Last month Yeezy wore a jacket inspired by homeless youth Tweaky Dave. Now he might be selling one.
The designer of the jacket Kanye owns credited Dave on his Instagram.
Last month during New York Fashion Week, Kanye West wore a replica of a jacket that originally belonged to Tweaky Dave, a homeless, heroin-addicted teenager. Dave and the original jacket were both immortalised by photographer Jim Goldberg in his 1995 book Raised by Wolves. Fans of Jim's work were quick to recognise the garment and questioned the tastefulness of a celebrity wearing an item made famous by the troubled teen.
Fast-forward a month, and Kanye's launched pop-up shop for his latest album, The Life of Pablo, in downtown Manhattan. The store was a huge success, and over the course of a single weekend the artist sold over US$1 million of Pablo themed merchandise. One of the items available for sale was a vintage-looking denim jacket which had been printed with the now-famous image of the album's tracklist, almost completely obscured by the signatures of artists and family who attended Ye's studio sessions.
To be clear, the $400 jacket available for purchase wasn't an exact replica of Dave's, but it held a strong resemblance to the jacket Kanye had previously stepped out in. In essence, you could call it a copy of a copy. Kanye's own one-off Dave replica was made by Australian designer Pauly Bonomelli, who is apparently a fan of Jim's work. Before it made its way to Kanye, Paul posted a picture of the jacket with the caption, "R.I.P. Dave." By the time Mr West wore it any mention of Dave or Jim has disappeared.
Jim Goldberg, who took the original photo, is upset. Speaking to i-D, Jim recalled his frustration when he first found out about the arguable remake: "For the jacket to become sold as fashion -- it really put me over the edge".
Jim explained that the lack of knowledge and respect surrounding the design is what bothers him most. "The spirit and intention of Kanye could be right, but the manner in which he is presenting it is wrong. All meaning has been lost. [He's] forgetting history -- not acknowledging where that design came from is wrong."
Over twenty years later, Jim is still in possession of the original jacket. It was a gift from Dave who passed away more than a decade ago. Since Dave's death Jim says he feels it's his duty to act as the guardian of his legacy. Dave left home young to escape his physically and sexual abusive father, with dreams of being a rock star. He headed to Hollywood where he became an icon in his own little world. At one point the teenager appeared on the Jerry Springer Show and spoke of his life on the streets. He painted a bleak picture of his heroin use and how he had to turn to sex work to survive.
In the years since the original photo was taken, both the image and the increasingly infamous jacket have come to serve as Dave's final remembrance. While the nuances around appropriation, inspiration and straight rip offs are complex, it's easy to see how some onlookers feel unsettled by the rich profiting from Dave's memory. Yeezy has never been shy about proclaiming his admiration for fellow designers, musicians and his respect for youth culture -- so why not give Dave a shout out?
Each year, it's estimated that over a half million youth in the United States will experience a homeless episode that lasts longer than one week. Jim says he's frustrated by this situation as a lost opportunity to raise awareness for those kids. Presently, he's is planning to take legal action, but realistically this could prove difficult as the jacket that was sold wasn't an exact replica. At the end of the day, Jim stresses that he's not asking for much; "Ultimately all I would want from them is acknowledgement of Dave, and maybe they give something to homeless kids," explains Jim, who's still exploring all his options. "I don't know how to achieve that, but that's what I would want to achieve." Your move, Yeezy.
Text Tyler Watamanuk
Image via Twitter