Last night, in front of the 20,000 fans, members of the media, and various hangers-on that populated a sold-out Madison Square Garden, Kanye West debuted his Yeezy Season 3 collection in collaboration with Adidas, along with his new album, The Life of Pablo. The event was nothing if not ambitious. Actually, check that: The thing was a freaking spectacle. A profoundly weird, deeply entertaining, flawed, and fascinating spectacle.
Everything started around 4:35pm, which was later than the four o'clock showtime, but not remarkably late compared to most fashion shows (to say nothing of high-profile music events). What was remarkable was the Kardashian clan (klan?) procession that kicked things off: a gaggle of ultra-famous figures in white furs and sparkly things who took their seats while bathed in house-supplied spotlights and audience-supplied applause. (Lamar Odom was there too, making his first appearance since his brush with mortality in a Nevada brothel last year.)
Then came Ye, a little more understated than one might have expected, in a red merch-stand TLOP long-sleeve tee and black Yeezy cap. After a brief interlude in which he implored the audience to dance if they wanna, he fired up the laptop and unleashed the first track of The Life of Pablo—"Ultra Light Beams"—on those in attendance. Smiles widened, eardrums split at the absurd volume, and the metallic gold tarp that covered the center of the court area was lifted to reveal two raised platforms populated by models wearing the Yeezy Season 3 collection.
Below them, a veritable horde of additional human mannequins created a sort of post-apocalyptic tableau—one that meshed nicely with the clothes themselves. If you happen to be a displaced Dickensian street urchin reading this in a future where body stockings and oversized overcoats have replaced tweed and newsboy caps, we're happy to say that we know exactly where you should get your next set of duds.
The rest of the proceedings were marked by a few crucial moments. There was, of course, the time when the album playback was interrupted by the distinctive "new email" chime of Ye's computer. And the many instances in which he rearranged plugs, resulting in a few bouts of impressively jarring electrical buzz. And don't forget when Kanye told all 20K in attendance that, at some point, he'd love to be the creative director for storied French fashion house Hermès.
There was also the time when someone in the audience started chanting, "Fuck Nike," only to have the rallying cry overtake the Garden's stands. In a three-stripes kinda room, it's to be expected. But, to be fair, as soon as another enthusiastic audience member decided to take things a step further and start trashing Michael Jordan and the Jordan brand, Ye shut it down fast, declaring his abiding respect for one of Nike's long-time collaborators. To be fair, he did follow that up epically with, "Though y'all do come to Madison Square Garden to see me play one-on-no one."
Also notable: the appearances of modeling legend Naomi Campbell, rapper Young Thug, and the performance artist Vanessa Beecroft, who staged the whole affair.
But perhaps most notable was the way things ended—because things ended twice. First up, the finish of The Life of Pablo. Kanye actually opened himself up to some audience feedback for that one: "Did I deliver on my promise on that album?" he asked, and was greeted by resounding applause. The followup: "Tell me how y'all feel about the clothes this season." Less applause. But, let's be real, 90% of those in attendance weren't there for the clothes, which did a very capable job of building on the foundation that West established with Yeezy's first and second seasons.
But the songs kept playing, so it wasn't over yet. And then, something bizarre and amazing happened: Kanye debuted a truly surreal bit of footage for a potential video game based on his mother's passage through the gates of heaven. There were winged horses and almost-terrifyingly aerodynamic angels. It was awesome.
And after that, perhaps considering the simple question of How do you follow up a pegasus and angel-themed video game clip!?, Kanye decided it was time to step backstage and relax with his family. He passed control of his computer to friend Virgil Abloh, who kept the music coming as the vast majority of attendees made their way to the doors. That was ending number two.
Upon exiting, there was a distinct feeling of displacement: Did that really happen? And was I really there?
Well, yes. For better of for worse, we're all party to Kanye's beautiful, dark, twisted version of what music and fashion and life should be. Whether or not that's a good thing, we can't say for sure. But we'll be goddamned if it wasn't an entertaining ride.