Long Nguyen is the co-founder/style director of Flaunt.
PARIS--In the car on the way past the Luxembourg gardens towards the Pantheon near where Kanye West held his debut womenswear collection on the fourth floor of the Lycée Henri IV, I thought about all those times that I had gone to the Baby Phat by Kimora Lee Simmons show where clearly entertainment and not fashion was the main attraction. It was the era when bling triumphed over substance. Somehow I was hoping that this would not be the case for Kanye West. In fact, I was ardently hoping this would not be the case. Yet, I know that fashion is a roll of dice and in many cases one does not get double sixes, once or ever.
I remembered back in May 2007 when we shot Mr. West for Flaunt’s September 2007 fashion issue, he told me of his interest in someday doing a fashion line. Over the years, at the shows in Paris and New York, he has been a constant presence, sometimes an unwelcome one. But attending these shows was like being enrolled in fashion school. Seeing how other designers present their collections is like learning on the job. At the very least, one cannot fault his commitment and his enthusiasm for fashion which lead to last night's show. And he did so with the full support of the fashion crowd--the Olsen sisters, Dean and Dan Caten, Alexander Wang, Joseph Altuzarra and many top magazine editors were there.
"Ready or not, here I am, you can’t hide..." was the vocal blasting on the sound system inside the cocoon-like white rectangular space lit by violet black light as Anja Rubik entered wearing a black heavy quilted leather jacket with a large slit on the sleeve over a leather skirt. Chanel Iman followed wearing a black shirt, leather pants flared at the legs and a large fox stole or shoulder cape and a black leather dress with rectangular frontal cut. If the temperature in Paris has been 20 degrees cooler, all the heavy leather, fox fur and what appeared to be wool cotton felt on a black zippered coat might seem like more of a spring collection. But we tend to forget that it is always fall-winter somewhere else in the world and that Mr. West has a large global fan base.
Of the 23 looks showed, there were a few that I think might work for a certain customer-- if the collection is sold in stores--like the white jacket, white slim pants and a knit wrap sweater tied around the waist. I didn’t mind the simple long sleeve camel mini dress with the fox fur backpack either. But the salmon dress with two side zippers up the sides and the nude bandage dress with cut-outs seemed awkward, even on the models. In terms of design, I couldn't make out the purpose of the side twisted ivory skirt--the volume and the twisting effect that raised one side of the skirt higher than the other make the garment nearly unwearable in real life. No women could sit in that skirt.
In fashion, Mr. West has to remember the refrain of the song he preached to us on the show’s soundtrack--"You can run but you can’t hide." Now that he has put in a great deal of effort into making this showing a reality, Mr. West needs to consider the reality of the fashion business. At a certain level, I think he can have a niche business, one backed by a limited edition sportswear collection and a few accessory items. There were some hints of that sportswear here. It seemed that he might have rushed to put on this show without working out how to cut and merchandise the collection.
Immediately following the show, with the heat rising and the loud music still blasting away, surrounded by a throng of journalists and greeters backstage, Mr. West could be heard saying that he was really scared about launching this collection. His greatest fear is still about overcoming the stereotype of a celebrity designers or, worse, a rapper-designer, he said. Perhaps this show of hubris and the desire to listen and learn from experience will eventually transform his fashion work into a plausible and sustainable collection. That is, if he wants to stay in fashion for the long haul.
**All photos: Getty