Will Calabasas someday replace Paris as the epicenter of fashion? It’s a sacrilegious proposition, but, hey, it will if Kanye West has anything to do with it. For months now, West and his inner circle have been teasing the release of a Calabasas collection on social media, which generated its share of jokes about “Calabasian” chic and velour tracksuits. Well, that wasn’t too far off. Like his subdued Yeezy Season 5 collection, this Adidas capsule line has the vibe of clothing meant for a gated suburban compound — focusing on Americana looks, both in the sense of “all-American” and “appropriate for the Americana mall in Glendale, which has a Cheesecake Factory.” This is California casual taken to its extreme, with pieces that seem suited to a mostly house- and car-bound lifestyle.
West announced the collection with a series of Dan Regan–shot images that exhibit the same soft-focus aesthetic his wife, Kim Kardashian West, has adopted since her post-robbery return to social media. A$AP Nast stars in them, alongside model Ganna Bogdan. A zine made by Cali Thornhill DeWitt, best known for creating West’s hit Pablo merch, accompanies the release, but the Gothic fonts from that collection have been replaced by logos that look like those of a fictional ’90s skate brand. Like the images, the clothes have a retro feel, down to the stripped-down, ’80s-looking Adidas Powerphase sneaker.
When West memorably showed in Paris in 2011, his pieces were look-at-me to the extreme — low-cut zipper dresses topped off with Astrakhan shrugs. It was a look fit for, well, a 2011 Kim Kardashian, who in fact ended up wearing the collection. West, as he’s said many times, was hurt by the chilly reception he received from the fashion establishment in the French capital. Maybe that explains why he’s doubled down, in recent years, on West Coast American style — going from revering Paris-based masters like Martin Margiela to taking his own cues. West is doing something like what Hedi Slimane — who relocated a storied French house to Los Angeles, upending years of tradition — did, only he’s making the even-more-maligned San Fernando Valley his new HQ. According to a seemingly Kanye-affiliated billboard, the suburb has become “the new Abu Dhabi.”
But more than that, what Calabasas signifies for Kanye is an Elba of sorts — an isolation tank with horse trails, where he can take refuge from a world that, he feels, doesn’t understand him. (And that may threaten him — not only does the robbery still loom large, but the public got an early, if unintended, look at these clothes during an attempted home invasion.) The look book is filled with barriers — gates, walls, hedges — and the postures are protective, especially in the image where Nast is being cradled maternally by Bogdan. This mirrors a change in his own persona. West has gone from front-row fixture to a suburban-California family man who pleads for “no more parties in L.A.,” and the Valley is his safe space.
West may not be a design genius, but give him credit for understanding something about this cultural moment — we’ve gone from mere athleisure to swaddling, from look-at-me fashion to nothing-to-see-here fashion, and (in West’s case) from see-through, thigh-high boots to adult play clothes in just one season. In Trump’s America, with menace at every turn, who doesn’t want to hide out in a pair of chic Garanimals and wait for it all to pass?