Kanye West is never far from some sort of controversy so it’s no surprise at all that the man who supported Trump and once called slavery ‘a choice’ has been ruffling feathers at Paris Fashion Week. He and Selah Marley (Bob’s granddaughter) both wore shirts bearing a large ‘White Lives Matter’ logo, he even went on to defend his actions and attack the BLM movement (again). The worrying thing about all of this is how aware is Kanye of his own actions? Does he court controversy purposefully? Is he genuinely that blind or is he simply taking the piss?
Stunts like this have become commonplace for Kanye as, as far as I can work out, it gets him attention which, in turn, gets him money. I’m in no way excusing some of the dickheadish things West has said, I’m merely explaining them best I can. The age old adage that ‘any publicity is good publicity’ has just been taken way too far.
One place I think we can all agree that Kanye really is taking the piss is in his seeming thievery of other artists’ work. At the same Paris Fashion Week he was accused of ripping off a graphic tee of the pope from the 90s. But is this blatant stealing of vintage looks and designs bringing attention to vintage designs and, in turn, vintage clothing or is it purely serving Kanye’s quest to be the richest ‘genius’ in the world?
This long-sleeved pope tee, worn the same week as The White Lives matter one, bears some resemblance to… actually it’s exactly the same as, this vintage one seen on the right. Look closely at the vintage one and you’ll see the Fruit of the Loom inner label. There’s some suggestion that it was created for the pope’s visit to Mexico in the early 00s but whenever it was certainly there before Kanye debuted this. Perhaps it will direct people to find similar vintage ones - they’re created especially in the Americas to celebrate the pope so you often see them coming through vintage warehouses. Or Kanye will just make a fortune off of it. Like I said though, it wouldn’t be the first time.
Kanye posted this picture of design sketches for his Yeezy line a few years ago. Quite quickly former Nike designer Tony Spackman shared his own picture clearly labeled ’05, some 13 years before Kanye’s drawing. In fact they’d gone so far as to photoshop that label from the top left of the page, otherwise it’d be far too obvious. Turns out that artists usually recognise their own work though and Spackman obviously did. A few days after it was revealed Kanye did issue an apology, blaming a ‘newly hired designer’ who had ‘immediately been let go from the company’. Whether this was true or not you would think Kanye would have a bit more control and insight into the process of his own label. The piss taker.
Now look at this bit of Kanye merch from 2021 his is the one on the left: DONDA. The tee on the right is the work of an up-and-coming fashion line called ‘Infinity G8DS’. Both of them feature a fake on the Star of David with a cross inside, both instantly recognisable religious symbols, so surely this could just be an innocent mistake. Well it also turns out that Infinity G8DS met with West in Atlanta to help him work on some Donda merch. Kanye loved the work and said he’d keep in touch. He didn’t. He instead presented the designs to Balenciaga and worked with them, gaining $7m in merch at the gig. That one’s a definite piss take to both Infinite G8DS and the fans (who were paying $100 a shirt for the stolen design).
Here’s the campaign for Yeezy season 6. Well, the bottom photos are the campaign for Yeezy season 6 anyway. The top ones were created some time before by photographer Rita Minissi. I won’t include them all here as there’s plenty, but the whole collection of photos is pretty much identical to Minissi’s art (albeit a bit more graphic). Add to this the fact that the original work was created to deal with Minissi’s own personal trauma, to help her face her own demons, then this one isn’t just a piss take. It’s a bit fucked up.
Finally here’s another very blatant rip from another lesser-known artist. On the left we have an image from the video for West’s song Hurricane and on the right we have Denis Forkas’ work Hortus Aureus. The weird thing is that Forkas’ looks like an improved version of Kanye’s image; he’s nicked something to essentially make it worse. Like stealing an essay off the internet and dumbing it down so your teacher thinks its your own work. Forkas commented on the theft by not blaming Kanye and stating he won’t have been the one to steal the work. He might be right but if you want to call yourself a genius and an innovator then maybe have a little more control over your output. Forkas’ polite response makes this a double piss take.
Not every idea is completely original. Artists borrow from artists to make their own individual work. Music, fashion, art, is all based on evolution from whatever came before. There’s no denying that Kanye West has made some incredible work, I’m thinking music-wise (his production on Jay Z’s Blueprint springs to mind), but the blatant plagiarism displayed here only shows one thing: Kanye West is taking the piss.