Kanye West on "Jimmy Kimmel Live."
Photo: ABC/Jimmy Kimmel Live
I would track the events leading up to Kanye West's appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live for you, but then, I'd be here writing the biography of Mr. West and all you really want is more context for the things he said last night. More recently, the Kanye x Kimmel chat can be traced back to the revealing interview Ye had with BBC 1 Radio's Zane Lowe wherein he spoke very candidly about classism in the fashion community, his qualifications as a designer, and how he and Virgil Abloh had the idea for leather jogging pants 6 years ago but were turned down by Fendi. It was impassioned, it was classic Kanye, and it made its way into a Jimmy Kimmel sketch which had kids reenact the interview, bleeps and all.
Welp, Ye didn't find it funny and later took to Twitter to let out his frustrations with Kimmel and the spoof. The tweets (which incidentally revealed that Yeezy is preeeeetty gifted in the ways of Meme Generator) have since been deleted, and the two sat down last night to publicly talk it all out and make nice. As with any time you give Kanye an open platform, the conversation was rife with quotables (shouts to our friends at Buzzworthy for putting them all on t-shirts because duh), but it was also littered with some pretty serious fashion subtext. Thus, we're giving Ye's best fashion quotes a closer look.
OFF TO A GOOD START
Kimmel: I guess the first question I should ask is, "Who are you wearing?"
Kanye: Ahh, it's Ralph.
Kimmel: Cramden? Lauren?
Kimmel: Is that a... You have a... Is that a new, uh, grill you have there?
Kanye: Nah, they've been in my mouth for 3 years.
Kimmel: That one on the bottom?
Kimmel: Oh, OK.
I know I said there were serious matters to discuss, but before we get into that, Jimmy's style-centric interview kickoff is too good to miss. Also, it's worth clarifying that Kanye's actually not wearing a grill on his bottom row of teeth. Remember how back in 2010 (3 years ago, if you're keeping track), Kanye replaced his teeth with diamonds? No?? Watch him talk about it on The Ellen Show.
KANYE'S WEDDING STYLE
Kimmel: ...I don't know if you know this, but a lot of people think you're a jerk, and I often, in my own personal conversations, say, "No, I know this guy. He is not a jerk. I'm telling you he is not a jerk." In fact, I think we have a picture which I happened to see on my dad's iPad.
[Cut to photo of Jimmy's dad and Kanye]
Kanye West and Jimmy Kimmel's dad.
Photo: ABC/Jimmy Kimmel Live
This excerpt is less about what's being said (because Jimmy's not actually making any comments about fashion) but about what's being seen. See that picture of Kimmel's dad with what looks like an 808s & Heartbreak-era Kanye? There's a valuable style lesson to be learned here. You can, in fact, wear chambray to a wedding, so long as you elevate it appropriately with a crisp blazer and tie. Noted.
MY FIRST PAIR OF GUCCI SLIPPERS
Kanye: I spent two of my checks in telemarketing when I was 18 years old on, you know, my first pair of Gucci slippers. This is before there was, you know, H&M and Zara. You couldn’t just find cool stuff when you were growing up. And for me, I care about cool stuff. It means something to me, it means stuff to a lot of people that are like me, and that’s what I was talking about on the Zane [Lowe] interview.
First: At 18, Kanye had a telemarketing job. Second: Two of his telemarketing paychecks = retail price of one pair of Gucci slippers circa 1995 market value. Third: Kanye has multiple pairs of Gucci slippers. Fourth (and mind you, this is a major inference): it seems Kanye has an appreciation for H&M and Zara's ability to make "cool stuff" accessible to people who might not have the means to buy high fashion designer products. A break into more High Street-type retail would be a really interesting move for Kanye. Just throwing that out there.
FASHION ISN'T ALWAYS PRACTICAL
Kimmel: Leather jogging pants. That doesn't seem like a practical item to me. It sounds sweaty.
Kanye: Well, fashion isn’t always practical.
BRB, getting "Fashion isn't always practical," on canvas in calligraphy and mounting it in our offices.
