Yeezy Season 3 offers unique glimpse into Kanye's influence

Models wear fashion from the Yeezy collection at a presentation and album release for Kanye West's latest album, "The Life of Pablo," Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Bruce Barton)

Calling Kanye West’s Season Three event at Madison Square Garden a fashion show would be a great underestimation of a remarkable culturally conscious performance art piece, a modern happening as powerful and intriguing as those of the 1960s.

West was reportedly inspired by the Rwanda genocide of 1995 for the show, preparing his audience for a highly anticipated moment of art, music and fashion by using a photo of Rwandan refugees on the invitations. In a way, the invitation acted as a warning: the show was never truly about fashion; instead, it was a larger statement on current political and social issues, such as the war in Syria and its refugees.

Now I will admit that I’m not a West connoisseur by any means, and my decision to cover the event is partly influenced by my boyfriend, who recognizes him as a “genius” and may seriously consider naming his first-born son after him.

After seeing the performance, however, I realized he might be on to something. While some of West’s comments don’t align with my personal beliefs, his artistic intentions can be innovative and fascinating.

By using the show as an introduction for both the third season of his fashion line, “Yeezy,” and his new, highly-hyped Hip-Hop album, “Life of Pablo,” which he played throughout the entire show, West created a unique atmosphere that displayed a modern vision of what happens when you combine two art forms successfully into a breathtaking commentary on social issues.

By the time the first song ended, Madison Square Garden was already erupting with excitement. The stage, resembling a campsite in the middle of a desert with an oversized tarp covering the models, was meant to look like a refugee camp, an ode to the photograph that inspired the original theme of the show.

With the song’s last note, the tarp was removed, revealing the models standing at the center of the stadium. Smoke rose from the ground and lingered about the models, who remained silent and still throughout the hour and a half performance. As West wrote in his runway instructions, the models are pictures, forbidden to smile, make sudden movements, act sexy, or pose. If tired, they could simply sit, move slowly and “act naturally.”

More importantly, the models were encouraged to raise their fists throughout the show in an intentional Black power salute planned by West. The show was not just a fashion show, but a cultural and political statement representing West’s unique, eclectic, sweeping and often controversial artistic vision.

The 90-minute performance was divided into three simultaneous tableaus, reminiscent of West’s seven-screen, omnipresent Cruel Summer film premier experience at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012. There were two massive square podiums, where several models stood above the rest of the crowd of models grouped below them, gloomy and silent.

Supermodels such as Naomi Campbell and Veronica Webb strolled with pride, even posing in a surprise moment for the audience. One memorable aspect of the show was the lack of individualized models or outfits. Purposefully set at the center of the arena, the groups of models, both on and off the podiums, highlighted diversity and Black power to a greater degree than they did the street styles they modeled.

The lack of individualization worked well, adding to the theme of the performance with the despair and tension that emanated from the silent and stern looks of the crowd of models. The color palette further added to the atmosphere, with earthy tones and various shades of burgundy, white and black.  

Yeezy Season three was not a fashion show, but rather a 90-minute-long performance art piece combining three art forms: models acting as catalogue images of the new line, West’s new album and his patented extemporaneous monologues.

Regarding the actual fashion of the line, I’m glad to say West stepped away from last season’s look, which resembled the ‘last chance’ rack of the Salvation Army more than actual fashion, in favor of an edgy line that brings together comfort and street style fairly well. If anything, I would say bringing casual sportswear to a runway show with such grandeur is admirable. 


Margaux Ancel is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at margaux.ancel@uconn.edu.