On Wednesday morning, at approximately 4:34 a.m., I received what some would consider to be the holy grail of fashion week invites: a ticket to Kanye West's Yeezy Season 4, presented by Adidas. After experiencing the momentous Madison Square Garden extravaganza West put on in February for Season 3 — and to debut his album "The Life of Pablo" — there was no question as to whether I should cancel all of my plans for the day and just let Yeezus take the wheel. I mean this literally.
The only information the 1,000 or so invited guests initially received was an address in West Chelsea, where shuttle busses would pick up and transport passengers to a still-undisclosed location at 1:30 p.m. sharp — an hour and a half ahead of the actual show time. Because I enjoy following instructions, I did as I was told, and boarded one of the many chartered #YeezyBuses with my fashion week comrades, ready to ride this thing out together.
Considering that we were the among the lucky few selected to take this journey with West, the vibes on the bus were pretty sour. Conversation was minimal — perhaps because everyone was too busy complaining on Twitter — without so much as a West-heavy playlist to fill the hour and a half-long silence. (Traffic is a bitch.) At about 3 p.m., we reached our destination, Roosevelt Island, but we still had miles to go before we'd take our seats.
After finally receiving a ticket (see above) and going through more security checkpoints than I've ever had to at the airport, we were filed into a line along the water — just as the mid-afternoon sun was at its peak. Whispers that the show was delayed until 4 p.m. started to circulate, so not only was the crowd getting sweaty, it was getting pissed. I'd be remiss not to mention here that, despite the high temperatures and complete lack of shade, there was no water to be found. There was, however, merch! More on this later.
When 3:45 p.m. rolled around, we'd been corralled to yet another holding area, this time right in front of the fabled, crumbling smallpox hospital that opened in 1856 to quarantine patients with the disease. Was this a sick (and oddly fitting) metaphor for the situation West had placed us in? Would we be left to die here? Dragging the fashion elite an hour and a half outside the city — only to make them stand by even longer once they arrived at the show — is a power move very few humans would pull, even those with West-sized egos. There was no escape, and the rapper-turned-designer knew this. We were at his mercy, and if he needed more time to set up the venue, we'd all just have to wait. So wait we did.
At 4 p.m., we were finally allowed inside the venue: Four Freedoms Park. Just past the entrance was the inevitable #merch booth, shilling $75 long-sleeved T-shirts with the invitation screen-printed on them. (For the record, I did not buy one.) The memorial boasts impressive views of the city — and some stairs that the Kardashian/Jenner sisters fashioned into a great photo op — but guests didn't spend long taking it all in, attempting instead to find either shade or their seats. By this time, over a hundred models were already in a Vanessa Beecroft-staged formation on the open field, wearing West's typical athleisure in black and nude shades. There's no telling how long they'd been waiting in the sun, but soon they started taking a seat one by one, surely a consequence of the heat. Twitter lit up with reports that some were fainting — and the Yeezy crew wasn't helping them. This is when things took a turn for the worse.
Another 40 minutes go by — during which West's family files in and I completely sweat through my shirt — and then the runway portion begins. The clothing, as you might expect, was yet another offering of West's signature, oversized streetwear in a muted color palette, or alternatively, Things We've Already Seen Kim Wear A Million Times. Think thigh-high boots paired with bodycon minidresses or giant hoodies; camo surplus jackets; puffer jackets in outrageous proportions and sporty crop tops worn with high-waisted skirts or briefs. Despite the fact that we'd seen this all before, the show did not go off without a hitch: Models had a hard time walking in their shoes, and while some, like Amina Blue, chose to ditch them altogether, others wobbled to the end of the runway until Bergdorf Goodman's Bruce Pask had to catch her. What's the opposite of a God dream? I think we'd just witnessed it.
West came out and took a brief bow just before 5 p.m., but by then it was clear that much of the audience had reached its breaking point. Still high on the joyful buzz that Yeezy Season 3 provided in February, the editors, buyers and stylists in attendance had all put their good faith in the designer, giving up most of their day — one of the busiest of the year, no less — with the hope that he'd leave them inspired, energized and entertained once again. Instead, he took us all on a hellish, five hour-long detour for a show and vision that could have been executed anywhere in New York City. Whether he was going for an effect similar to Riccardo Tisci's touching, outdoor Givenchy showing last September or simply trying to think outside of the box, West came up very short this time around. Yeezy Season 4 was memorable, but not in a good way.
As we headed en masse back to the city, I heard the words "torture," "problematic" and "trolling" tossed around, and at least when it comes to the treatment of the models, I can't say I disagree with these critiques of the show. That being said, the industry's biggest power players, including Anna Wintour, all showed up on Wednesday afternoon, giving West the platform (and the time) to do as he pleased — a fact he's keenly aware of. Maybe next season we can finally change that by just staying home. We'll always have Tidal, after all.