“Do you think there would be a Givenchy in the hood if it wasn’t for that South Park photo?” – Kanye West, Zane Lowe Interview 2013
In 2009 after the Comme Des Garcons show in Paris Tommy Ton took this infamous photo of Kanye West and his associates.
Nearly ten years ago though mocked specifically by South Park this look shows how ahead of the pack they were.
Tommy Ton tells Vogue.com “…This was actually before street style had become such a phenomenon and you could really see how much Kanye loved fashion and clothes, and Virgil did too.”
These individuals all changed culture in their own way.
Before ‘Change Clothes’ while hip hop stars were rocking throwback jerseys and sneakers Fonzworth Bentley wore suspenders and pressed dress shirts.
Taz Arnold was one of the leaders of the resurgence of snapbacks taking rare vintage baseball caps and branded them with the TI$A insignia.
While Kanye was recording a joint album with the JAY-Z, West’s cousin and former manager Don C took Jay’s penchant for starting and stopping fashion trends and revived the ‘Buck-50’ hats.
“Where I got the idea from was where I was from people people would call them a ‘buck-50’ hat and people would take a team hat and put fake snakeskin on the bill and glue it on the butt and glue on the back snap.
I just tried to revamp that idea and actually deconstruct the hat.
This just some Chicago hood shit I had to reinvent, a ‘buck-50’ because you use to need a buck-fifty to afford them.”
Similarly before Nike as a company became the go to for releases of their classics sneakers Don C along with Kanye took retro Jordans and rocked them while many were still wearing Nike Dunks or Blazers.
Now Don C himself is working with Jordan brand to produce widely popular remixes of the classic Jordan 2 and expanding into more shoes.
Virgil Abloh has arguably had the most success, music withheld.
Both he and Kanye interned at Fendi in 2009.
And while neither had fashion degrees each expressed their vision in various ways.
Kanye tried both with Pastelle and Mascotte to launch a respected brand mixing streetwear and high fashion.
Virgil flourished with the brand Pyrex Vision wore by musical acts like JAY-Z and Future.
He was also a smart businessman.
Though some were incredulous that his take on fashion used Champion hoodies and Rugby flannels as his canvas it showed that the pricing is based on a feeling.
It showed that regardless of the label on the back if the feeling is there and the product is great then the value is there.
The problem was both Abloh and West were reaching their limits using their current resources.
As told to Sway, Kanye West personally poured 13 million dollars into fashion ventures including kw by Kanye West which received negative reviews by fashion editors.
And though Off-White, the off shoot of Virgil’s Pyrex Vision, was successful with Beyoncé wearing the product in music videos there was an addition step that could be taken.
“We’re making product with chitlins. T-Shirts—that’s the most we can make. T-shirts! We can have our best perspective on T-shirts but if it’s anything else your Truman show boat is hitting the wall” – Kanye West, Zane Lowe Interview 2013
Lovers of high fashion both proved themselves capable with opportunities to expand into this market with the launch of a Louis Vuitton sneaker collection (Jaspers, Dons, Mr. Hudsons) each named after West’s friends and fellow contemporaries.
Interning at Fendi they showed they were ahead of the curve with fashion again presenting a forward idea on pants.
“We brought the leather jogging pants six years ago to Fendi, and they said, ‘No.’ How many motherfuckers you done seen with a leather jogging pant?”
Now after setbacks and false starts for West’s Yeezy collection with adidas he’s empowered his right hand man Virgil Abloh to move from the shadow of Mr. West and Abloh has been named Artistic Director for Louis Vuitton menswear.
Real friends, how many of us.