games beside him made him a superstar in his own right. While Adidas grows ideas of its own to own the sports technology market SPOILER ALERT: 20 years down the line they do that.
Rap music is less corny thanks to NWA and rappers like Tupac and Snoop Dog take the numbers to stratospheric heights while Bad Boy label with Biggie and Diddy have them influencing the culture with their own clothing lines and selling off their swag for more money Jay-Z follows suit years later but the talks of high fashion doesn’t come till Anna Wintour meets Puff Daddy and takes him to shows allowing hip hop into the fold
This brings hat to recently where I was asked who was the most influential people are. After all of the abridged jabber I’ve done I think the answer is clear there was no true individual that put fashion on the map. People were always just dressing, when it comes to knowing who made what your wearing in terms of high fashion styling of an individual there’s no one individual that exemplifies that other than Kanye. When we say names like Dior Versace McQueen Tom Ford Fendi as part of our vernacular and vocabulary these names come to play because of how the “Louis Vuitton Don” gave us Christian Dior denim flow and Pharrell flew him out to Japan where he would meet streetwear legend Jun Takahasi, Nigo and Takashi Murakami. That’s as far as the influence with Pharrell goes as far as we know
There is not a single individual who has professed love for fashion the way Kanye does in the modern way we do now. Reading in between the lines of you were caught round gay people you were accused of being gay or having aids being gay in general was bad for your career. Having a guy like Kanye at his height cape for these high fashion super stars.
This led to rumours about his sexuality as the culture would have it back then but after the boom of anti-fashion in the 90’s at that point we have had pretty much all styles to do with what we would. However something happened that didn’t happen to a super star before Kanye people started caring about what he cared about with fashion. Dennis Rodman and Prince before him got slated or allowances but would never be emulated by a majority. where it was Kanye is having kids doing the twin polos. People would say Jay Z made people “change clothes” but honestly that would easily be out of a minority. Just like Westside Gunn today and ASAP Rocky yesterday, Kanye talking about fashion designers not in his rhymes but as a real life hobbie going to school with Louise an internship at Fendi and becoming close friends with Anna validated him. Next step was to execute something no one else could create the Mr Hudson and the Don dubbed after his friend Mr Hudson and Don C. Recognised by the epitome of luxury at this point Kanye moves his attention to create a relationship with a trainer brand along with the Donda Mafia bring in the Air Yeezy 1 & 2 cultural Phenoms and the Red October cemented it.
People will be conscious there have been people into ‘fashion’ only really in terms of street style and metro styling
(Streetstyle = inner city youth
Metro Styling = metropolitan workers )
Fashion industry was in a slump and most houses were bankrupt or dead/dying if it wasn’t for Bernard Arnault’s vision and rebranding and Pinault doing the same fashion wouldn’t be where it is today there was an aligning of the stars the world of fashion would come out of the snobbery and racism enough for a guy like Kanye do something only a Genius could do make the general public care about high fashion.
First things first I want people to know we’re currently living in a world of firsts as Britain and America have been dubbed the first world meaning military might is powerful and no fighting can happen on this soil. Peoples tension are high with the government but everyone is too scared to rock the boat or start a civil war so we are being drop fed our asks because of the hypnotising state that we get indoctrinated in by the media that fighting for change isn’t absolutely on the cards.
All that being said these are peace times, threat of war is further than you think after all that was listed above. It’s quite hard to create a movement to rally the people for change in this day and age.
that being said this is a big deal, Kanye came on the cusp of a time people needed something new to care about and aspire to do. It wasn’t gangster rap or selling drugs or flossing like Jay-Z, those were all old news and there had been enough death terrible news and not enough endorsements coming into Hip Hop all the while being reimbursable. We witnessed this with Jay and Diddy before Ye, slight difference is; Roc-a-Wear and Sean Jean is different those were inter culture seeded and hip hop supported but they did not move the needle in the entire fashion realm. Alexander McQueen and Galliano we’re alive making art not caring about what Hip Hop was doing, they did have a man in rap be able to meet them where they are.
It’s weird to even say it myself that Kanye was the most influential when it comes to a whole generation caring about Fashion, he was the electrical charge that allows the current to flow, a conduit to the world of fashion that would have an easier passage for people of the culture. Much like these articles and YouTube videos
The rebrand made us in the “New Millennium” as it was see these big houses as heritage brands where they would all say how
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