Kanye West has come under fire for a scribbled-on denim jacket style he sold at his "The Life of Pablo" pop-up in New York City earlier this month — and not just because they cost about $400 (and presently go for as high as $1,950 on eBay). In an interview with i-D, San Francisco-based multimedia artist Jim Goldberg, known for his photography, often written over with text, of marginalized groups within the U.S., called out West for not crediting the jacket's original inspiration: a well-known homeless teen who passed away in the '90s.
Goldberg's book Raised by Wolves from 1995 features a very similar denim jacket worn by Tweeky Dave, a famous runaway youth from Los Angeles. (And since Dave was a close friend, Goldberg owns the jacket today.) In February, West was spotted wearing a Tweeky Dave replica jacket by Australian designer Pauly Bonomelli at his "zine-less zine party" in Los Angeles. By March, similar denim jackets, featuring "The Life of Pablo" track list that friends and family members famously scribbled over, were found on the racks of the "TLOP" pop-up shop, which, according to West, brought in $1 million in sales.
"For the jacket to become sold as fashion — it really put me over the edge,” said Goldberg. "The spirit and intention of Kanye could be right, but the manner in which he is presenting it is wrong. All meaning has been lost. [He's] forgetting history — not acknowledging where that design came from is wrong."
It's certainly not the first time a background story — whether it stems from a cultural tradition, a subculture or history — has gotten lost when used as inspiration for clothing. Insufficient acknowledgement is all too common. Luckily, social media and online press have provided an immediate platform for people (like Goldberg) to call brands and designers out (not that that's stopped brands from copying and appropriating). Goldberg hopes that West will respond and use his popularity for good. "Ultimately all I would want from them is acknowledgement of Dave, and maybe they give something to homeless kids," he told i-D, who noted that Goldberg apparently plans to take legal action. We reached out to both Bonomelli and Goldberg for comment and did not receive a response by press time.