Ye (F.K.A. Kanye West) and Karl Lagerfeld, what do they have in common? Let's talk about it.
They are not only both connected to the fashion industry, but both quite controversial. I'm sure you have heard all about Ye's recent proclamations and stunts, but I will give you a quick recap.
Going back to 2004 and 2009, Ye stormed out of the American Music Awards after not winning Best New Artist and interrupted Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the MTV Music Video Awards to tell the audience that he thought Beyonce deserved the award. In 2016, was the start of his social media outbursts, but not as frequent. Ye started explicit social media outbursts in 2018 about his then wife Kim Kardashian. In 2020 was when he started sharing private family matters and took to social media to say that he nearly "killed" their daughter, North, via abortion. Later that year he announced a presidential campaign, which ultimately resulted in a loss to Joe Biden. Throughout 2021 and 2022, he continued social media outbursts about Kim Kardashian and political topics. At his brand's, Yeezy, fashion show in Paris of October of 2022, he and all the models were wearing shirts that read "WHITE LIVES MATTER". Following this, he mocked and insulted Vogue editor, Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, after she stated the shirts were "pure violence" and "hugely irresponsible". Later that month he repeatedly said antisemitic statements in the media. He claimed that the founder of planned parenthood started it "with the KKK to control the Jewish population". He also stated on social media that the rapper, Puff Daddy" was controlled by Jews. This resulted in Instagram locking his account.
After the antisemitic statements and insulting a Vogue editor, the fashion industry started to take action. Vogue, Balenciaga, CAA, Gap and Adidas made statements that they will no longer work with Ye. Foot Locker and TJ Maxx also stated that they will not be carrying Yeezy now nor in the future.
It is also worth noting that Ye has been reportedly diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. Though he has refuted this diagnosis multiple times, others tend to believe it is true. He has spoke out about fighting depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
Given this information, does it change your mind about Ye as a person? Is he just fighting with a mental disorder? Regardless, I find it interesting what lengths a person as to go to for the fashion industry to stand up to it. This certainly did not happen with Karl Lagerfeld. Here is a brief recap of his controversies.
Starting in 2009, Karl Lagerfeld called supermodel Heidi Klum "no runway model. She is simply too heavy and has too big a bust" after she posed naked on the cover of German GQ. In 2010 he told Vice that he was against gay marriage. Following this, he called singer, Adele, "a little too fat" in 2012. Later that year, he also criticized Pippa Middleton, sister of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, on her looks. Even worse than that Lagerfeld, when discussing Germany's open borders to the Syrian Refugee crisis, said “One cannot – even if there are decades between them – kill millions of Jews so you can bring millions of their worst enemies in their place,”. (For the record, Syrian refugees are not the sworn enemies of the Jews.) To make matters worse, he then added, “I know someone in Germany who took a young Syrian and after four days said: ‘The greatest thing Germany invented was the Holocaust.’” Finally in 2018, Lagerfeld said in response to the Me Too movement “If you don’t want your pants pulled about, don’t become a model! Join a nunnery, there’ll always be a place for you in the convent.”
After all of these appalling statements that Karl Lagerfeld made, the fashion industry still continued to sing his praises as the most influential creative director yet. So much so that the 2023 Met Gala theme is "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty". So what did he do that was so great?
Karl Lagerfeld was the creative director for Chloé from 1963-1983, during this time he also freelanced Tiziani, an Italian Couture brand, where is biggest client was Elizabeth Taylor. In 1965-2019 he became the creative director for Fendi. In 1983 until his death in 2019, Lagerfeld was the creative director for Chanel, the house which is he most notably known for. He also started his own line "Karl Lagerfeld" in 1984. Not only was he know for heading these iconic fashion houses, but he is credited with many trademarks for Chanel including: the bouclthe interlocking C and the multi-layered Pearl Chanel necklace. Lagerfeld changed the game for fashion when he started directing. I agree, Karl Lagerfeld was in fact one of the most talented creative directors in women's fashion to date, but he has clearly shown who he is morally.
Ye was not as influential directly in the fashion industry, but I would argue that he had an era of being one of the most influential stylist in fashion. He owned his own clothing and shoe line, Yeezy, but more notably, he styled Kim Kardashian in almost everything she wore while they were together: 2014-2022. As we know, Kim Kardashian has influenced the world when it comes to street style: bodysuits, sweatpants, sneakers, nude color, slicked hair, monochromatic, cargo pants, and more.
Why is it that Ye was ousted over Karl Lagerfeld? This brings me to my point of separating art from the artist. Ye is not only known for his stylistic art, but also his musical art. He has shown to be quite talented with his past released albums. It is hard not to listen or draw inspiration from someone that once was your favorite singer, but is it the person or the art itself?
Artists often if not always use personal stories, and experiences to create said art. When viewing it this way, it can make it very hard if not impossible to separate the art from the artists because the art itself is the artists. If you view it on the other hand though, those experiences are admirable. They simply come to life for each viewer and in turn is related to their personal life. I have always believed that art is objective and simply interpreted by the viewer. This would then mean that the art is no longer the artists, but is the viewer.
At the end of the day, it is tough to support something that has someone who is problematic behind it. This is why those that cause such harm should be held accountable by industries and fans. If you closely identify with any art that has a problematic person behind it, it does not discount you as a person, but ultimately still hold that artist accountable for their actions. It is disappointing to see that the fashion industry was so quickly to cancel Ye, but continue to remember Karl Lagerfeld as an artist. Gen-Z does not seem to be letting anyone get away with anything these days though. I hope to see a change in the fashion industry going forward.