When his rap career began in the early-’00s, no one would have predicted that Kanye West would have the impact on fashion that he’s had. He came to fame as the pink polo wearing, Louis Vuitton backpack toting suburban kid, associated with Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella records. As West’s music began to dominate the charts, his look was slowly becoming the look. With his own graphical language—centered around the now-iconic “Dropout Bear”—West’s fusion of streetwear and prep became an early marker of his trendsetting taste. Soon enough, West had enough influence in streetwear that brands began to reach out to him for collaborations. The first Kanye West collaboration of note came in 2007, when BAPE released the “Dropout Bear” colorway of its massively popular Bapesta sneaker.
In 2008, West debuted his first clothing label, Pastelle, by wearing the samples in public and at awards shows. Thanks to a confluence of factors—some publicly know, others kept secret to this day—the business shuttered within a year. Pastelle clothing produced during the brand’s limited lifespan are considered grails by West fans and fashion historians alike. The next year, however, was a much more successful year for West’s sartorial ventures. In April of 2009, Nike and Kanye West released the Nike Air Yeezy 1, the first shoe of West’s own design. Taking inspiration from the Air Jordan and Nike sneakers he coveted in his youth, West became the first recording artist to completely design a new silhouette for Nike. Selling out instantly across the United States, the collaboration with Nike marked the beginning of a string of highly sought-after sneakers designed by Kanye West.
In July 2009, after years of claiming to be the “Louis Vuitton Don”, West landed a collaboration with the French fashion house. The collaboration included three sneakers, named after West’s close personal friends. 2009 was also the year that he and his creative collaborator Virgil Abloh interned at Fendi. In a 2013 interview, West said that while he and Abloh didn’t get to actually create any clothing during the internship, they pitched several ideas that were shot down, including the “leather jogging pant concept,” which years later became a popular item produced by many fashion brands. In October 2011, West debuted an eponymous womenswear collection that was slammed by critics. The collection did not make it to stores (outside of a high-heeled shoe made in collaboration with Guissepe Zanotti.
In 2012, The Nike Air Yeezy 2 released and, just like the first version, sold out immediately. In 2013, West would once again collaborate with a French fashion house, this time choosing A.P.C. and producing a capsule collection of apparel(https://www.grailed.com/collaborations/a-p-c-kanye-west. West would spend the bulk of his 2013 press tour for his album Yeezus airing his grievances with Nike. After creating two massively successful sneakers for the brand, West wanted the opportunity to create more and receive royalties on each item sold, similar to Michael Jordan’s deal with Nike. When Nike refused, he began searching for the partnership he wanted and eventually found it in Nike’s biggest rival, adidas.
February 12, 2015 was a big day for Kanye West, as it was the day of release for his first adidas sneaker and the premiere of his Yeezy Season clothing line. The Yeezy Boost 750 is a high top sneaker-chelsea boot combination that featured a suede upper with adidas Boost technology in the sole. As has always been the case with shoes designed by West, it sold out immediately. While the fashion show’s clothing received mixed reviews, it provided the world with the aesthetic that West would work with for seasons to come. What was almost more interesting than the show itself was the way West allowed those who didn’t receive invites to view it via livestream, even showing future runway shows in theaters across the United States.
In the summer of 2015, Yeezy released the Yeezy Boost 350, a low-top sneaker that utilizes adidas Primeknit and Boost technologies to create what remains the most popular Yeezy sneaker. Over the course of the next few years, Yeezy would release several colorways of the 350 as well as other silhouettes such as the Yeezy Boost 500 and Yeezy Boost 700. In addition to the sneakers, Yeezy Season, West’s brand that is loosely tied to adidas, has become known for its particularly comfortable hoodies and slides. In addition to all of this, West has always sold merch for his various tours and events, including the Saint Pablo tour, the Wyoming listening party as well as Sunday Service.
Through the years, Kanye West’s creative output has taken many forms but his passion for style has always played a major role. Through Yeezy Season and his collaborations with adidas, Kanye West has contributed greatly to fashion and all signs point to him continuing to do so for years to come.