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Kanye West Puts on a Memorable Performance for Adidas

The clothing, however, left something to be desired.
Kanye West takes a bow at his Yeezy presentation for Adidas on Thursday. Photo: Getty Images/Theo Wargo

Kanye West takes a bow at his Yeezy presentation for Adidas on Thursday. Photo: Getty Images/Theo Wargo

Technically it's only day two of Fashion Week, but the most talked-about show of the season — Kanye West's Yeezy apparel and footwear collection for Adidas — has already happened.

As a spectacle, it was impressive. There was the 30-minute wait to enter the venue, a cavernous, industrial space that was already populated with nine rows of models, standing stock still in the near-dark in grid formation. Guests squabbled over stolen seats; show producers repeatedly asked others to get off the show floor. (They would, for a moment, then shuffle back.) It remained dark for another 20 minutes, while fans sitting in theaters around the world waited for the live-stream to begin, watching (as was the case in one Australian cinema) a single ad on repeat.

When the lights went up, eyes darted between the models — dramatic in a combination of nude bodysuits, seamless underwear and athletic-inspired streetwear in muddy colors — and perhaps one of the most spectacular front rows ever assembled: The Kardashian family — including Kris and Kendall Jenner, Kim and Khloe Kardashian and baby North — was out in full force, as were West's pals Beyoncé, Jay Z, Rihanna, Alexander Wang, Sean Combs (aka Diddy, who was sporting a fabulous fur collar), Cassie and Anna Wintour. (Justin Bieber was also present, but in the second row, to the bemusement and amusement of everyone.) Kylie Jenner, following in her older sister's footsteps, was cast as one of the models.

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West worked with performance artist Vanessa Beecroft to design the presentation, and the pair eschewed the typical runway format in favor of a slow procession, initially set to a lone trumpet, and then to a brand new track from West's upcoming album "Wolves," featuring Vic Mensa and Sia (which perhaps explains the bodysuits). Besides feeling powerful, it gave viewers plenty of time to examine the models and the clothes. The casting was diverse: There were your typical tall waifs, but also far shorter women with large breasts and butts, and men of a variety of heights, muscle builds and skin colors. Many wore wig caps. 

And the clothes? They were urban, cool, athletic — but in their drab colors and conventional shapes (sweatshirts, parkas, drop-waist pants, cargo vests), indistinctive and unremarkable. I thought back to Alexander Wang's athletic-inspired collection for H&M, and how you could recognize the garments as his on anyone, anywhere, just by their cut and fabrication. The same could not be said of West's line for Adidas. But according to West, that was the point. "I don’t want the clothes to be the life,” he said in a statement. "I want the clothes to help the life," describing them as ideal for the "modern jet-set couple" traveling from gym to the office to the airport.

On Sunday, Adidas will release 9,000 pairs of its West-designed Yeezy Boost sneaker at $350 a pop. Demand is already sky high -- reservations for the shoes made through Adidas's Confirmed app were reportedly full within minutes -- and no doubt the buzz West and Adidas generated during Thursday's performance will drive more moderate fans into a state of frenzy. Marketing doesn't get much better than that.

For a look at the collection and front row, check out the slideshow below.