Kanye West’s dedication to fashion has been unrelenting since day one, and his impressive arsenal of music videos—for which he will receive the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the VMAs this weekend—reads as a testament to that quest for personal style. In videos as in life, West is never afraid to take risks: his oeuvre ranges from irreverent social commentary in “All Falls Down” to his more recent, less-than-subtle art house Yeezus-era provocation, that takes its boundary-pushing cues from British director Steve McQueen.
Perhaps his most audacious project, “Runaway,” from the 2010 critically lauded My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, is a 35-minute-long sonic and visual revelation, with a truckload of fashion thrown in for good measure. His latest contributions, “Only One” and “FourFiveSeconds,” reflect a changed man—a husband, a father, and in the latter, an artist among artists—and pared-down, both tell a fashion story of understated chic. And though insouciance is hardly his m.o., he has never been anything but sincere, sartorially or otherwise. Here, eight of Kanye West’s audacious music video fashion moments.
Phillip Lim designed the menswear wardrobe for the 35-minute mini-film, directed by West himself, imbuing the video with elegance through a restrained color palette. (For example, West’s white tuxedo jacket, with a black collar, plays against the dancers’ black ballet attire.) Selita Ebanks, resplendent as the phoenix rising through the ashes, came to life through the work of costume designer Martin Izquierdo, the man responsible for the Victoria’s Secret Angels’ wings and Heidi Klum’s outrageous Halloween ensembles.
Photography duo Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin directed this black-and-white video, done in a square format, for this stripped-down song. A serious jeans moment, starring Paul McCartney and Rihanna as well, the video conjures the retro Calvin Klein Jeans ads and the designs of Marques ‘ Almeida.
“Bound 2,” 2013
Here, West wears two artfully tacky outfits: one, an counterintuitive plaid-on-plaid getup partially supplied by a design idol of his, Ralph Lauren; another, a tied-dyed, vintage Iron Maiden tee. The video was both loved and mocked, most famously in the Seth Rogen and James Franco parody “Bound 3.”
“All Falls Down,” 2004
For the third single off his first album, The College Dropout, West—clad in his collegiate pink polo and brown corduroy blazer—chases down a plane with Stacey Dash, otherwise known as Dionne in Clueless in an airport. Stunning but materialistic, Dash wears a Juicy Couture–esque baby blue tube dress and Louis Vuitton tote, with blinged-out sunglasses and earrings to boot. The song riffs on the empty promise of retail addiction and status insecurity, giving the rapper some of the best fashion-related lyrics: “Man, I promise, I’m so self-conscious . . . / I can’t even pronounce nothing, pass that Ver-say-see.” We suspect he has mastered it by now.
“Only One,” 2015
Shot by Oscar-winner Spike Jonze, this video starring West and his then-one-year-old daughter, North West, has an intimate home movie vibe with father and child strolling through a gray countryside. The look is matching parkas, dark jeans, and outdoor boots—equal parts utility and Paris Fashion Week.
“Ni**as in Paris,” 2011
Despite his athletic frame, West isn’t afraid to flirt with androgyny in his wardrobe—remember, this is a man who has rocked a women’s Céline blouse on stage. So it only makes sense that he wears a custom-made leather Givenchy kilt with his Givenchy graphic T-shirt and leather pants.
“All of the Lights,” 2010
A warning is given at the beginning of the Hype Williams–directed music video for “All of the Lights”: “This video has been identified by Epilepsy Action to potentially trigger seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy.” So it’s no shock that West’s look here is that of a sunglasses-clad club kid in a tank and gold chain. Only difference? West sports grills—a look that would soon after be replicated by Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Miley Cyrus.
“The New Workout Plan,” 2004
The playful music video for “The New Workout Plan,” a thoroughly underrated song off his first album The College Dropout, has Kanye at his preppy polo-wearing high point, with his unmistakable penchant for the popped collar. Flanked by a Richie Tenenbaum–lookalike and a tennis chic babe, he makes the old school new again, keeping his unique sense of humor on display.
The post Kanye West’s Music Videos Prove That He’s Been a Dedicated Fashion Fan Since Day One appeared first on Vogue.
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