“Whatever style you have, the main point is… to measure restraint. You can flirt with the limit but you can’t do everything,” said Jean Touitou, the creator of French brand A.P.C., hosting a presentation at the label’s headquarters in the 6th arrondissement. For A/W ’14, his menswear collection was in deference to “elegant men” as fashion muses. Namely: Yves Saint Laurent (“you could not find a picture of Saint Laurent looking bad”), Marcel Proust, Samuel Beckett, Marc Jacobs (the “greasy hair and glasses” version), and Kurt Cobain (“I believe that Kurt had swag”).
“Talking about swag…” Touitou transitioned, by way of introduction to Kanye West, who came forward to discuss his A.P.C. capsule collection. (The previous capsule collection allegedly sold out instantaneously last summer, though his debut RTW collection was absolutely panned by critics in 2011.) West wore a white short-sleeved button-down, slouchy faded skinny jeans, suede boots, a WWJD band on the right wrist, and a Cartier bracelet on the left. He began a monologue that weaved surprising self-awareness with, nonetheless, a dose of over-mythologizing. “Everyone knows I’ve had a passion for a long time… whether I’m talking about clothes with someone from the hip-hop side of things, or with someone that’s in the fashion industry,” he said. He beseeched people “not to have prejudice against the U-shaped curve of success in a different field.”
He fumbled with an awkward metaphor to illustrate his struggle with creative polyamory: “If you had a housekeeper that was your best housekeeper in the world and she wanted to start being a florist, you’d pay her three times as much not to follow her dream of being a florist.” A little bit more sensically, he shifted to how he navigated the collaboration with Touitou: “You have to pick a good partner. Even if we don’t agree on things sometimes. His taste level of restraint, and my level of turn-up… Or sometimes he wants to turn-up: he wanted to do this leopard t-shirt, should we do this leopard t-shirt? I don’t know… [switched to pleading voice and turned to Touitou] I don’t wanna be the black guy who did the leopard tee-shirt. [The crowd laughed.] It’s a balance of finding your own voice through creation.”
“I think people have this perception about what I would do. But what I ask of you guys, it’s the same thing I’ve asked from myself, what I’ve learned now in 2014, is to just have patience… I wanted to go to [Central] St. Martin’s but Louise [Wilson, its Master’s degree course director] said I was too famous, so I basically had to learn about clothes through Style.com, through Scott from the Sartorialist, and through Tommy Ton, and through shopping. Luckily, I was rich enough to make some mistakes and shit and learn just by being a fashion victim—which, I definitely have been a fashion victim—to flip it to, maybe, a fashion icon to, maybe, a person who can give an opinion, and that’s what I’m in the process of doing. I just want everyone to be patient with me on this journey.”
He went on to describe the looks, using “tones that are very painterly, because my background is art, I got scholarships to the American Academy of Art. I have to say this pretentious, snobby thing in this situation, that I was in art school since age five… And guess what I got in trouble because someone said my work was too controversial. I wonder where they would’ve gotten that from.” He waxed poetic about wax cotton motorcycle pants from Touitou’s archive. “I like details that are very swagged out,” he said, pointing to accents on the garments as he spun the models around, pointing out a signature button and oversized pockets and vintage zipper-pulls. “I just have a passion for putting the fabrics together,” he said, comparing that ability to “sonically putting together samples.”
“It was fun to see this come together and have a real expression. This is maybe the first time people can be like Oh! That’s his opinion! We see him in that,” he said of his designs. “Well, you know what my dream is, if I was to dream out loud and shit. Not to say anything wrong, but I don’t really give a fuck. It’s like: what is the new family? It’s like: me and Kim and Nori. This jet-setting family. We have a place in Paris, in New York, we live in LA. We have to be prepared for all these, you know, situations. And to communicate, to the rap audience, because I’m a rapper and that’s my main profession—that allows me to attempt to fucking keep failing at making clothes. And also to communicate to the fucking editors of GQ, or to Wes Anderson…”—the film director, turned out in a brown herringbone suit and gingham shirt, was seated in the audience—“Name drop! Name drop!” he mea culpa-ed.
West ended with, yet again, the notion of being “boxed in by your own success.” While obviously intent on being taken seriously as a fashion designer, he admitted that he had had some learning to do: “Jean has taught me how to drive on the right side of the street,” West said of his collaboration.
“I feel a little bit cliché,” he said sheepishly in conclusion, “but it’s cool though.”