Kanye's Quest

Tim Blanks gets the goods on rap’s biggest fashion lover


Tim Blanks

Tim Blanks

Kanye’s Quest
Tim Blanks gets the goods on rap’s biggest fashion lover

KANYE WEST has become a fixture at the European collections. I think he goes to more shows than me. I look forward to our postshow debriefs because he is so ardent about fashion. He’ll stand in the rain for it, just like everybody else. And he’s totally informed, too.

Kanye says it all goes back to high school in Chicago. “Nobody—not even girls—loved clothes as much as me,” he said when we met at the Louis Vuitton headquarters in Paris. “And even now, the girls I go out with, I take them to the Pierre Hardy store and say, ‘Why don’t you wear these instead of Vans?’”

We met at Vuitton because Kanye has been working on a range of shoes for the label. It’s a very personal project for him, not simply a case of attaching his name to a product range. He’s been drawing shoes since he was a child, then all through art school till he dropped out to make music. (“That went pretty good,” he said drolly. Oh, how we laughed at that with 808s & Heartbreak still high on the charts.) So this is all like coming back to his first love. “My whole schedule is open to work on clothes for the next five months,” Kanye told me in February. “I’m not even going to tour until the summer because I said, ‘This is what I wanna do right now with my life.’ ”

Kanye’s own label is called Past Tell, an oblique reference to lessons we can learn from what’s come before, but also a reflection on the fact he wants his designs to sell because they’re good, not because his name is on them. He’s really been taking his time with the project. After more than a year, Kanye has so far settled on “three good pieces and a belt.” And they are good. He’s been wearing them to shows, along with his favourite labels, such as Lanvin, Ralph Lauren and the cult American name Band of Outsiders.



Kanye West

Kanye West

Photo courtesy of Louis Vuitton

He might make those first few Past Tell pieces available on the Internet soon, but the reason Kanye’s taking his time is that he’s acutely aware of his responsibility to offer only the best. It’s a word he used often when we were talking. About his own appearance, for instance. “Usually, a lot of people with money don’t have taste, but if you do have those two things [money and taste], you have a responsibility to look good.” Or his project with Vuitton. “It’s the same way I treat being an artist. Every time I perform, every video, every interview, I completely respect that so many people don’t have that opportunity. I’m representing all those kids from art school who will never get to design for Louis Vuitton. It’s my responsibility to do their mentality proud.”

There’s a rumour going round that Kanye is overwhelmingly arrogant, but I’ve only ever seen perfectionism and obsessiveness. “That’s a great thing for an artist,” he said. “People say too much of anything is terrible. I don’t believe that, if you’re providing that service for the world. Do you think Michael Jordan or Kobe plays too much basketball if he wins the championship? Do I make too much music?”

And the fact that Kanye will never give less than his utmost is surely the difference between someone else’s arrogance and his own self-belief. He definitely cares about the way he’s misconstrued. “But I don’t have the traditional false modesty a celebrity’s supposed to have. I can’t lie to anybody about the way I feel about myself; I’m too dope. I’m superdope.” Judge him by his product and it’s bloody hard to disagree.

“Kanye’s Quest” has been edited for FLARE.com; the complete story appears in the April 2009 issue of FLARE.