Kanye West did a couple of things right at his Yeezy Season 5 collection today. He cast a Somali-American model and she walked the runway in her hijab. His models were safely secured in their Adidas boots and heels; none fell to their feet under the stifling sun. He started relatively on time and he staged the show at a reasonable location. He played a remix of a song by J. Holiday that connoisseurs of late Aughts R&B recognized. In short, he did what any responsible designer ought to do in presenting a new collection; congratulating him for that would be like rewarding a toddler for covering his mouth when he coughs or the president of the United States for not tweeting outrageous things.
It seems West learned a lesson from the debacle that was Season 4, when he dragged a contingent of people to Roosevelt Island and made them wait two hours in the summer heat only to watch models collapse from exhaustion or from the dysfunctional boots shown on the runway.
“Drag” is a funny word to use here. No one has to go to West’s spectacles, and, in fact, many heroically vowed never to attend any of his shows again after that provocation. But here they all were again, this time at Pier 59 in New York at 3 p.m. on the dot. West, new to diplomacy, worked with the Council of Fashion Designers of America to secure this time slot after chief executive Steven Kolb criticized his crashing the carefully planned New York Fashion Week schedule unannounced.
As always, crowds gathered outside Chelsea Piers to catch a glimpse of the celebrities coming in—they would have seen the wife, Kim Kardashian, and Kylie Jenner and Hailey Baldwin. By 3:30 p.m., everyone was in their seats surrounding a black leviathan that looked as though it was concealing another one of Vanessa Beecroft’s armies. Alas, they didn’t materialize.
The collection was instead projected on the black surface—a denim shearling, an oversize varsity jacket, a hoodie, burgundy track suits, big bags, Adidas boots that are all anyone cares about; you know the drill. The entire collection could have been broadcast via Facebook Live or Instagram Stories or whatever platform you prefer. It was the epitome of Calabasas casualwear, perfect for a quick dash to Starbucks for your carefully orchestrated photo-op of the day. In fact, several of the sweatshirts, including one worn by Luka Sabbat, bore the word Calabasas on the back, West’s way of owning up to his adopted family’s abode.
The most eye-catching look was a fur coat shown on Halima Aden, the model who was born in a Kenyan refugee camp and has recently been signed by IMG models. If there was a political statement here, a comment on Donald Trump's refugee ban, West, who has met with the president, did not underline it. Despondent models, if not collapsing ones, actually made a loop in the flesh to close out the show, the lights brightened and then…crickets. No one knew what to do next, so of course everyone took their cues from West’s missus, who headed for the doors and let everyone know the show was over.
West, Margiela-style, did not take a bow. Will people return next year? Of course they will. They have been coming back for five seasons now and the novelty, however tenuous though it may be, does not seem to have worn off.