Monday, 10 October 2011

What did Anna Wintour think of Kanye's Collection?

Sadly, the only person that can answer that question ultimately chose not to, and while we could probably have some fun trying to speculate why the sudden reluctance to comment, it's probably more fun to discuss the subject matter at hand.

No surprises, then, that Mr West's debut didn't exactly get rave reviews all round. If we are to utilise a Rotten Tomato style system, there'd be a lot of green splats amongst the gleaming red tomatoes. The problem with reviewing a collection like Kanye's is that his situation makes it impossible for anyone to make an unbiased assessment.
To begin with, everyone has preconceptions, good or bad. Most new designers have the advantage of the mystery and excitement of the unkown, but of course, the reverse is that, well, no one knows who you are. This prior knowledge of your talent, calibre and skill as an artist in a different medium means no one can form a separate opinion based soley on your new chosen medium, even if the person makes a conscious decision to ignore any other aspects (even the most single-minded, cave dwelling fashion critic is subject to basic psychological rules, and will know a few of his tunes and have seen his abuse of Taylor Swift on Youtube).
So the expectation of the qualtity of your work will be raised considerably because people assume that you will have exhausted all the help and advice available to you due to your superior connections (and personal wealth), and at the same time they will not expect you to have made a siginificant personal contribution due to your other commitments. An accomplished and well excuted collection will result in spectators concluding that the ghost designers did their job, while a poor collection generates a knowing "back to your day job, love"/"we all saw that coming" quip.
But should he be judged on his dress-making skills alone? Let's see...

I will demonstrate why separating the collection from the rapper is not only difficult, but also undesirable.So let's start with a clean slate, Kanye the designer. His collection is a tribute to his late mother (who died on the operating table for plastic surgery - OK, it's already getting difficult pretending he is a poor, struggling designer) with references from all his favourite designers. Already, the attempt at separation of his artistic pursuits falls apart - the charm of an awestruck newbie paying homage to his idols as he shows off-schedule in a small space in a dodgey area of Paris generates excitement as their full potential may be realised by further exposure to the industry and financial support, which means concessions can be made for the quality of construction or the execution of ideas. This is a rather difficult stance to take when you are Kanye the rapper/designer and your first collection is on schedule right in the middle of Paris Fashion Week. Some have suggested that all designers, new and old, suffer from the odd last minute hiccup which results in ill-fitting garments being shown. I shall humour them and assume that that Kanye is bringing back the bumster, then..

So Kanye may not be the perfect seamstress, but surely we should be concentrating more on his ideas and concepts? Kanye the designer, as already mentioned, is so inspired by the giants of design like Celine and Balmain that the whole collection is positively choc-a-block with references. Scattered among them are lashings of fur trims and shrugs and backpacks. The reason why fur is inappropriate for the Spring Summer 2012 collection is so painfully obvious that I'm not even going to go into it, just say that it was the definitive "WTF" moment.   The also abundant use of heavy leather means this collection could easily be Autmn Winter if he decided to slap that label on it. Maybe he found that thicker textures and trimmings like fox fur coupled with long sleeved dresses and jackets are more fun to play with than season-appropriate materials and designs. I can't help thinking that starting off with an AW collection would have at least avoided the comments about its overall heaviness and the much-mocked pelts. Kanye the rapper/designer has attended enough fashion shows to get to grips with the season cycle and the importance of a cohesive collection with some sort of identity.

Every mistake made in this collection by Kanye the designer should have been addressed because he is also Kanye the really famous rapper with a dream team of designers - the concessions we'd make for a real unknown cannot be applied here. His celebrity has granted him access to an internship and inside help, and transformed him from fan to designer. Of course, I am not so unreasonable as to have expected a perfect collection, but even using the least judgmental part of my judgment, this was a poor offering.

Suffice to say, I respectfully disagree with Kanye's desperate pleas for commentators (admittedly he doesn't give two shits about what I think) to: "...Please be easy. Please give me a chance to grow. This is not some celebrity shit. I don’t fuck with celebrities..." This is celebrity shit to the core, but if you are humble enough, then it may be a good idea to take a leaf out of Victoria Beckham's book, and at least start at NYFW, showing your first collection off privately, in a hotel room.

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