One in a series on the looks that had people talking at New York Fashion Week.
NEW YORK — As much of the melodrama and hype that could reasonably be shed from any public event involving Kanye West was, in fact, stripped away Wednesday afternoon. In contrast to previous years, the venue of choice for the presentation of his Yeezy Season 5 sportswear collection was not a stadium, an island or even a closely held secret. It was Pier 59, set along the West Side Highway on the edge of Chelsea — a place made famous as part of fashion geography in the “The Devil Wears Prada,” when Miranda Priestly reels off a list of demands that sounds like incomprehensible Sanskrit to her new assistant.
There were looky-loos lined up outside, but organizers kept them from clogging up the walkway. There was modest confusion at the front door — but that was mostly due to a single, rogue security guard who bellowed orders to “FORM A LINE” at a calmly assembled group of guests as if he was a maximum security cop corralling a mob of rioting felons. (This fellow, a regular in West-ville, really needs to practice meditation.)
Pier 59 houses a series of photography studios — large loft spaces that can be transformed to suit a renter’s imagination. West left his studio as a simple black box — albeit one with a very good sound system.
Unlike in the past, there was no interminable wait. No models fainted because, in fact, West made very little use of models — live ones, at least.
Instead, like several other fashion brands this season, such as Zac Posen and Rag and Bone, Yeezy relied on two-dimensional imagery.
The show was essentially a video. Pictures of models were cast on a two-story box situated in the center of the room. There was an image of a model in camouflage pants, boxy work shirts, an image of a woman in thigh-high boots, a picture of an oversize burgundy sweatshirt, the all-important sneakers and novelty sweatshirts embossed on the back with references to Calabasas — the southern California city that is home to the Kardashian clan.
When the last of the giant images ceased twirling on the screens, the lights brightened just a little and live models paraded out for a finale walk. And then: nothing.
West didn’t emerge to take a bow or to wave at his audience. So it was unclear if there was a part three to the production. Guests sat quietly until West’s wife, Kim Kardashian — looking as puzzled as everyone else — stood up and headed backstage. The show was over.
There was no West soliloquy about the lack of creativity in the fashion industry. There was no aggrieved speech about the world’s failure to appreciate the fruits of his imagination. He did not declare himself the savior of Seventh Avenue.
Instead, West let the clothes speak for him. He let the clothes stand alone. Good for him.
That doesn’t mean the clothes were particularly eloquent — but to say that is not cruel criticism of West. The vast majority of what is on display during Fashion Week here is not particularly compelling. Just as most novels are not National Book Award winners and most chefs aren’t James Beard nominees.
West’s fashion falls solidly in the middle of the bell curve. He excels at connecting popular culture and popular fashion. He understands how folks on the street dress and how they want to be perceived. Wearing his clothes would surely make some kid from the suburbs feel like one of the effortlessly cool rappers who are part of West’s universe.
But West isn’t offering those customers any insights into how they might want to dress a year from now. He’s not helping them move to the next chapter. He’s selling merchandise.
And that’s fine. Because accomplishing something grander and more creative than that is difficult by a daunting magnitude.
From this vantage point, West seems to have taken an arm’s length view of his work and assessed it with some detachment. No, it did not need to be displayed against a backdrop of hubris and chest-beating shenanigans. He did not promise something transformative and then offer up banalities. He didn’t promise anything, really.
He just gave his audience some mellow, comfy, hipster clothes. And he’s allowing the marketplace to judge them without the usual bloviating roar.
Does the world need to wait breathlessly for Yeezy Season 6? No. But based on this collection, there’s also no need to dread it.
Also at New York Fashion Week: