Last season’s Yeezy blockbuster at Madison Square Gardens was a glimpse into the future of the fashion show. If it was dying, as some moot, Kanye resurrected it with a big Frankensteinian jolt of energy, stitching everything together to create an unforgettable experience, for better or worse: celebrity, art, music and yes, fashion - complete with paying guests and handy merchandise. This season, Yeezy’s show proved that said future has turned, as it always does in the movies, dystopian. It wasn’t exactly Cormac McCarthy’s The Road because that would have actually been interesting. Guests roasted in the sun for hours after being bussed over - only a selected few were chauffeured and golf-carted in - then huddled together underneath two trees for shade before suddenly making a hopeful, desperate run for the steps to their expected/hoped-for/imaginary seats…this was more of The Hunger Games variety.
It occurred to me on that slow, water-less, snack-less, sadly quiet 90-minute-long Yeezy bus through Midtown Manhattan that perhaps this, the journey and the fuss, was the show - this was the Vanessa Beecroft performance piece we were expecting in a David Foster Wallace This Is Water way. That we were part of the performance, as passive observers watching life unfold on the streets of New York. I blame the mind-numbing traffic. As it turned out, we were participants in Beecroft’s performance, passively watching the lucky girls selected from Kanye’s controversy-stirring, multiracial-only casting being beaten down by the heat before sitting, crouching, kneeling and, in some cases, fainting. All we did was watch and Instagram and Snapchat away like good little soldiers. Or were the girls themselves the real soldiers, standing still in Beecroft’s formation before breaking ranks to comfort one another or go get water before it dawned on the Yeezy crew to go get it for them? Were their diverse bodies being proudly celebrated even when they were falling to their knees? I hope those girls got paid and not just in new followers for their social media accounts. Then the other models, ‘influencer’ pros and recognisable faces, walked out in tight micro knit dresses, oversized parkas and eighties over-the-knee boots, lapping the waiting girls. If you were able to divert your eyes from the fainters, you’d see the colour palette was more pale and sun-faded than before or note the interesting camo prints.
You’d think Kanye choosing the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park for his venue would be a gift to a writer – the abandoned smallpox hospital, its wider political and social message in this election year, the FDR quotes! Here’s one: 'No man can occupy the office of President without realising that he’s President of all the people.' I guess I should be thankful that Kanye exposed the two-tier system so brilliantly; Kim and co (or Ko?) in the Capitol, the rest in the lower Districts. But I was tired and so I walked past the $75-a-piece merchandise stand, threw my return Yeezy bus ticket away and took the subway back. The Emperor is stark naked, people, and the joke’s on us. Kanye 2020!