WORDS BY JOSEPH FURNESS
Donda is more than just Kanye West’s 10th studio album, it’s the beginning of a new era for the protean creative – one in which old Kanye and new Kanye consolidate to create one of the greatest albums of our generation.
For the Donda era, the rapper has combined the many facets of his august career – including the religious vibes of Jesus is King (2019), the infectious egotistical attitude of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010) and the emotional vulnerability of Late Registration (2005) and Ye (2018) – to create an album that pushes him further into the musical stratosphere, further than any other artist has ventured to before. And he’s brought some of his most talented peers along for the ride, including long-time collaborators Jay-Z, Pusha T and Kid Cudi and rising talents Vory and Baby Keem.
Below, we take a look at the role that fashion is playing within West’s Donda era – from the style-centric lyrics of the 24-record album to the attire worn by the rapper and his ex-wife, Kim Kardashian, to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium-set Donda listening parties.
Kanye West's Donda: The Fashion-Focused Lyrics
‘Junya Watanabe on my...’
Junya Watanabe is a Japanese designer, famed for being the protege of Comme des Garçons founder Rei Kawakubo. Manifestly, Kanye West has a predilection for Wantanabe’s designs as the rapper has dedicated an entire track to the designer on Donda, simply titled Junya (ft. Playboi Carti).
Within the song, West and Carti boast about their Junya Watanabe garbs manifold times; this suggests that the two rappers understand the act of wearing Junya Wantanabe MAN as a symbol of one’s social status and their comprehension of the fashion industry.
Read more about stalwart fashion designer Junya Watanabe right here.
'No more promo, no more photos, no more logos, no more chokeholds'
In Donda track Heaven and Hell, Kanye claims that he’s avoiding logos from here on out in the lyrics, ‘no more promo, no more photos, no more logos, no more chokeholds’.
This statement shouldn’t come as a surprise to staunch devotees of West as the majority of his Yeezy seasons and adidas Yeezy releases eschew logos and motifs in favour of minimal, tonal designs. Take the neutral Yeezy Season 6 jumpsuit pictured above, for example.
‘Keep your mask on, keep it sanitized, uh’
Kanye is renowned for his controversial statements about social issues and current affairs. However, according to the lyrics in his Donda track New Again, the rapper agrees with many world leaders that individuals should continue to wear their face masks for their health and safety now that COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are being lifted worldwide.
If you do plan on wearing face coverings for the foreseeable future, may we recommend investing in a Marine Serre mask? The modish Parisian designer – known for dressing A-listers from Beyoncé to Adele – has fashioned a range of super-versatile masks from recycled materials, meaning you can save your style, yourself and the world by making this one purchase. Sounds like a no brainer to us.
‘I gotta, I gotta put on the Virgil one time’
In Praise God (ft. Travis Scott and Baby Keem), Virgil Abloh – founder of Off-White and men’s artistic director at Louis Vuitton – receives a shout out from Las Vegas-born rapper Baby Keem.
This is not the first time Virgil has received a shout out on a Kanye West song, and it probably won’t be the last, as the two creatives have shared a close bond ever since the mid-00s. Want to know more about the relationship between Abloh and West? Head on over to our Ode to Off-White.
'Even when we in dad shoes and mom jeans'
In Donda’s Lord I Need You (ft. Sunday Service Choir), Ye raps the line, ‘Even when we in dad shoes and mom jeans’. Instantly, Ye’s adidas Yeezy Boost 700 V1 sneaker comes to mind.
First released in 2017, the adidas Yeezy Boost 700 V1 was responsible for ushering in the dad shoe trend that primarily pivots around chunky, multi-layered kicks. And thanks to a recent restock of the Yeezy Boost 700 V1 Waverunner, AKA the OG Yeezy 700, there’s a new wave of hype around the future classic.
Discover more about the history of the sneaker in our Yeezy 700 timeline.
'Should I really have bought the Burberry last Thursday'
Kanye has been a prominent member of the fashion community for years; naturally, the rapper-cum-designer has established genuine relationships with the world’s most influential tastemakers, including Riccardo Tisci.
Riccardo Tisci is currently the chief creative officer of British label Burberry, which may explain why Kanye nonchalantly references the brand in Donda track New Again. Here’s hoping this reference means we'll be seeing Ye dressed in Tisci designs during the Donda era.
'I just bought some brand-new clothes, Dover Street Market (Givenchy)'
Being a multibillionaire means you can go shopping whenever you please, and according to Donda track Off The Grid (ft. Playboi Carti & Fivio Foreign), Kanye’s shopping spot of choice is Rei Kawakubo’s Dover Street Market. The Los Angeles store, presumably.
Interestingly, one of the DSM’s current hero brands is ERL, a Californian label run by multi-hyphenate Eli Russell Linnetz. Why is that interesting? Well, because Linnetz is a recurring collaborator of West, responsible for directing his Famous and Fade music videos and producing the floating stage for The Life of Pablo tour. Seemingly, West is just a couple of degrees away from everyone of note in the creative industries.
In the same sentence, Kanye also mentions Givenchy: the rapper’s favourite Watch The Throne-era label. Back when the album was released in 2011, Givenchy was helmed by the aforementioned Italian designer Riccardo Tisci; but, these days, the brand is spearheaded by another one of West’s many acquaintances, Matthew Williams. As fans of both Kanye West and Williams' Givenchy, we're happy to know the Parisian brand still gets the rapper's seal of approval.
‘She rock Yeezy, hold up, so we always matchin’,
Kanye took the opportunity to shout out his own brand, YEEZY, in Donda track Junya (ft. Playboi Carti) because, why not? A little self-marketing never hurt anybody...
The Insta-friendly phrase, ‘She rock Yeezy, hold up, so we always matchin’, promotes the kind of couple outfits Kim and Kanye would often wear together. For example, the two were often papped in frill-free athleisure looks and Kanye-designed adidas Yeezy QNTM sneakers. Do these lyrics signal the return of KimYe? We sure do hope so, but only time will tell.
Kanye West's Donda: The Listening Party Outfits
Donda Listening Party 1: Yeezy Gap
The first Donda listening party – officially titled Kanye West Presents: A Donda Listening Event – took place at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium on 22 July 2021, a day prior to the project’s original release date.
For the show, Kanye chose to wear unreleased pieces from his ongoing brand collaborations – a red puffer jacket and matching trousers from his Yeezy Gap line and a pair of orange and cream 1020 boots from his adidas Yeezy collection. In true Kanye West style, the artist finished off the look with an unexpected accessory – a beige stocking mask.
To show support for her ex-husband, Kim Kardashian wore a very similar get-up: a red leather bodysuit by avant-garde designer Rick Owens and a pair of oversized visor sunglasses that blocked out her face.
Donda Listening Party 2: Balenciaga
Friday 23 July 2021 came and Donda didn’t release; and then, a few days later, Kanye announced a second listening party at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium directed by friend and Balenciaga creative director, Demna Gvasalia.
As expected, Gvasalia dressed the rapper in an all-black Balenciaga ensemble consisting of a punky hedgehog-esque black jacket, cargo pants and combat boots. The rapper paired the look with a black stocking mask and bulletproof vest adorned with the album title.
Once again, Kim K matched West’s look by sporting a head-to-toe black Balenciaga outfit, complete with a gimp zipper mask.