Just when we thought Paris Fashion Week was almost over, Kanye West decided to add a last-minute show to the calendar, and what ensued felt more like an introduction to a chilling cult than a fashion show. The experience started with a signature West six-minute speech: “You can’t manage me. This is an unmanageable situation,” he said. “I want to make it clear to you guys that Bernard Arnault is my new Drake,” he added, hinting at the fact that he’s placing himself at odds with Arnault, the CEO of LVMH. West also ran a video of famous people, including scientists and John Lennon, talking about creativity and the state of the world. West’s opinion on the state of the world? “We’re at war.”
But the provocation didn’t end there. The designer wore a black hoodie with “White Lives Matter” plastered on the back and sent Black models down the runway wearing the same slogan. The phrase, which originated in 2015 as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement, is categorized as a “hate slogan” by the Anti-Defamation League and has been used by white-supremacist groups including the Ku Klux Klan.
“I could not believe what I was seeing, and I couldn’t believe that everyone else didn’t seem enraged,” said writer and editor Lynette Nylander, who walked out of the show because of the harmful rhetoric. “There are just so many layers.” Nylander noted that West uses the Black community as the root of his jokes, the same community whose dollars and support put him in the position he’s in today. Rajni Jacques, the global head of fashion and beauty for Snap, posted on her Stories, “Kanye West disrespected the Black community for clout.”
This was not the first time the rapper and YZY designer has made harmful and dangerous comments about the Black community. He stated in 2018 that 400 years of slavery was “a choice.” (West, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2016, apologized on 107.5 WGCI-FM radio in Chicago.) Unfortunately, his damaging statements continue.
This show took place not far from the Arc de Triomphe, a secret location revealed to guests at noon on the day of the show. Attendees included designers Demna of Balenciaga and Shayne Oliver, who helped with the collection. The three-floor venue was a circular space that forced guests to stand on a railing to hear West speak on the bottom floor, where he stood in the center. When it was time for the models to walk, the T-shirts weren’t the only clothes going down the runway; West also showed — surprise — more neutral-toned body-con and zipperless coats with bubblelike silhouettes, the signature style of past YZY collections. The fashion show lasted about 20 minutes since the models had to walk three floors, and Naomi Campbell closed it.
To add insult to injury, West had a children’s choir made up of kids from Ye Academy sing songs as the models started to walk the runway.
Will he ever stop making these kinds of comments toward the Black community? Watching anyone experience mental illness is complicated, and it’s becoming only more challenging.