LEATHER JOGGING PANTS
Kanye: I remember me and my boy Virgil [Abloh] that created the line Pyrex Vision and helps on Hood By Air and Been Trill and everything, we sat as interns at Fendi, like, 6 years ago. We had cue cards and everything, and the leather jogging pant was one of the ideas we presented that didn’t go through. The reason I brought it up in the Zane interview was because there’s people who made whole careers off of creating leather jogging pants. It became, like, a phenomenon over the past 3 years.
Alright. We heard the Virgil, Fendi, leather jogging pant story in the Zane Lowe interview. That's not news. But I want to talk about this line: "The reason I brought it up in the Zane interview was because there’s people who made whole careers off of creating leather jogging pants." Who knows if this is what he meant, but we certainly can't help but immediately think of En Noir. Of course, a SLEW of other designers rolled out their own versions of the look, including Celine who put out a pair worn by none other than Mr. West's boo Kimmy K (WITH Yeezy's Giuseppe Zanotti heel design, BTW), but En Noir is really the label that ran with it to the point of making the leather jogging pant an iconic part of it's aesthetic.
Kanye West on "Jimmy Kimmel Live."
Photo: ABC/Jimmy Kimmel Live
ON PRODUCTION AND GENIUS
Kanye: I would sit with Hedi Slimane who's now the head designer at Saint Laurent, and he'd say, "Stop giving these big brands your ideas" and everything. And it would just be like... What I was trying to express in the Zane interview is like... Me, I know I’m hip-hop, and I’m a rapper and everything, but I’ve got ideas that could mean something if I could put the proper production around them. So, when I do a Nike Yeezy or a Louis Vuitton shoe, the production around it is on the same level as when I do my CD, when me and Rick Rubin or Mike Dean or whoever are working together. If I go out and make my own t-shirt or something, and I call it "Kanye," everybody's gonna think about when I called myself a creative genius and say, "What’s so genius about this?" But when people line up for the Yeezy, they’re like, "Oh wow, this is really genius." You need that production. But currently in fashion and the way the fashion world works, there’s no... I mean, there's no black guy at the end of the runway in Paris in all honesty. And that’s what I was talking about when the Truman Show hit the boat.
OK. The genius bit, I'm here for. (In case you didn't catch on yet, I'm a card-carrying Kanye apologist, so my pores ooze bias.) This bit about not getting the proper production for it, though? I can't bring myself to settle with. Granted, I am not in there with Kanye. I'm not trying to get a physical fashion product made. I'm definitely not pitching any designs to Fendi. I have no idea how insular that side of the industry is. I'm just not in it. BUT what about the people who have collaborated with Ye? Nigo? Jean Touitou? Also, who is saying Yeezy can't go totally rogue and test out manufacturers himself? Who's saying he can't side-step everyone else? I feel like I'm missing a huge piece of this puzzle.
Kimmel: What about the Steve Harvey Collection?
Kanye: Yea, no. There's no Steve Harvey collection. No extra buttons on jackets or anything like that. [Laughs]
HOW CAN YOU GET A SHOT?
Kanye: So, you know, Michael Jackson had to fight to get his videos on MTV because he was considered to be urban. This was Michael Jackson.
Kimmel: That's true, he was considered a black artist and was not right for MTV at that time, right?
Kanye: Yea, a black artist... So, for me, when I’m in Paris, and I’m sitting at Fashion Week for 9 years and South Park makes fun of our outfits and all this, or people don’t understand why we're there, and I'm getting called names, like, things you can't even say on TV, and I still can’t break that wall down. At a certain point, it’s like Michael Jackson trying to get his videos on because how many—I mean, who do you know who’s more known for clothes than me? And, you know, to not be able to do and produce to the highest level. And to have a meeting with everyone. I’m talking 'bout Andrew Rosen of Theory, this guy over here, this guy that runs this company, Li & Fung, these are the real people that produce the clothes that are on your back, Zara out there with Ortega, H&M, blah blah blah, sit down, I mean, Francois Pinault, blah blah blah. Everyone. And everyone kinda just looks at you like you’re crazy and like you don't crash the Internet. And you’re just like, "How can you get a shot?" And then you try to do it on your own. And no, like, real designers will work for a "rapper." And you just cannot overcome it.
