Kanye West Followed a NYC Fashion Star on Instagram. What Does It Mean?

This is an edition of the newsletter Show Notes, in which Samuel Hine reports from the front row of the global fashion week circuit. Sign up here to get it in your inbox.

Early last week, Kanye “Ye” West doubled the number of accounts he followed on Instagram. Where before he followed exactly one person (his Vultures 1 co-pilot Ty Dolla $ign), on Monday Ye added a second person to his feed: downtown fashion star Sandy Liang.

Their eagle-eyed (and chronically online) followers noticed immediately. “Kanye only following Ty dolla sign and sandy liang on ig is actually insane…….” wrote one observer on X, hinting at the bizarre convergence between the cultural lightning rod and fashion’s premier purveyor of coquettish bows and cute peter pan collar dresses. “Rare Kanye W,” added another. On the profile of Liang’s eponymous brand, Ye’s 20-million-plus followers started making noise: “Ye sent me,” “followed by kanye,” and on and on. In a week where there was no shortage of headline fashion news—courtesy of Dries Van Noten’s retirement and the Pierpaolo Piccioli and Valentino split—the whole thing was merely an inexplicable footnote.

It was, in other words, the perfect weird, low stakes thing fashion people love speculating about.

As the tweets and comments multiplied, a couple theories hit my group chats. One was that the rapper, designer, and provocateur was hinting at a forthcoming project with Liang. After all, he followed Ty $ to promote their just-dropped joint album. Was Ye cooking up a fashion collab with the Chinatown native and belle of balletcore? Crazier things have happened (I think?), but for many reasons this theory struck me as totally unlikely. It did, however, get me thinking about Ye’s broader fashion comeback, which is totally happening.

First, to state what should be obvious: Sandy Liang is not collaborating with Ye or Yeezy. But the speculation alone speaks to the impact of Ye’s redemption tour. Before his downfall in the fall of 2022, which happened slowly and then all at once following his infamous “White Lives Matter” Yeezy show and repeated antisemitic outbursts, Ye was riding higher than ever. His Yeezy partnership with Adidas was worth billions, and defined the aesthetic of contemporary footwear. He was working with Gap to realize his vision of making his designs accessible to the general public, and was collaborating with his favorite luxury house, Balenciaga. He finally had the establishment validation he’d long craved, with major commercial success to go with it.

All of those corporate partnerships were axed in 2022, and for a while his cancellation was so thorough that even Goodwill pulled Yeezy products from shelves. But owing to his sheer influence, it was always going to be more complicated to actually banish Ye from the respectable corners of the fashion world. Though his ambitions for Yeezy have always outpaced his execution—we’re still waiting for the Armani-meets-Aman Yeezy desert domes, for instance—he has arguably shaped the modern American wardrobe in his image. Go to any airport and you see luxury sweats and dusty color palettes everywhere. And his audience remains loyal. Vultures 1 topped the Billboard 200 (and six weeks on remains at No. 10), and Adidas has had no problem selling its remaining Yeezy stock.

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