“Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy copy. At the end of the copy you will find yourself.”
– Yohji Yamamoto
The notion of true creativity, innovation, and originality is extremely complex, especially in the world of fashion. What has been will be again, and what has been done will be done again. This has never been truer than in today’s society, where it has become almost too convenient to access information and inspiration. There is a whole new generation of designers who are growing up in a networked society where everything is easily accessible and the product development process has hit light speed. Some argue that access to the 24/7 media fashion show sparks creativity with boundless inspiration, while others argue that it is rather stifling with a resulting glut of unworthy copycats. Whatever side of the field you stand on, you must understand that it is very difficult to be a designer in any field. To create something truly innovative that brings improved functionality or sheer beauty into the world is something to be celebrated. These designs can make life greater. BUT, creative individuals do not design in a vacuum. They are ultimately inspired by something in this world, whether it is inside or outside of their respective field. Let me reiterate, this is not an easy process, especially when you have a public audience on social media questioning every stitch, every fabric, every color, every angle. What can you do? You can’t please everyone, nor should you try to. There is a fine line between a design that is “inspired by” and one that is a blatant copy. Unfortunately, beauty . . . and fashion are subjective and cries of “rip-off” have been heard for decades. It just seems to be amplified today because of our ease of access to information and inspiration . . . and recent history. This year, one ubiquitous creative figure has seemingly pulled inspiration from a handful of recently successful high fashion designers in an attempt to bring his own voice to the fashion world, but some question whether he has injected enough of his own DNA. Is he a biter? Is he taking too many liberties? Does it matter?
This creative figure I am referring to is obviously Kanye West. Arguably the most popular fashion designer without formal training (or a full season of anything, unless you count the APC collab) who is finally having his moment in the spotlight (as a fashion designer). Kanye West’s adidas Originals line: YEEZY Season 1 is on the horizon and the formal marketing blitz has begun. Some might argue that it’s been happening all year. It’s difficult to tell whether the YEEZY public relations effort is that good, or if everyone just wants to offer their own opinion of the line, like me. No doubt, the “YEEZY Season 1” show back in February at New York Fashion Week was a major event, signaling Kanye’s official transition from Nike to adidas with a collection of dystopian military-inspired sportswear looks. All ready for the street! I can’t wait to wear my YEEZY Duck Boots when I meet up with my friends for Sunday brunch. So, what did we see? We saw oversized bomber jackets, tattered commando sweaters, elongated shirts, bulletproof vests, oversized hoodies, slouchy sweatpants, hefty duck boots, and of course, the sneakers; all in muted earth tone colors and black. The materials and interesting proportions are what really stand out. Eating a scoop of ice cream with the sleeves on some of those sweaters might prove to be rather difficult. Have we seen many of the pieces in YEEZY Season 1 before? Is he borrowing too liberally from the past seasons of designers he admires? Again, does it even matter culturally or financially?
adidas Originals x Kanye West YEEZY Season 1 Inspiration
In looking at the designs from the adidas Originals x Kanye West collab, I certainly see similarities with other fashion designers or brands that he admires. Maison Margiela, Helmut Lang, Raf Simons, Alexander Wang, Rick Owens, and Nike (hee hee) are all felt in this collection. Below are a few side by side comparisons . . .
On one hand, as a fashion enthusiast, I sneer a bit at the similarities with other designers. On the other hand, many of these designs are not readily available today and there is certainly a demand for them. Well, if there isn’t already a demand, Kanye West will certainly create one. Would you like an OG oversized Raf Simons bomber or trench? Would you like a Helmut Lang bulletproof vest? Would you like a Margiela nude stocking onesie? Respectively: YES, YES, and . . . NO, of course not! But, you get my point. The high fashion innovation, turnover, and exclusivity will always make it difficult for individuals to get their hands on coveted pieces. As time passes, it becomes even MORE difficult. Thus, if a designer is making clothes today that are inspired by or close to the originals from the past that people are clamoring for, then he or she is meeting a demand. I always wanted a Helmut Lang vest from 1998, but never seemed to be able to get one. 1998 was quite some time ago. Sure, there have been comparable items since then, like the Moncler x Pharrell vest, but it’s not quite the same. With this Adidas collaboration, Kanye West has designed a collection of clothes that he wants to see and it just so happens to be heavily influenced by the designers I mentioned above. I didn’t get a Helmut Lang bulletproof vest when I was 21. I’ll admit, neither my taste nor my income were ready for the minimalist, deconstructive awesomeness that is Helmut Lang, but for years I pined for that specific piece. Now, with YEEZY Season 1 approaching, I am going to snag what I hope to be a worthy alternative. You feel me?
Kanye West may be presenting a collection that draws inspiration from other designers, and we may have seen somewhat similar pieces before, but it is still an interesting collection and it does serve a purpose, which is to offer designs that are in demand. A demand that he had a heavy hand in creating. The collection is interesting, but not groundbreaking, and very expensive. We’ve become accustomed to seeing Kanye do “groundbreaking” in music, art direction, and style, so I think we expect him to do the same with everything he touches, but fashion can be brutal and being a designer is hard. I personally like only a handful of pieces in the collection, but you can bet I’m going after that Helmut Lang circa 1998 bulletproof style vest. I never got my hands on the original, but I’m sure Kanye’s will be a nice alternative.
In the end, it probably doesn’t matter all that much. Not because I think fashion shouldn’t be taken all that seriously, but because this line is culturally relevant and it will financially benefit everyone involved. Everything will be alright in the end. Plus, I believe he will get better, and his future vision will ultimately produce something a little more original. He’s shown this ability in other fields, so who’s to say he can’t do it in fashion? Like Yohji said, “Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy copy. At the end of the copy you will find yourself.” Do you really want to question Yohji!? Didn’t think so.