Kanye West has, once again, caused controversy among fashion circles and beyond with his inconsiderate and incredibly dangerous antics at Paris Fashion Week. The rap star-turned-fashion designer often blurs the line of what is publicly acceptable and what isn’t, but this time, has Ye gone too far?
The answer is an unequivocal ‘yes’.
On Monday evening, West held a “surprise” runway show at Paris Fashion Week for an invite-only crowd of 50, showcasing the highly-anticipated Yeezy Season 9. He started the show off by greeting guests with a five-minute monologue of the usual ramblings; he spoke about Kim Kardashian’s 2016 robbery, his former manager Scooter Braun and his fallout with GAP. “Everyone here knows that I am the leader … you can’t manage me. This is an unmanageable situation,” he said.
But what was most disturbing wasn’t the rhetoric he was spewing. Rather, it was the T-shirt he was wearing emblazoned with three powerful words: ‘White Lives Matter’, a phrase widely associated with hate groups and white supremacists. The Anti-Defamation League even categorises the phrase, which reframes the Black Lives Matter phrase, as a hate statement.
The carelessness – or perhaps ill-intended – actions of West have elicited fierce criticism and outrage amongst his fashion brethren and celebrity circles, as well as across social media and beyond. Those three words couldn’t be more dangerous and irresponsible, especially when promoted by one of the world’s most notable celebrities on a global stage like Paris Fashion Week.
— Candace Owens (@RealCandaceO) October 3, 2022
The shirt worn by West and rightwing commentator Candace Owens (above) featured a photo of Pope John Paul II on the front. The T-shirt was also worn throughout the show by models on the catwalk. High-profile fashion editors walked out of the show mid-way in disgust, like Gabriella Karefa-Johnson of Vogue, as well as celebrities like Jaden Smith.
According to The Independent, Smith was said to have tweeted in a now-deleted post, “I can’t stand behind what Kanye’s saying, he does not have the full support of the youth.”
Editors, journalists, designers, celebrities and social commentators have taken to social media to call out West’s abhorrent behaviour, including the damage this stunt will contribute to the wider Black Lives Matter cause.
“I gotta draw the line at you using Virgil’s death in your ‘ye’ is the victim campaign in front your sycophant peanut algorithm gallery,” said Emory.
“…YOU ARE SO BROKEN. KEEP VIRGIL NAME OUT YOUR MOUTH…KEEP @gabriellak_j [Gabriella Karefa-Johnson] NAME OUT YOUR MOUTH…Your not a victim your just an insecure narcissist that’s dying for validation from the fashion world…take care…at least we’ll always have ‘UGANDA’.”
The attorney for Ahmaud Arbery’s family also spoke out in protest of West’s actions.
“Kanye West’s ‘White Lives Matter’ Stunt ‘Legitimizes’ Extremist Behavior. The rapper promoting the slogan helps “direct support and legitimize extremist behaviour, [much] like the behaviour that took the life of her son.”
In true Kanye West fashion, the rapper singled out Vogue contributing editor and stylist Gabriella Karefa-Johnson – much like a bully would – after she denounced West and his actions, calling it “indefensible behaviour” and an “incredibly irresponsible and dangerous act.” In response, West took to his own Instagram account to publicly ridicule and shame Karefa-Johnson, pointing out her choice in clothing as well as her appearance, in posts that have since been deleted.
Vogue publicly announced its support for Gabriella Karefa-Johnson.
This isn’t the first time West’s problematic comments about race has caused controversy (but hopefully it’s his last). In 2018, he said 400 years of slavery in the US “sounds like a choice,” comments which he later retracted.
The Yeezy Season 9 Paris runway marked West’s return to the high-fashion world after stints collaborating with GAP and Adidas which, as we all know, have since ended.