Kanye West has courted controversy many times over. But his spectacle yesterday, at a surprise Paris Fashion Week show for YZY – a brand that has apparently lost control of its vowels as well as its senses – appears to be the tipping point.
With right-wing commentator Candace Owens sitting proudly on the front row – and later posting a series of snaps from backstage – the show opened with a speech: “Everyone here knows that I am the leader,” Ye, as West prefers to be known, told the audience. “You can’t manage me. This is an unmanageable situation.”
Then came the clothes: mostly futuristic, military-influenced pieces that were not too dissimilar to most of his past collections. However, it was the presence of long-sleeved T‑shirts – the words “White Lives Matter” written across the back – that created controversy. The use of the term, which has been described as a white supremacist slogan by the Anti-Defamation League caused some – including Jaden Smith and editor Lynette Nylander – to walk out. Earlier today, Ye shared an Instagram story that said: “Everyone knows that Black Lives Matter was a scam. Now it’s over. You’re welcome.”
This is not the first time that Ye has made headlines for the wrong reasons. Following his much publicised support of Donald Trump, in July 2020, he laid out his own presidential goals, telling Forbes: “I’m pro-life because I’m following the word of the Bible” – a stance that feels even more disturbing following the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June.
Then came his Donda listening party in Chicago in August 2021, an event at which he paraded Marilyn Manson, who at the time was facing four counts of sexual abuse allegations, in front of a packed audeince. Ye recruited Manson to collaborate on the Donda track Jail 2 – also featuring disgraced rapper DaBaby – and he prayed alongside Manson at one of his Sunday Service ceremonies later in the year.
What’s notable this time however, is the reaction. No matter how problematic his comments and behaviour have been over the years, Ye has continued to be embraced and celebrated by the fashion and creative industries. Videos of last night’s YZY front row flooded Instagram stories, while various publications – who have spoken out against the very issues that Ye has consistently aligned himself with – chose to ignore the “White Lives Matter” T‑shirt in their coverage.
Despite being a man who has suggested “slavery was a choice”, who has displayed his support for the former-President by wearing a MAGA hat, and who caused, what she described herself as, “emotional distress” to his ex-wife, Kim Kardashian, Ye creates a lot of opportunities for a lot of cutting-edge artists and designers. People in the fashion and music industries have continued to jump at the chance to work with him, despite knowing his opinions. Many more have turned a blind eye. If comments from industry figures now are to go by – most notably stylist and editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, who Ye chose to mock on his Instagram – they are turning a blind eye no more.
Goodbye Kanye West, we hardly knew Ye, many will say. The problem is, we knew him all too well.