Earlier this week, Kanye West dropped Season 6 of his much-blogged-about Yeezy clothing line. The 16-look collection includes leggings, bike shorts, and crop tops in the brand’s signature muted hues—but unlike previous Yeez-ons (that’s “Yeezy seasons,” for the uninformed), this particular release isn’t flying off the virtual shelves. Truth be told, it’s looking a little tired.
The last-minute cancellation of Yeezy’s NYFW show in September left the fashion industry whispering about the fate of the rapper-turned-designer’s line, and looking back, was an ominous foreshadowing of the underwhelming collection to come. Previous Yeezy shows weren’t always critically well-received, but they at least contained some small grain of inspiration—deconstructed pieces; oversized elements less concerned with sex than they were sculpture; the occasional appearance of colors like oxblood and rosehip, or slogans and camo, or materials like shearling and vinyl.
You read that right; I’m lamenting the absence of camo and vinyl, because that’s how boring, and how stingy, Yeezy Season 6 is. Commodifying simplicity has worked for any number of designers, from Yohji Yamamoto to Jil Sander and Calvin Klein to Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow of Public School—however, to truly pull it off necessitates a refined imagination and a level of luxury both absent from West’s latest effort (or lack thereof). This season’s color palette looks like the result of everything being thrown together in the laundry (on the standard cycle, of course, considering this collection is even heavier on terrycloth, cotton, and poly blends than usual), garments bleeding into each other and ultimately absorbing a uniform murky wash from the drum of the machine. And the cuts? Think less Rick Owens, and more American Apparel. Or, honestly, Hanes.
But more than the clothes themselves, the nail in Yeezy’s coffin may be Season 6’s smart on paper but misguided in practice marketing. Whereas previous rollouts included typically over-the-top Kanye stunts like partnering with performance artists and courting pandemonium at Madison Square Garden, the sole spectacle this season is West’s wife and muse Kim Kardashian West—who in lieu of September’s NYFW show, promoted her spouse’s designs in a string of awkward hashtagged tweets, complete with mock-paparazzi photos now featured prominently on the Yeezy Supply site.
Wherein lies the problem. For all his success, West has always maintained at least the partial image of a cult hero—be it through innovative albums like 808s & Heartbreak or uncensored, stream of consciousness award show speeches and nationally televised impromptu critiques of George W. Bush \—but with Kim as the face of the brand and Kris Jenner, one imagines, steering the aforementioned social media strategy, there’s no subversion left for ‘Ye to claim. Where Yeezy’s casting and styling once offered a compelling quality of androgyny, Kim gives predictable, sex-oozing video girl; and frankly, the meta-celebrity theme of the campaign photos is lazy and out of touch if not, considering West’s own history of attempting to shield himself and his family from the paps, perverse.
Which isn’t a slight to Kim, not that she’d be bothered anyway. Her ascension from exploited sex tape subject to uber-commercial, hundred-plus-millionaire mogul has been remarkable, but to the remaining semblance of edgy Kanye, it’s toxic; and while there’s no shortage of people clamoring to buy whatever clothing, diet products, or sunless tanner she puts her own name on, it’s doubtful that her and Kanye’s fan bases overlap significantly in realms of budget or taste. Kim may have kash, but she lacks cachet; and in the Kardashian-West machine’s attempt to cross-pollinate between brands, the house formerly known as Yeezy has been, once and for all, defanged.
On the bright side for ‘Ye and co, Yeezy sneakers continue to sell out, with a seemingly better targeted strategy of bundling to beat the resale market. Pablo willing, Kris will keep her hands far from that.