Before models even hit the open-air catwalk on Roosevelt Island Wednesday afternoon, Kanye West's Yeezy Season 4 presentation had already lived up to the artist's over-the-top reputation: A controversial casting call, a mysterious bus ride, and major delays (including the belated arrival of the designer's family).
Yeezy Season 4 was, in a word, about suffering: West staged an outdoor fashion show that started an hour and 40 minutes late on a muggy, mid-80s day, after all. For showgoers, it took an hour to get past the multiple stages of security (not counting the hour-long bus ride to Roosevelt Island, if you took West up on his shuttle). Scores of models, in the ballpark of 100 by our estimations, had to stand in full-on midday sun wearing thong-cut bodysuits, sheer tanks, and no shoes. Dangerous? Absolutely — at least three models had to be escorted off the field. But it wasn't hard to imagine that West, whose relationship with the fashion industry has been self-characterized as full of suffering, would want to return the favor.
It's the first time we can recall West doing an actual catwalk, versus the static, lined-up rows of models shown in seasons past. There was a slew of hoodies and parkas (sound familiar?), first shown in a palette of white and off-white. Styling-wise, there was some lampshading action. The overall look was all very...Kardashian. In terms of accessories, Adidas-branded fanny packs were slung over some models' shoulders, while others sported wide, rectangular backpacks. A number of models sported jewelry (designed by West, we're guessing).
Pre-show, a few models fainted. Fellow models ran out to fetch water as the show began, and one was eventually walked off the field by Yeezy producers. Model Amina Blue took off her lucite heels in the middle of the catwalk, finished traipsing barefoot, and was wearing flat slides on her next appearance on the runway. Sofia Richie, Teyana Taylor, and Chanel Iman also walked. The show's celeb attendees included some Kardashian-Jenners (Kendall, Kylie, and Kim), Desiigner, Winnie Harlow, La La Anthony, Pusha T, 2 Chainz, Tyga, Jordyn Woods, Vic Mensa, Virgil Abloh, and Spike Jonze.
There was a lot to talk about, beyond the streetwear- and Spandex-filled collection and arduous conditions. Let's recap: Despite industry-wide skepticism, the Yeezy show remains one of the most sought-after tickets during New York Fashion Week. Never mind that the announcement comes sporadically (and seemingly without the CFDA's knowledge or approval), with any actually helpful information — such as time and venue — sent to attendees on the day of. (This year, editors and industry folk only got official confirmation that they were, indeed, invited in the wee hours of the morning, with a call time of 1:30 p.m. Even then, the show's location was kept a secret until a couple hours before.) The unpredictable nature of it all gives the event a unique pang of exclusivity, despite the fact that West himself prefers not the deem his collection "a fashion proposition," but rather "a human proposition," according to Vogue, because of its (somewhat ironically) egalitarian intent.
This year, Yeezy was controversial since its planning stages: A casting call for "multiracial models" was met mostly with disapproval, discomfort, and protest. (The Fashion Law even evaluated the legality of it all.) Still, people showed up, lined up, and waited for hours for the chance to happen upon 'Ye himself. Of the backlash, West offered to Vogue that the "ten thousand people that showed up didn't have a problem with it." He simply was trying to articulate "the idea that [we] want all variations of Black."
Undeterred invitees lined up to board the buses to Roosevelt Island. Turns out, when you herd hundreds of media folk onto tour buses winding through New York's weekday traffic to a show they know very little about, the results (as chronicled on social media) can be pretty amusing. Even before they hopped on the Yeezy Express, industry folk considered the field-trip vibe of the whole situation (also, what was probably the most stressful game of "who's my bus buddy?" ever) — and the fact that they still didn't know where they'd be dropped off.
Things got even more interesting (read: hilarious for those following along) once the wheels started turning and fashion's who's-who got shuttled across Manhattan. They don't seem like the sing-along type.
The ride was reportedly "themed" for the show, with the help of longtime collaborator (and controversial figure in her own right) Vanessa Beecroft. This was probably met more in jest than 'Ye hoped, though.
As time wore on, some started to get a little testy. Still, there were some beautiful moments of camaraderie:
Once the crowds descended on Roosevelt Island, guests were told to queue up at the venue (a former smallpox hospital which, again, super-reassuring) and were informed that the show was running a tad late — as in "hair and makeup just arrived" late. Cue more great tweets.