yeezy season five was kanye west's meditation on fame

What does it really mean to wear a "Calabasas" hoodie?

by Rory Satran
16 February 2017, 3:20am

Calabasas, California is about as far away from the European capitals of ready-to-wear as you can get. Yet the nouveau riche Los Angeles suburb most famous for sheltering the likes of Justin Bieber and the Kardashians (and now, Drake) has become an unlikely influence on the fashion industry, thanks to the efforts of beleaguered musician and designer Kanye West. Today's Yeezy Season Five show at Pier 59 in New York showed utilitarian separates, much of them emblazoned with the city and its nicknames: "Calabasas," "Lost Hills," "Agoura," "91302." A Raf Simons devotee, West appeared intent on elevating the cradle of reality television to the status of Antwerp in Raf's iconic 2001 "Riot, Riot, Riot" collection. (West has been seen out and about in an ultra-rare "Antwerp" hoodie from it.)

But while "Riot, Riot, Riot" was an ode to the Manic Street Preachers, and the British musical subcultures Raf worshiped, Kanye used its aesthetics to portray the most mainstream culture possible. West's fixation on Raf has been present for years, in both his personal styling as well as in the slouchy, military-influenced looks of every Yeezy collection. But this is the first time he seemed to be pairing that style with a conscious meditation on fame.

Because logos that read "Calabasas" and "91302" might as well say "Kardashians" or "Famous." That area has been synonymous with reality television since Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey filmed Newlyweds there in 2003. Unlike the more congested parts of L.A., you can build enormous mansions in Calabasas, and the gated communities like Hidden Hills keep megastars safe from paparazzi. As Grantland stated in its excellent history of the town, "It's the polar opposite of the hood." It's also the polar opposite of Antwerp, or any other city that might boast a fashion academy or a couture atelier. But for Kanye and Drake, it's also home, and this collection proves that Ye unabashedly wants to make Calabasas The Next Big Thing.

The format of the presentation, too, showed Kanye's fascination with fame as an idea. Perhaps bored with writers like me reporting more on the front row than on the clothing, he rethought the runway show model completely. Editors today tipped their heads (and phones) way back to see the models projected, rotating, on a screen. The diverse cast, including hijabi model Halima Aden, appeared literally larger-than-life. Just like Kanye when we see him on the big screen at a concert. And the drama of the front row was not totally abandoned, as Kim leaped up before the music had stopped to stride backstage (followed by Anna Wintour). Dressed in head-to-toe burgundy Yeezy, she looked like she was walking the runway.

Of course, these giant model projections were wearing clothes, some good ones too. There were loose camouflage pants and parkas. The first two looks were channeling early Ralph Lauren, with Yeezy's first foray into denim, along with a denim barn jacket, and some flannel. Sneakers, over-the-knee boots, and enormous canvas bags rounded out the straightforward accessories lineup.

There was a deliberately low-key scruffiness to the styling, like famous people at the airport. Baseball caps, loose layers, a slight mom fit to the jeans. What you wear when you don't want to be chased by the paparazzi (but you also don't want them to think you're a normal person, thus the snakeskin thigh-high boots). Makeup was minimal, and hair was appealingly loose with natural texture.

How does fame affect the way we dress? When someone is always watched -- on television, on social media -- how do they want to be seen? Is an insistence on comfort a reaction to constant exposure? No one is better positioned to provoke these questions than the man whose most recent hit was called "Famous."


Text Rory Satran

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