Ye, née Kanye West, held a runway presentation in Paris on Monday for his ninth Yeezy collection, referred to as “YZY SZN 9.” Held in Paris’s 8th arrondissement, the show itself consisted of a preamble by Ye followed by a procession of models—among them Naomi Campbell, Michèle Lamy, singer James Blake, and Selah Marley, who is the daughter of Lauryn Hill and Rohan Marley—who wore oversized, muted-tone designs consistent with Ye’s oeuvre. A Sunday Service-style choir, which reportedly included several of Ye’s children, performed during the show, which was also live-streamed on Ye’s YouTube channel.
“I am Ye, and everyone here knows that I am the leader,” Ye, wearing a long-sleeve T-shirt with the words “white lives matter” printed on the back, said during his introduction, per Page Six, later adding “You can’t manage me. This is an unmanageable situation.”
Footage from attendees shared on social media, in addition to the now-private livestream, provided a fuller picture. On the front Ye’s “white lives matter” shirt was an image of Pope John Paul II and the Spanish-language phrase “Seguiremos tu ejemplo,” which translates to “We will follow your example.” (“White lives matter,” as several other publications have pointed out, is categorized by the Anti-Defamation League as a white supremacist phrase and a hate slogan.) Other models in the show, including Marley, wore similar designs; the conservative commentator Candice Owens, who moved into Ye’s orbit in recent years, posted to Twitter a photo of herself posing alongside Ye at the show, wearing the same shirt in white.
Backlash came swiftly. “I Can’t Stand Behind What Kanye’s Saying, He Does Not Have The Full Support Of The Youth,” Jaden Smith wrote in a since-deleted tweet Monday afternoon, noting that he left the show early. He tweeted a few more times after that, adding “I Don’t Care Who’s It Is If I Don’t Feel The Message I’m Out” and “Black Lives Matter.”
Fashion figures voiced their anger, as well. “Here come the bullshit. I’m fuming,” wrote Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, a stylist and global Vogue contributing editor. “Indefensible behavior.” Fashion writer and editor Lynette Nylander shared her own post on Instagram, writing,“It doesn’t matter what the intention was…it’s perception to the masses out of context, as well as the implication of the choir made up of children that all looked under 10. He knew what he was doing and it was harmful.”
“Our point, our idea, is that there is no one who is not welcome at YZY, at Donda. And that’s why I went to Gap. And why I brought Demna with me. To say ‘OK, Demna’s cut is at the top of what Paris has to offer. And Paris is at the top of what fashion has to offer. So let’s bring Paris to the people.’” He explained that the Gap partnership didn’t work because Gap “made the T-shirts we had done cost $200. And then, they took our color palette and made a shape that was appropriate to what I think someone in the office thought was at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. And I felt that was civil rights.”
“Well, when we went to shows—and you were just talking about that old Tommy Ton photo—there were certain shows we couldn’t get into,” Ye continued, mentioning the infamous Paris group photo featuring Ye and the late designer Virgil Abloh, among others, that street style photographer Ton snapped in 2009. “That relates to the civil rights movement. It shouldn’t be that you can’t have this fabric or have this cut until you’ve made it to a certain place or class in life. It’s about dignity. And democracy.”