Kanye West debuts new album on the runway

Rapper Kanye West said his dream is to be creative director of fashion house Hermes.
Rapper Kanye West said his dream is to be creative director of fashion house Hermes. PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES • More than 20 million viewers watched rapper and fashion designer Kanye West put his own twist on a New York Fashion Week runway show last Thursday as he debuted a new album and clothing collection at famed music venue Madison Square Garden.

West, his reality star wife Kim Kardashian, their daughter North and family members, including former NBA basketball player Lamar Odom, entered the Manhattan venue to cheers from the audience.

It is the first time Odom, 36, the estranged husband of Khloe Kardashian, has been seen in public since he fell into a coma after using cocaine at a brothel last October and was hospitalised.

The event, watched by 15,000 attendees, was streamed for free online via subscription music streaming service Tidal, garnering around 20 million viewers according to the platform. Tidal is co-owned by a group of music's top artists including West, Jay Z, Rihanna and Beyonce.

As West, 36, performed new tracks for his upcoming album The Life Of Pablo, dozens of models were unveiled standing on raised platforms in the centre of the arena, wearing the new Yeezy Season 3 he designed for sports brand Adidas. The only flash of movement was a fleeting appearance from British supermodel Naomi Campbell.

"Did I live up to my promise on that album?" West asked to cheers.

"This is really a gospel album," he said. "I feel so happy."

The collection, launched on the first day of the city's fashion week, featured West's penchant for neutral tones, but included bright pops of pink, red and orange across the collection of leotards, tops, leggings and parkas worn by a diverse group of models.

West spoke of his happiness in straddling the fashion world, saying that his dream is to be creative director of French fashion house Hermes.

He also announced an upcoming video game called Only Once, which he said was about his late mother Donda West's journey to the gates of heaven.

The show quickly became a top social media trend, as fans tweeted about the collection and the music.

One particular explicit lyric regarding Taylor Swift on new track Famous garnered a strong response from fans as West rapped that he had made the pop star famous, referring to the their infamous 2009 MTV Video Music Awards incident where he interrupted Swift's acceptance speech on stage.

Swift and West have since buried the hatchet, but fans speculated the new lyrics could incite a feud between the two stars.

Also getting in on the action, former drug executive Martin Shkreli tweeted a letter addressed to West offering to buy The Life Of Pablo for US$10 million (S$14 million) so that it would be released solely to him and kept from the public.

Mr Shkreli is being sued over his Wu-Tang Clan album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, the sole copy of which he bought for US$2 million. The lawsuit claims that the album contains illustrations ripped off from a New York artist. West has yet to respond to Mr Shkreli.

West's show was broadcast in cinemas across the planet, busting out of the more traditional confines of a fashion audience as seen at Nicholas K and BCBG Max Azria on Thursday, the opening day of New York Fashion Week.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2016, with the headline 'Kanye West debuts new album on the runway'. Print Edition | Subscribe