What transpired this afternoon, a massive Kanye West album launch party or a fashion show? Both, kind of. Once again, Kanye West worked with artist Vanessa Beecroft for Yeezy Season 3. The combination of West's new album, The Life of Pablo, as the soundtrack and Madison Square Garden as the grandiose venue made for an event larger than any fashion show you've likely ever been to. Unsurprising, given that the scope of West's celebrity (and ego) is larger than most. So, how about those clothes? Markedly more colorful than Yeezy Season 1 or 2, this collection had pops of robin's egg blue in boots, some oversized lemon yellow hoodies, a cherry red and blue bodiced nude bodysuit, a red sweatshirt, and some tangerine-hued pieces (interpreted as a baggy sweatsuit for the guys and a fur-trimmed, cropped jacket with leggings on one female model). Silhouette-wise, there were plenty of crop tops paired with drop-crotch sweats or high-waisted skinnies, body-con dresses, and some fur coats. As for footwear: thick-soled, earth-tone boots that looked strikingly similar to Palladium boots.
In addition to an especially diverse casting (like previous Yeezy seasons) West had some high-wattage cameos: For example, Naomi Campbell, decked out in an all-black ensemble topped with a chocolate fur, and Young Thug sitting on the edge of one raised model-filled podium, chin propped in one palm, donning the most bored-looking expression possible. As the album played on, some of the models took a seat, looking down or off into the distance contemplatively, potentially resting during the hour-long ordeal. Hundreds of people were surrounding the collection itself. According to a backstage source, they were clad in thrifted clothing that was garment-dyed in shades of burgundy, brown, russet, and tan to match the Yeezy Season 3 color palette. (And there were some very thorough rules in place for the hundreds of models used in the show.) The sprawling masses below the platform of models wore utterly neutral, solemn facial expressions. It was quite the jarring contrast to West and posse, which included Lamar Odom (in his first post-coma public appearance), Travis Scott, and Big Sean, among others, as they swayed, cheered, rapped along (and, for some, smoked up).
The collection was more varied and decidedly less Spanx-esque than West's past two; perhaps, he took some of the harsh criticism about his past Yeezy collections (particularly Cathy Horyn's scathing takedown in The Cut last season). But it still wasn't really about the clothes. How could it possibly be in a venue of this scale, with a highly anticipated album to drop and a very full house? (Many of whom paid for the experience of hearing West's latest album stream for the first time — with the man himself on the premises, no less.) "Did I deliver on my promise of that album?" West asked the crowd. He was met with deafening cheers and and yells like, "Play that shit again!" West then queried, "Tell me how y'all feel about the clothes this season." The response was notably quieter to the second question. The sequence of those earnest-sounding requests for feedback are pretty telling of what this seriously souped-up fashion show was truly prioritizing. West then went on to muse about the challenges of seguing into the role of fashion designer (and being taken seriously in that capacity). "If you're gonna be an artist, you've gotta do it with your heart and fight for every dream that you may dream, whatever discipline it may be," West said. And to perhaps remind the haters that his Yeezy kicks are a bona fide hit: "I mean, it's the number one shoe, what are you talkin' about? Number one Christmas present! It's not regular!"
The show wrapped with a preview on the big screens of a video game, Only One, created as a tribute to West's mother. "The concept is my mom traveling through the gates of heaven," West explained. "You don't understand, I go out and met with everyone in San Fran and tell them I wanna make a game and they'll be like, "'Fuck you.' This shit was hard to do, man." He then went on to share that Yeezy kicks would be more affordable down the line, and also that he'd just been chatting "with Anna" backstage before the show — that would be Anna Wintour, of course — about his aspirations to be be creative director of Hermès one day, "at least for a couple of years." (Because if you didn't have enough West confessional and musings about, well, everything on his Twitter, he was sure to share some live.)
Now that the collection itself has made its debut, here's a (not-so) brief rundown of what happened leading up to Yeezy Season 3: In January, West assured fans that prices for the still-unannounced Yeezy Season 3 would be lower than in previous releases. Shortly after, he tweeted a photo of producer Swizz Beatz looking at a graphic that read "Yeezy Season 3" with a date: February 11, 2016 — the first day of New York Fashion Week. (It's worth noting that, once again, this whole to-do also came as a surprise to designers who were scheduled to present their new collections on that day and would now have to work around Yeezy Season.) Still keeping up? He then formally announced the joint premiere of his new collection and his new album at Madison Square Garden, featuring a performance from contemporary artist Vanessa Beecroft, who collaborated with Kanye on previous seasons. For those not quick enough to scoop up tickets in the first 10 minutes (or those who missed the unexpected second drop the day of the show), the spectacle was beamed out to movie theaters in 26 countries and livestreamed on Tidal. West tweeted out the official poster for Yeezy Season 3 on February 1. In the 10 days leading up to the actual event, West offered all sorts of different peeks and snippets teasing what would go down in Madison Square Garden — mostly via Tweetstorm. There was an open casting for models and extras. Showgoers picked up tickets at a hotel concierge. Meanwhile, West released a Season 2 zine. It's been a busy week.
Back to West's show and what it means for the fashion industry: Does Yeezy Season 3 further signify that Fashion Week as we know it is done or at least dramatically evolving? Or is West trying to say that there's still a point to staging things live? Creating so sweeping an experience and calling it a fashion show — obviously, only someone like West (or maybe just West, really) can ever stage something on this scale. Whether it's a testament to fashion being worth sharing IRL or a sign of end times remains up for debate. One thing's for sure: In a season when more designers than ever are scaling back on shows (or even skipping or relocating them altogether), West certainly scaled up.