Noelle McCarthy: Kanye's style and influence

By Noelle McCarthy

Kanye West, pictured here at the Alexander Wang show with photographer Terry Richardson (left), is a blow-hard, but his vulnerability is authentic. Photo / Dario Cantatore/Invision/AP
Kanye West, pictured here at the Alexander Wang show with photographer Terry Richardson (left), is a blow-hard, but his vulnerability is authentic. Photo / Dario Cantatore/Invision/AP

Kanye West reminds me of myself. I just watched his Zane Lowe interview and I'm the same as he is: I don't get why everyone doesn't get how much I get it. When I'm out for dinner with Anna Wintour I want her to shut up and listen. I want Hedi Slimane to look at those $5000 jeans he's putting out, and I want him to know that it's been happenin' for a minute.

I wouldn't say that to their faces, though. Not even if I had the means of doing so. I wouldn't publicly claim to be a source of inspiration for couture designers and demand that they admit it.

This is where Kanye and I differ. Ever the titanic solipsist, this interview begins, as usual, with Kanye claiming to have invented music. Around the 14-minute mark, though, something new emerges. This is when he recalls his putative foray into fashion design. He brought some ideas to Fendi, he says. They weren't into it. Kanye believes they dropped the ball in this matter.

His response to their short-sightedness is startling and original.

"How many mother******s you done seen with the leather jogging pants?'' he roars at Zane Lowe. One of the great rhetorical questions of our age, clearly.

What follows then, is a characteristically surreal and weirdly brilliant diatribe against fashion idiots who don't understand Kanye's contribution to their industry, fools like Slimane, who doesn't realise "it's been happening for a minute".

"It" being Kanye's steez [style with ease] in general, and leather jogging pants, presumably, in particular. Leather jogging pants are a reasonably arcane signifier but the message is clear nonetheless: no one at Saint Laurent or Fendi is doing anything that Kanye hasn't done already.

So far, so self-aggrandising, and predictable. None of this is surprising, coming as it does from the great narcissist of our generation. There's something endearing about this interview, though, something very human about all this frustration.

Here's a guy who is rich and handsome, and talented and famous. But Fendi didn't take him seriously, and it still rankles, six years later. He's spent decades singing about Gucci, and Versace and all the other labels. He wants the love from high fashion. He's not getting it.

He's got no credibility in this area. He and his girlfriend can't get on the style lists, even when Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci's dressing them. Kanye is a blow-hard, but his vulnerability is authentic.

Now that he's mixed up with the low rent Kardashians, he's smart enough to know he's not taken seriously and sensitive enough to hate it. That's why he's calling Hedi Slimane out in interviews and shouting at talk-show hosts on Twitter. That's why he's telling Zane Lowe, "We culture," repeatedly.

But being "culture" as Kanye calls it - that is, being stylish and influential - that's like Margaret Thatcher's quote about being powerful, or being a lady. You're not if you have to say you are. It's been like that for a minute, Kanye.


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