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Style & Living Fashion Week

Kanye's Most Iconic Fashion Week Moments

Recapping wild Yeezy fashion shows and Kanye's best front row appearances.

By Adele Chapin
Kim Rants About… Kanye Ranting?

Wherever Kanye West goes, controversy is sure to follow. Case in point: the ever-evolving Kanye vs. Taylor Swift drama, which will clearly never end. Kanye's stirred up the fashion world maybe more than he has music, with a flurry of thinkpieces about each and every one of the rapper's Yeezy runway shows. But before Kanye became a designer, he was a New York Fashion Week front row fixture. As we prepare for the September 7 return of the mega-fashionable week, here's an overview of Kanye's fashion career as both a designer and a superfan. 

1. Kanye The Designer

Way before Yeezy sneakers constantly sold out, Kanye was laying the ground work as a designer. He's reported to have interned for Fendi in 2007 (guessing he wasn't going on typical intern assignments like coffee runs). He had a Louis Vuitton collab in 2009, a short-lived Nike shoe, and a line called Pastelle.

But his biggest move was his own epynonymous fashion line that debuted in Paris in 2011 to tepid critical reviews. The headline of the NY Times review reads "Kanye West, Designer (Yawn)." Ouch! It included savage quotes like "You can’t just dump some fox fur on a runway and call it luxury" and Anna Wintour's harsh take. When asked about the line, she said: “Ask someone else.”

At least Karlie Kloss and Chanel Iman walked in the show! Not pictured, Lindsey Lohan sitting front row. Sandals in the line cost over $5,000, and within two seasons, Kanye called it quits.

But in 2015, the stage was set for Kanye's triumphant return to fashion design — this time backed by Adidas. By then Kanye had a Vogue cover under his belt, and Anna Wintour sat front row for Yeezy Season 1 next to Kim Kardashian. Kylie Jenner blended in with all the models in post-apocalyptic Rick Owens and Margiela-esque bodysuits and sweats. 

Finally, the Anna Wintour seal of approval. 

This time, the fashion world was all about it, but eyebrows were raised when Yeezy Season 2 looked a heckuva lot like Yeezy Season 1. "Kanye West Is Fooling the Fashion World," New York magazine critic Cathy Horyn wrote. 

He still got a major interview with Vogue icon André Leon Talley, though.

Yeezy Season 3 went full-on spectacle, with a show  inspired by refugee camps held in Madison Square Garden in front of 18,000 fans. Vogue's Nicole Phelps called Kanye "fashion's foremost disruptor." 

The Kardashian-Jenner clan dressed to kill in a mix of Yeezy and Balmain. Not so glamorous though, was the wild ride Yeezy Season 3 extras went on that involved a bus to New Jersey to get dressed in thrift store finds. 

It got even wilder at Yeezy Season 4. Things got off to a controversial start when Kanye — known for his diverse castings — called for "multiracial" models only. The day of the show, fashion people boarded buses to fight traffic to get to Roosevelt Island only to watch models collapse as they waited during a heat wave for the show to start two hours late. "Boycott #YeezySeason4," The Cut's EIC Stella Bugbee tweeted, "I feel physically sick from that abomination." Putting aside the disastrous show, the clear Yeezy boots made the most headlines.

So maybe the most shocking thing about Yeezy Season 5 is that it ended up being entirely drama-free, with a no-social media rule at that. 

2. Kanye, Front Row Attendee

Kanye's been sitting front row at fashion week for more than a decade. His seatmates over the years have included everyone from Pink to super editor Carine Roitfeld to Woody Harrelson and Paul McCartney. 

That makes for some incongruous celeb friendships, like when he hung out with Lorde in 2015 in Paris at the Dior show. (She showed up at Yeezy Season 2). 

Kanye, Kim Kardashian and Kris Jenner and the rest of the Kardashian-Jenners are fixtures on the Balmain front row: it's other celebs like Jared Leto, Solange Knowles, and Kelly Rowland who rotate in and out. 

But probably the most memorable moments of Kanye's front row runway attendance involve mini-fashionista North West, who evidently wasn't a fan of the Alexander Wang show in 2015 and pitched a tantrum fit for NYFW. (North wasn't enthused with Yeezy Season 1 either!) 

So who's going to be in the Yeezy Season 6 front row? It's rumored to be happening, which means Kanye hasn't been spending all his time designing kids' clothes. No matter what happens, that's bound to be NYFW's hottest ticket.

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