Kanye West Spring 2012: The Critics Weigh In
One of the most anticipated shows of Paris Fashion Week wasn’t from an iconic design house or storied designer—it was Kanye West’s debut collection, likely his first runway show where he wasn’t sitting front row.
The collection was heavy on the glamour and sex appeal, as expected—necklines cut to there and open zippers exposing slashes of skin. There were luxe fur accents, lots of leather, a relatively clean color palette, and all the top models in the business (Anya, Chanel, Karlie, Abbey Lee … ). So what did the critics think?
Christina Binkley of the Wall Street Journal didn’t mince words. “Good Thing Kanye West Has a Day Job” was the headline of her story, where she cited West’s Hervé Léger-esque bandage dress, a beaded top that “recalled the Flintstones,” and “precariously” plunging necklines.
“I liked the perforated black leather. Yet a vast quantity of luxury materials can’t blind people to a lack of creative marksmanship,” Binkley wrote. “There’s something about fashion design that makes untrained people think they can do it, too. Never mind the years of study and practice it takes to create Azzedine Alaïa or Alexander McQueen, whose designs reveal that a few millimeters of fabric is the difference between excellent and also-ran.”
Binkley wasn't the only one who took issue with West's lack of formal training. "To quote my wise former boss Bridget Foley: I sit in chairs, but it doesn't mean I can be a furniture designer," tweeted writer Meenal Mistry.
Photos: Getty Images
Looks from the Dw by Kanye West Spring 2012 show
Eric Wilson for the New York Times found the collection “confusing.” He wrote, “There was one good-looking pair of color-blocked pants in blue and coral, but it was obvious that most of the clothes suffered from a poor fit. (That may be because the fittings were rushed. Chanel Iman said Mr. West called her in New York only the day before and asked her to fly over to walk in the show.)”
His colleague Cathy Horyn at the Times tweeted her disapproval, calling the collection "overkill" and writing, "Next season Kanye should get a tailor so clothes might fit. Models swimming in some looks. Kills the hot look, no?"
Style.com was slightly more sympathetic. “The context was impeccable—soundtrack and staging exactly what you'd expect from someone whose 360-degree vision has been responsible for some of the best albums and concerts of the past decade. The clothes? Heavy might be the operative word,” wrote Tim Blanks. “It's kind of a cheap shot to go the trying-too-hard route with someone who is so undoubtedly passionate about what he is doing, but at the same time, it's frustrating that someone who seems to almost effortlessly realize his vaulting musical ambitions comes up short elsewhere, at least on the first attempt.”
Women’s Wear Daily noted the influence of West’s coterie of designer pals—after all, the likes of Joseph Altuzarra, Azzedine Alaïa, and Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen sat in the front row to support him. “A white dress with a strip of a racer back and a pair of colorful leather pants were nice,” the paper wrote. “But in general the leathers and cuts were too clunky. The rest of the collection cribbed from the work of the designers he admires, many of whom were sitting in the audience, and whose ranks he intends to join.”
Jessica Michault of the International Herald Tribune also commented on West's dubious inspiration: "I think that every one of the designers sitting in the front row at Kanye West must have had a deja vue [sic] moment at some point during the show," she tweeted. "The Kanye West show, in my humble opinion, is proof that everyone can love fashion but not everyone can be a fashion designer."
At least one show attendee had plenty of praise for West: singer Ciara. “This doesn't happen every day, and to see someone like Kanye, who aspires to succeed in fashion, to get so much respect and cross over like this, it was monumental,” she told MTV News. “It was an historic moment."