Yeezy Season 2: The Politics of Colour

Despite his musical prowess, Kanye is still very much a small fish in a big pond when it comes to breaking the fashion industry, with the reception to his latest instalment proving just that. Kanye has faced mass criticism for veering too closely to his previous collection with Adidas, and has even been  taunted for recreating a ‘glorified hobo’ look at an over-inflated price point.

His mantra for the collection seemed to centre on the requirement for practicality and comfort. West’s military inspired aesthetic is undeniably consistent and sharply articulated. The models wore pulled down caps and the emphasis was clearly on the loose shapes and earthy shades.

The clothes however, were only a small aspect of the reaction to the show. In a famously, outdated industry, the range of models used to showcase his designs cannot be ignored. This NYFW has been celebrated as the most diverse yet, but even against this changing backdrop, Kanye’s catwalk choices come as a refreshing change. The format of the show used an evolving colour palette beginning with white, bleached blonde models in an array of beige tones and developed gradually into a group of entirely black models in darker shades closing the show. Kanye  has denied any underlying political message but it certainly brings the idea of variation to the surface, and has the fashion world talking. West’s show proposes questions surrounding race and gender fluidity that have continued to resurface throughout fashion month.


Quirky designer, Ashish, challenged gender expectations by choosing two male models to showcase his womenswear SS16 collection at LFW. Gender fluidity is being explored and uni-sex ideals are being challenged, making personal style less restricted. The expectations of gendered clothing and who fits the target wearer demographic has been truly been flipped on its head this season.

Despite Kanye’s insistence that a political statement was not his intention, it seems unlikely  that the decision was taken lightly. It’s undeniable that in the diverse world that we live in seeing people grouped and segregated in this way was shocking. The reception to West’s set-up has been mixed. Whilst some have perceived it positively, using a dehumanising arrangement based on colour in order to somewhat heighten the idea of people as equals, and to in turn reduce the emphasis on colour. However, some have taken West’s decision less favourably, whether due to the order of the spectrum or simply the concept of categorising people based on the colour of their skin.

Perhaps it was merely an aesthetic decision. The show’s colour spectrum certainly echoes Kanye’s desire to align the apparel with the individual, however it seems unlikely that the notoriously outspoken artist would not utilise this opportunity as a way to construct some form of social commentary. Regardless, it’s about time that diversity shone through and took up new ground in the fashion industry, and so whatever you may think of the Yeezy collection, for that we commend Kanye.

Emma McCormack

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