By Bee Beardsworth
On Friday 7th January, it was announced that Yeezy, the fashion brand of Kanye West (who recently changed his legal name to Ye but will be called Kanye West for the clarity of this story) is further expanding his GAP collaboration, enlisting the help of Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia. A press release enthusiastically tells us that the collab entails a “new creative collaboration with the Yeezy GAP universe.” Lucky us.
The addition of Demna’s cult following to the already astronomical fandom of Kanye will undoubtedly see the sales of this sartorial amalgamation skyrocket, with prices undoubtedly mushrooming on the resale market. I can’t image how innovative the collection itself will be – the design history of Yeezy has historically centred around the minimalist, neutral-toned, Kimye-driven aesthetic of BBL-friendly skin-coloured basics and shoes suitable for space exploration. Balenciaga’s last year or so of work has A) been very collaboration focused and B) become increasingly neutral-toned and abstractly minimal focused. One wonders if Demna’s recent string of collabs – with Gucci, the Simpsons – signals his announcement of a postmodern disillusionment with stand-alone brand loyalty, aligned with a Vetements-adjacent satire, seeing how far he can bend the will and the wallet of the late capitalist consumer impulse to find belonging in aesthetic value. Perhaps two brands, however seemingly mismatched, is better than one? Or perhaps it is an experimentation with the continued trajectory of hybridity in culture, language (visual and otherwise) and ideas enabled by the internet.
Either way, it’s been a big week for Kanye. A big week following a few big months of hype around Donda, his performance with Drake, ongoing speculation about his dating life and mental health, and a headline-dominating divorce from the infamously “most famous woman in the world” Kim Kardashian. Speaking of the latter, the abdication of America’s King and Queen is seemingly serendipitous in the timeline. Was it the spark that lit the match that has given birth to the Yeezy x Balenciaga collab? Is the divorce of the year just the innovation of a flailing marriage into a new monetary ménage à trois: The Capitalisation of a Divorce, starring Kim, Kanye and Demna Gvasalia?
It cannot go unnoticed that in some Baudrillardian twist (summarised by @kardashian_kolloquium), Kim and Kanye have been dressed primarily in Balenciaga since the announcement of their divorce and the proceeding media coverage. Kardashian Kolloquium describes the Donda performances as “acts of media theatre” which infused reality TV with music. Donda provided the visuals, Demna provided the looks, and the viewers and media created their own narratives and interpretations.For the 2021 Met Gala, Kim wore a subversive all black look from Balenciaga. Now Demna is seemingly hand tailoring looks for every paparazzi shot and Instagram post of the couple’s divorce.
Is this a plan of Kim, the prodigy of her mother Kris, one of the world’s most visible and notable PR moguls? Or is this ingenious plan a part of Kanye’s constantly respawning, rebranding, and transmogrifying enmeshing of new media, identity politics and egomania? Is capitalising on a divorce the new trend that will sweep through the celebfluencer simulation? After all, the pandemic surely saturated the baby boom market - we get it, you’re no longer a Victoria’s Secret model. I can definitely see the narrative of divorce having the potential to be manipulated and adjusting accordingly to suit the whim and accelerationism of the girlboss, gaslight, gatekeep brand of feminism, especially as the chronology of happy influencer marriages is surely heading towards a spike in annulment. Hollywood has long been the capital of unhappily and highly publicised breakup anyway. What could be more “empowering” than turning your once-perfect, now-broken marriage and ensuing (assumed) scandal into an opportunity to rebrand as the perfect single mum?
Now, let me shine the spotlight on the last part of this oddly shaped puzzle: Julia Fox. In a week, she has gone from rumoured flame to official new partner of Kanye West. Most known from her acting role “playing herself” in 2019’s Uncut Gems, Fox has quite a bit of the Kardashian self-capitalisation drive, to say the least. Fox grew up as a New York it-girl, following the Tumblr queen-to-photographer/artist pipeline of the 2010-s American Apparel era (her Tumblr handle was reversecowgirl69). A TikTok from @lexie_jayy admittedly did most of the work for me on uncovering Fox’s past: seemingly equal parts mysterious, contemporaneous, and neurotic (much like any modern internet footprint may present) Fox was a dominatrix as a teenager, turned that experience into a film, and then gained recognition for a heavily confessional art career. She published photo books and exhibitions exploring topics like abusive relationships and a drug-riddled stay in the bayous of Louisiana, and in 2017 she staged her own death in a show, R.I.P. Julia Fox, that featured a self-made vigil and paintings created with her own blood - which she herself drew with a syringe, obviously. She has gone off on her “deadbeat” baby daddy publicly on a few occasions. She clearly isn’t one afraid of drama or a challenge. Or a Gemini man like Kanye. One comment under Lexie’s TikTok observes “she’s as unhinged as he is” (can relate).
This level of exposure and immolation of the self – surely a psycho-social trend indicative of the era as much as an art movement (can we ever separate the two?) - is eerily adjacent to the fastidious self-promotion and active dissolving of the public and private that is typical to the Kardashian Klan. There are numerous comparisons of Fox dressing in a way that seems strangely like Kim’s bodycon looks. In 2019, Julia Fox and Pete Davidson were photographed together in a PAPER magazine spread as Barbie and Ken. Yes, BDE Davidson who is currently boning Kim. And in 2020, Fox did a Skims social media campaign.
Perhaps Julia Fox’s confessionalism would seem pyrrhic had it not ended her in the spot she’s currently occupying: the star, confessor, and chief narrator of her newfound love with Kanye. As of yesterday, the swirling rumours of the pair’s dating were confirmed by none other than Julia herself. The Interview Magazine spread entitled Date Night features the couple candidly captured by Kanye’s personal photographer Kevin Leyva, with dimly lit, moody pictures of them making out in a corridor underscored by Fox’s essay. I use the word “essay” loosely – it’s, like, 200 words and is written in the style of a teenager diary excerpt, or perhaps more a Tumblr post; an account of the couple’s fatalistic meeting on New Year’s Eve (six days prior to publishing) and continuing to a date the next evening in NYC. After dinner, Kanye took Julia to a suite filled with clothes – “every girl’s dream come true”- from, you guessed it, Balenciaga. So, a second date with the whole thing documented by Leyva and casually written about by Julia… The couple were then papped in the looks. Perhaps Kanye has met his match. Perhaps Kim works hard, but Kanye works harder. Perhaps Demna’s next collab will be with Pete and Julia.