Here Kanye is again with the Zara and H&M mentions, further piquing my curiosity about the prospect of a slightly lower price point for Yeezy designs. But also, this kinda burns out that idea of him going rogue. Turns out, he has gone straight to the manufacturers. He has followed the supply chain to its origin. And still, he's frustrated and unable to produce what he wants because people won't work with him. (For the record, I'm pretty sure I'd work for Kanye, but I think my skill-set doesn't quite match what he's looking for.) I feel like we're on the precipice of a Donda fashion industry exposé documentary. Or at least we should be.
I UNDERSTAND ABOUT QUALITY
Kanye: It’s snobbery, and I’m not into all that snobbery. Like, seriously. Because we have the loudest voice. We have the loudest communication. And all we want to do is make awesome stuff. All we want is a real shot. Not—OK, I’m a celebrity, so that means my line has to cost $10 a t-shirt. No, I understand about quality. I understand about fabrics. I spent 10,000 hours out there. I dedicated my life to this. A lot of people say you have to do music. Imma keep doing music. But what if people told me I couldn’t rap, what woulda happened? What if people told me I couldn't perform? You know?
Kanye points a flashlight on an important discrepancy here. In the celebrity designer landscape, there are a lot of fast fashion lines on the market right now. But there are few celebrities who can effectively crossover into the "legitimate" design space à la Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen or Victoria Beckham. Kanye isn't interested in being a celebrity designer (as in a celebrity who has decided to try design) but rather would prefer to be considered a celebrity designer (a designer so notable he earns celeb status).
THE NEXT RALPH LAUREN
I’m only 36 years old. I have other goals and other things, and I’m gonna use my platform, every platform, to stand up and say, "I want to make something. I want to make the next Ralph Lauren." And that was the point of the Zane interview.
I mean, of course Kanye is going to have other things he wants to create in life. He's a creative person and evidently one who appreciates learning and continuing his education about life and culture and art. That's not a bad thing. Not at all. The Ralph Lauren aspiration is also interesting because this isn't just a fashion giant; it's a brand that vibes so intrinsically with classic Americana, a kind of timeless aesthetic definition of an entire nation. Again, who knows if Kanye just said that because he was wearing RL at the moment or whether this is has been brewing with him for a long time, but it's interesting nonetheless.
IT'S ABOUT AWESOMENESS
People don’t stand up and protect their dreams. People are too scared of getting, you know, spoofed in a way. And the irony of it is: so many people are creatives, think about a creative person at school, when you picture them, you're probably picturing them all the way in the back of class, sketching, or maybe getting beat up. And I'm the one creative—and this is reason I went on stage, this is the reason why I did this, because creatives have been beat up my entire life. And there’s moments where I stood up to drug dealers in Chicago and said, "You can’t have my publishing! Come and kill me. Do whatever you’re gonna do. But you’re not gonna bully me. You’re not gonna stop me. Because my mother made me believe in myself!" No matter how many people tell me, "Stop believing in yourself. Stop seeing what you can do. Stop affirming what you're gonna do and then completing that in real life. That's the improper way to do it," I refuse to follow those rules that society has set up, the way they control people with low self-esteem: with improper information, with branding, with marketing. I refuse to follow those rules. It’s about truth, it’s about information, it's about awesomeness.
Hear that? That's the sound of thousands of printers firing up to pump out copies of this which will then be taped all over the mirrors, lockers, and bedroom walls of America's youth. This is Positive Kanye at his best and most inspiring. The inclusion of this quote isn't so much about how it relates to fashion as a creative industry as it is about how much we just plain like what he's saying.
Kanye: You do help me get money, paparazzi. You help me show people how fresh my outfit is, and that helps me influence people.
Annnnnnnnd this is how Kanye ends his chat with Kimmel (and a long bit about feeling disrespected by the paparazzi). It's perfect.