This month, just as Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga was announced as an official thing, Julia Fox was spotted multiple times with Kanye West, a.k.a. Ye — first in Miami in a Balenciaga swimsuit with leather pants (at the beach!!!); then in New York in a lot of Balenciaga and Miaou low-rise whale-tail pants; and then, most recently, in a denim jacket by Charlotte Knowles and a Balenciaga Neo Classic City Bag.
The infamous whale-tail look, according to an Interview magazine article by Fox herself, was orchestrated by Ye. He had an entire hotel suite full of clothes waiting for her after dinner at Carbone. As much buzz as the moment got, this isn’t anything new: Ye plays dress-up with the women he dates. It quietly and informally started over a decade ago with Amber Rose. So we did a deep dive into the timeline of Ye’s dolls.
“I’m not like his Barbie,” Rose told Elle in 2009 about her then-boyfriend, West, who urged her to wear a gown for the Metropolitan Opera’s 125th-anniversary gala at Lincoln Center. But she, an independent woman whose audacious style was far from New York’s elite, chose a white knee-length wrap dress by Alexander Wang instead. Sure, they might have worn coordinating fur coats and biker jackets, but Rose always held her own, even if she dabbled in Ye’s minimalist preferences now and then.
In the same interview, when asked about her collaborative process with Ye on their shoot for Elle, Rose joked that they disagreed on choosing looks. “I’m more electric pink and bright yellow. And Kanye’s more like nude and bone. Like, bone is his favorite color. I’m like, Whose favorite color is bone?” It wasn’t until three years later that he finally got his bone-loving Barbie.
The rapper also got his very own Barbie Dream Closet play set when he overhauled Kim Kardashian West’s closet on an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians in 2012. Ye’s reactions to all her body-con Hervé Léger, chunky bling, and platform stilettos included an earnest “Babe, you really gotta clean out everything,” a confused “What about this joint right here?,” and simply “Oh, hell no!” But Kardashian West graciously welcomed his mini-makeover moment.
“Kanye’s definitely inspired me to want to, like, be a little bit more of an individual,” she said in the confessional. “I think my style’s just evolving and changing, and I think it should because that’s, you know, what life is about. He’s a fashion designer, and he loves clothes, so I’m excited to, like, collaborate with him to see what his take on fashion is.”
Over the course of their relationship, Ye also introduced Kardashian West to the innermost fashion circle, first bringing her to the Met Gala in 2013 as his plus-one. From there, she befriended his photographer friends, such as Mert and Marcus; Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci; and Carine Roitfeld of CR Fashion Book, which Ye encouraged Kardashian West to study as a “fashion bible.” Maybe to Ye’s misfortune, his wife was not actually an inanimate doll that he could put clothes on himself. He had to nudge her in creative ways about wearing the latest trends. “[Kanye] sent me a whole email, like, ‘You cannot wear big glasses anymore. It’s all about tiny little glasses,’” she said on a 2018 episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians while wearing tiny sunglasses. “He sent me, like, millions of ’90s photos with tiny little glasses like this.”
Kardashian West was even a poster woman for Yeezy, and her husband made it easy for her not to think about dressing herself. “I literally just wear all of the Yeezy samples,” she told People in 2018. “They have a team of stylists and they put it all together. I’m totally inspired by Kanye and the Yeezy team — and listen to the advice of everyone over there who is making all the clothes. I basically get this wardrobe and I don’t have to think too much about it.”
The couple separated in early 2021, but it didn’t take long for Ye to find new dolls to dress up in his new favorite brand, Balenciaga. During his brief summer fling with Russian model Irina Shayk, she was spotted in Yeezy, including the brand’s collab with Balenciaga on a DMX-tribute sweatshirt. During an even briefer fling in November with 22-year-old model Vinetria, she was dressed in head-to-toe Balenciaga for their courtside date at the Donda Academy’s debut basketball game in Minneapolis.
In Fox’s case, it could be argued that Ye is attempting to create Kim 2.0 with looks (she did wear the exact same dress Kardashian West made famous at the Uncut Gems premiere), but since he has become a more prominent designer, with Yeezy in the 2010s and his current tenure as the “Steve Jobs of the Gap,” perhaps he is just using his partners as walking, talking billboards for his clothes.