Long Nguyen is the co-founder and style director of Flaunt.
PARIS--Fashion can be a cruel business, when one minute you’re hot and the next you’re forgotten, never to be heard from again. But fashion is also a place where redemption can occur; one good show can wipe out the previous seasons’ debacles…just like that.
Kanye West’s debut collection was simply bad, even for those of us who actually rooted for him to succeed. Because the negative criticism of his spring collection was fairly unanimous, it cannot be dismissed as media bias. “Has he learned a hard lesson and can he redeem himself?” was the question on our minds as the car breached the secure steel gate to enter the back docks of the vast Halle Freyssinet complex on a frigid Tuesday night.
While there were areas of improvement over last season’s chaos, the show still lacked the main ingredients for good fashion – original design and more importantly, creating desire in consumers.
The opening looks were the strongest of the show. Black leather and other skins like astrakhan and crocodile dominated the show, and were what connected the pieces in a theme. Taken apart, the different versions of the biker jacket could find customers at retail depending on the quality of the production (if there will be production) and on the pricing. I liked the boxy hooded leather coat but it should not have been paired with a loose velvet dress. At the very least, Mr. West knew from seeing many fashion shows and from shopping high fashion that leather is a must for fall.
But too many furs and skins piling onto one look can also be disastrous and too much of a good thing. (See: the grey astrakhan coat worn with a large red fox fur cape over a black leather skirt.) Sometimes in fashion less is more. But I didn’t mind the orange fox coat paired with a slim leather shirt and pants.
One of Mr. West’s design strengths is probably his obsession with shoes. He has collaborated with Louis Vuitton, Giuseppe Zanotti and with Nike on sneakers in recent years. The thigh high boots with leather ‘belts’ should be a retail success if he can have them produced and placed at certain strategic stores like Colette in Paris, Jeffrey in New York and The Webster in Miami Beach. The fox fur backpacks and the suede and leather backpack-handbag combo were also nice additions. Accessories often have to be a focal point in order to develop a fashion business.
Does Mr. West want his collection to compete with other luxury brands? If so, he sure has a lot of competition. I think Mr. West understood this when prior to the finale he entertained us with go-kart racing on the two small race tracks behind the long, single file, front-row-only seating.
Fashion, like car racing, is a tough game. To win, Mr. West has to be able to draw consumers to the clothes and the accessories like he did with his music. That’s an enormous challenge and I'm not sure he did it with his second show.