Kanye West Breaks the Internet With an Army of Kim Clones That Includes Paris Hilton.
How do you top the spectacle of a lookbook starring Kim Kardashian West? If you’re Kanye West, you spin it into a mega-meme. Lest anyone forget about the paparazzi-style images of his wife wearing Yeezy Season 6 that tore through Twitter in December, West and his team recreated them on the eve of the collection’s drop-down to the precise poses and Calabasas locations and platinum mane-with a gaggle of social-media glamour models and other lowbrow luminaries, from Paris Hilton to porn stars. The head-spinning series of simulacra-several hundred images and counting, some of which feature no clothes at all-began carpet-bombing Instagram last night, putting to rest any lingering theories that West has been crying into his beer in Berlin. And while the experiment is sure to spike online sales, the sheer reach and like count of #yeezyseason6 testifies to West’s skill at wrangling that other commodity: our collective attention.
But what does it mean? Is it a signal from West that he no longer needs, or cares, to engage with the fashion establishment? A playful ode to his wife and muse? An art piece examining the way celebrity shapes our purchasing decisions and self-presentation, like Cindy Sherman on psilocybin? Or, given the number of Twitter commenters throwing around the g-word, might it hint at something beyond even that-evidence that West is some sort of master of the matrix, casually manipulating mass consciousness from the privacy of his bunker? Maybe it’s all of these things. West’s thirst for cross-cultural domination (or at least disruption) is well known, and it’s no stretch to assume that his ambition is for Yeezy to become as ubiquitous as Uniqlo. To that end, the silhouettes appear to be simplifying, and the company is planning to aggressively reduce its prices in coming seasons. The new imagery also spits in the eye of good taste, and the industry’s current intersectional-feminist mood. Showing easy, streetwise clothes where they’re guaranteed to be seen-and bought-by a maximum number of people a maximum number of times doesn’t just challenge the traditional fashion show; it suggests a brand scheming to upend the top-down nature of fashion itself.
That populist shift has, of course, been underway for years, but West’s latest stunt offers perhaps its most vivid visual yet. (Curiously, the new Balenciaga campaign came out today, and it depicts a model dodging the paparazzi. Could West and Demna Gvasalia be in cahoots? Possibly.) Whether he’s ultimately marketing clothes, playing god, or just having fun, the experiment recalls a prescient passage in Marshall McLuhan’s 1966 essay “Cybernation and Culture”: “The electronic age, by creating instant involvement of each of us in all people, has begun to re-pattern the very nature of identity.” In other words, now that we’re all influencers, we’re all followers.