How Yeezy Speaks to Women
If you spend any portion of time on social media, you won’t have been able to escape the recent flood of tweets from Kanye West. After a year-long hiatus, Ye returned to confess his love for Donald Trump, losing many people’s respect in the process.
But amid all the political hoo-ha, West revealed some golden Yeezy information. The brand is reportedly the second fastest growing company in history and “will hit a billion dollars this year” with West being “the single highest paid person in footwear” (we’ll ask Michael Jordan about that one). The man also tweeted images of unreleased shoes ranging from thick foam sliders and pastel-hued 350 V2s to ‘track pant boots’ and, yes, more plastic heels.
When it comes to catering for women, West has previously fluctuated between two extremes: uber comfort and downright hazardous. As seen with his personal opinions, the multi-hyphenate can’t seem to decide which way to turn, switching from a wearable utilitarian feel to an alpha male vibe. It’s this second aesthetic that West appears to be channeling right now. While Donald Trump has sent women’s rights back to the Stone Age, West too is limiting female independence by designing painful-looking shoes that require a (male) helping hand.
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Cast your mind back to pre-Yeezy times. On a 2012 episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, West told Kim Kardashian to rid her closet of patterns and bright shades. She later admitted to crying. This was the first glimpse into how modern Kanye prefers his women: obedient, minimalistic and ready to metamorphose into a walking Yeezy ad.
Three years later, West revealed Yeezy to the world. Season 1 saw both genders form a post-apocalyptic army. Male models donned rolled up sweatpants, ripped knitwear and lace-up military boots. In other words, they were comfy as hell, but the women were distinctly different. Everything was skintight and flesh-baring; so close to the body that you could count models’ ribs. Footwear was of two minds: ranging from Ye’s much-coveted sneakers to knee-length heeled boots. These ‘cyborgs’ had been conjured up by a man, there was no doubt about it.
Season 2 signaled the beginning of West’s comfort-first streak with men layered up and women dressed in floor-length denim and hoodies. But his second showing also displayed the same dystopian male gaze in the female models’ revealing flesh-toned leotards and the introduction of the dreaded Perspex heel. A pregnant Kardashian opted (or was told) to wear this exact design in 2015. Props to her for suffering through the broken heel.
Both rigid and hot, anyone who has worn plastic footwear knows the pain and discomfort that ensues. So why would West choose such a thing to craft his heels from? The material is famously used for ‘stripper heels’ with dancers stashing their money in the transparent platforms. Although there is an element of female power here, see-through shoes are more likely to err on the side of fetish. The Perspex allows every inch of the wearer’s foot to be seen. Elevating it with a heel not only lengthens the legs but puts emphasis on the rear end, satisfying the male mind once again.
Proof of West’s dismissal of women’s health was seen in the Yeezy Season 4 catastrophe. On the day of the presentation, editors were carted over to New York’s Roosevelt Island where models stood in formation for hours in the sweltering heat. Luckily, they were barefoot and barely dressed, providing some respite from the unforgiving sun. It wasn’t long though before women began dropping like flies, collapsing on the grass and receiving no help from the Yeezy team.
The actual show didn’t fare much better. West’s heels seemed impossible to walk in. Fitted in a mixture of PVC and thin-heeled boots, models slipped and stumbled with one even kicking her shoes off halfway through. Ill-fitting footwear is often the cause of model falls. Being the last thing that catches the eye during a fashion show, designers tend to overlook shoes. Yeezy, however, started life as a footwear brand, giving West no excuse for shoddy designs.
Images of showgoers helping models during this test of endurance were strangely reminiscent of Renaissance era scenes. From the 1400s, important Venetian women were invited to wear a style of shoe known as the chopine. The platform shoes—crafted from either cork or wood—boasted heels of up to 20 inches. It’s no surprise to learn that men were more than happy for their wives to adopt this ridiculous trend; leaving their husband’s side to fraternize with other men was physically impossible.
West’s sense of control and pretentiousness appeared to have evaporated come Season 5. Paring everything back, the show focused on wearability incorporating flannel shirts in optimistic shades of blue and subdued camouflage. Everything, including the footwear, was inherently relaxed.
But, as is West’s style, that didn’t last long. Using his muse-slash-wife to model the collection, Yeezy Season 6 started off practically orthopedic. Day in, day out, Kardashian was spotted in either spa-like gray sandals or a pair of Mud Rat 500s. And then came the return of the unsupportive heels; this time utilizing a single toe strap to secure the foot. Apparel too swung between breezy maxi dresses and hoodies to bras and sexed-up cycling shorts.
Kardashian’s use as a breathing billboard in recent months is particularly interesting. “She broke boundaries with fashion where designers weren’t trying to make clothes with women with shape, and now they’re all about embracing and empowering women,” West once said of his wife. Ironically, she doesn’t seem to have much power in the Yeezy universe; further proof of West’s male dominance. By publicizing the idea that a woman is choosing to wear ankle-breaking heels to visit McDonald’s or fill up her car, he gives the illusion that women, who dress like Kardashian, are empowering themselves. In reality, West is manipulating his wife’s influence, using her to spawn thousands of Kim clones in his image.
Now, the Yeezy battle between comfort and sex appeal is more polarizing than ever. Many of West’s new season sneakers and boots aren’t available in women’s sizes. His latest Perspex invention? Well, that has been described as a DIY project that should never be worn by a real-life human. (Pray for the day Kardashian is told to model those down the street.)
In one of his latest Twitter streams, West posted a diagram of a study into athlete comfort. He captioned it: “This is where a Yeezy study for base layer starts.” Do you know what I’m wondering? Where the Yeezy study for women starts. Unbreathable clothing and thin, plastic heels are at odds with a design ethos that apparently prioritizes support and injury prevention.
So is Kanye West really the greatest artist of our generation? Not from where us women are standing.