Yeezy: Kanye West as a Fashion Icon

Since the release of Air Yeezy 1 and his 2009 Louis Vuitton collaboration, Kanye West has led the sneaker market. After releasing Air Yeezy 2 with Nike, West dissed the company via music, ultimately leaving to more freely design and produce what he envisioned. Adidas helped bring this dream to reality.

Kanye West released Yeezy Season 1 in early 2015, making a bold New York Fashion Week premiere of his Adidas collaboration. The first item released was a pair of grey Yeezy 750 boosts. Despite many haters calling these an uglier version of Uggs, the shoes sold out almost immediately post-release. West’s later sneakers were also instant sellouts.

Yeezys are not affordable in the least, with the cheapest going for $200, and 950s costing nearly $600. The pieces from West’s NYFW collection are even worse. Few will agree that $350 for a simple t-shirt is reasonable. It only gets worse from here, with the price getting more ridiculous for sweaters and jackets. People disliked this and started asking why the artist had to make his pieces this expensive.

During an interview with Zane Lowe and Showstudio, West briefly explained his reasoning. Unlike previous collaborations, Yeezy Season 1 was mostly funded by the rapper himself. West paid designers and workers at his Los Angeles studio out-of-pocket, making the price slightly more understandable. Even with such a high price range, he mentioned his goal was simply breaking even. The reason for West’s high maintenance is his wish to ensure quality products. For example, he imports high quality French Terry cotton and uses a unique dye process to get his ideal shade of fabric.

If West remains the main investor of his brand and wishes to maintain quality products, Yeezy will not become affordable any time soon. Many Season 1 pieces even went on sale, but still few could afford them. Unless Adidas steps in to financially assist West, the era of Yeezy may soon pass.

Recently, West has addressed the issue of price, promising his upcoming Season 3 collection will be more affordable than previous lines, as well as announcing his wish to re-release old Yeezy styles so more people can have them. While this is encouraging, no one knows if he has a plan or how far the price will drop, and the sheer popularity of West’s items may mean affordability would make items even more difficult to obtain.

Yeezy being a prime example, how does one explain the hype surrounding celebrity collaborations? Alexander Wang x H&M was overly sporty and blended, appearing to be gathered scraps from Wang’s sketchbook given to H&M. The recent Balmain x H&M collaboration consisted of knockoff Balmain pieces, merely discouraging absurd spending on their regular items. These seem like celebrity designers’ way of boosting popularity and increasing profits rather than appreciation and value of the fashion industry.

Also, celebrity collaborations are spiraling out of control among “hypebeasts,” wannabe fashionistas and resellers. In 2015 alone, people spent about $12.1 million on Yeezys. Many made significant cash by reselling these collaborative pieces. Those who wind up outside the store trying to cop ASAP Rocky’s new collaboration with Guess or Puma and Rihanna’s line should consider why. The hype surrounding collections like these has gone too far, leaving striving to obtain pieces to be pointless unless the consumer spots an item they truly love and cannot find elsewhere. Excitement over new collaborations is great, but no one should waste their time simply due to the intense distraction of celebrity.

Adryan Son is the Deputy Social Media Editor. Email him at violetvision@nyunews.com.

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