Can the man who proclaimed that slavery “seemed like a choice” shock the world anymore? Yes, it seems he can. Having designed both clothing and music over the years, Ye is also responsible for orchestrating plenty of scandals.The voicing of his opinions has proven to have caused chaos in the past, but as the events of this week have unfolded, they have moved beyond being mere examples of the manipulation of cancel culture, to behaviour that is solely “indefensible” as described by Gabriella Karefa-Johnson.
This week, Ye surprised the fashion world this season with his last minute and initially unscheduled showing in Paris, drawing around 50 editors in, before shocking them with its content. The collection took place in an empty office block just a short distance from the Arc de Triomphe, and featured a predominantly dark colour palette, a few big names (Michele Lamy and Naomi) walking, and a preoccupation with exaggerated silhouettes, courtesy of celebrated puffer designer Dingyun Zhang. However, by the end of the (nearly 2 hours late) showing, no one really cared.
Instead, YZY S9 was lost within a sea of (rightly-elicited) socio-political outrage, thanks to a slew of slogan t-shirts, whos front featured a graphic of Pope John Paul II and the words “Seguiremos tu ejemplo” (“We will follow your example”), and who’s back read “White Lives Matter”. A racist, harmful and destructive statement, considered to be one of hate by the Anti-defamation league which called out the phrase as the antithesis of Black Lives Matter.
The garment was worn by Ye himself, a selection of his models including Selah Marley, and by right-wing commentator Candace Owens, a guest at the show who was seemingly, and unsurprisingly, the shirt’s only supporter. Those attending were quick to show their disapproval of the controversial item, with both Jaden Smith and Lynette Nylander, global editor of Dazed, exiting the event upon seeing it. Smith brought his disappointment to Twitter, writing: “I don’t care who it is, if I don’t feel the message, I’m out”, whilst Nylander described feeling made to look “a fool” by being there at all.
When being interviewed by Vogue on the eve of his Parisian show, Ye included its upcoming theme, stating: “There’s just people. From the same planet. And sometimes, in high school, it feels like we don’t fit in. And in a situation like this, we have the opportunity to come together to express who we are.” A seemingly empty, if not benign statement that has ultimately been seen to be anything but.
Shortly following the show, Vogue editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson shared some thoughts on her Instagram story – discussing what she thought Ye was trying to do, but ultimately critiquing it as a harmful and indefensible act. What followed was an online smear campaign, led by Ye himself, which saw him post pictures of Gabriella with inflammatory statements, personal insults and a whole load of rambling in between. Then came the attack on LVMH and Bernard Arnault – who as Ye described, “killed his best friend”.
Bringing Virgil into the conversation was, if not just wildly unnecessary, a hurtful blow that many could not ignore. Tremaine Emory, creative director of Supreme, soon took to Instagram to call Ye out – stating “I gotta draw the line at you using Virgil’s death in your ‘ye’ is the victim campaign…this time last year you said Virgil’s designs are a disgrace to the black community in front of all your employees at yeezy…don’t let me get into the things you said about v after his death”.
He went on, “Ye tell the ppl why you didn’t get invited to Virgil’s actual funeral the one before the public one at the museum (and why you weren’t allowed to speak at the public funeral). You knew Virgil had terminal cancer and you rode on him in group chats, at yeezy, interviews, songs etc…YOU ARE SO BROKEN. KEEP VIRGIL NAME OUT YOUR MOUTH…KEEP @gabriellak_j NAME OUT YOUR MOUTH…Your not a victim your just an insecure narcissist that’s dying for validation from the fashion world” (sic).
Explosive, to say the least. In a bizarre twist by the time we had all woken up this morning, Ye had removed his posts from the day before – replacing it with Gabriella’s BOF 500 press shot and revealing that he had met with the editor in Paris, talked things through, and that they “had both apologised”. Even more bizarre was the information that Anna Wintour organised Baz Luhrmann to film this meeting, which is currently being edited.
Whilst many of these events over the last few hours have been destructive, confusing and just plain ridiculous – we have to question the point of making Ye and Gabriella’s ‘reconciliation’ into another, large-scale spectacle. Drawing on one of the biggest directors in the world only elevates what should never have happened, yet alone been broadcast globally, to a higher pedestal – and to be honest, when will enough be enough? Whilst much of the fashion industry appears to be waking up to Ye’s constant barrage of harmful statements, it remains to be seen as to whether this sentiment will last. Or if the industry and wider world will experience the collective amnesia that has allowed this to go on for as long as it has once again.
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