Because they won’t let me!



It’s a new era in fashion — there are no rules. It’s all about the individual and personal style, wearing high-end, low-end, classic labels, and up-and-coming designers all together. — Alexander McQueen

After reading this lovely quote you’ll probably believe the fashion industry is a wonderful creative land where all up and coming and established executives, manufacturers, creative directors, merchandisers and retailers work in perfect harmony in the name of great style. That is, until one decided speak about his experience.

This is an extract from an interview on the radio talk show « Sway in the Morning ».

– « I’m just trying to understand. You have the money, you have the fame and you have the resources. Why don’t you do it yourself? »
– « Because they won’t let me! I’m not trying to just design graphic tees. We’re passed that stage and that’s as far as they are letting me go!
« I’m just trying to understand… »
« You don’t have the answers Swayyy ».

The person being interviewed was the one and only Kanye West aka Mr. West, Ye, Yeezus, Louis Vuitton Don, Konman. The founder of the music label Good Music (Getting Out Our Dreams), winner of 21 Grammy awards and the list goes on. Throughout the whole interview I wondered who « they » were and why Mr. West was so angry at them. Well, until he dropped a few names…

Let’s get this clear before we find out who “they” actually are. We’ve been told so many times that fashion is the best way to express ourselves. Let us all agree that fashion first and foremost is a business. Most, if not all, fashion companies are for-profit entities. Their goal is to sell as much product as possible to as many people as possible. To achieve this simple business goal, diversifying their offerings seems to be the most lucrative for most. We might be familiar with this approach, especially in the US, from brands such as Old Navy, Gap and Banana Republic. All owned by Gap Inc. They all sell similar products with prices ranging from $20 for a pair of jeans, to $69, and up to $98, respectively. The profits all go back to the same parent company, but all 3 brands have very different markets. Even though it may not be so obvious, the same happens in the luxury and ultra-luxe markets, but on a much larger scale. At that level, the parent companies, known as conglomerates, have a much wider and deeper reach which makes it extremely difficult if not impossible for the competition to get a piece of the pie without their blessing.

« They » are Bernard Arnaud, Francois Pinault and Johann Rupert. There are a few more names that could be included but let’s focus to these three, the luxury fashion trinity as I refer to them.

Sometimes people think or act like they’re wearing the best of the best because they wear Louis Vuitton as opposed to Fendi or Alexander McQueen as opposed to Gucci or maybe Cartier as opposed to Montblanc. But that’s without knowing that either way Bernard, Francois or Johann are the ones walking to the bank in style.  It’s like drinking Sprite because Coke is beneath you. Sprite is made by Coca-Cola. Here are some not so public and obvious relationships that most may have not been aware of.

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Image: TNTN PhotosBernard Arnaud
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Image: Journal du NetFrançois Pineault
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Image: City PressJohann Rupert
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As you can see « they » control, own and rule the luxury goods industry from New York to Paris, to Milan and Hong Kong (I’ve purposely left out London since I feel that market is a bit different. I’m actually wearing my Church’s on this lovely Sunday while writing this). I know that’s neither here nor there. We’re here to find the answers for Sway, right?

During the interview Kanye was mostly complaining about the fact that those men in their quest to make as much profit and gain as much power as possible are taking a lot away from what fashion was intended to be: an extension of someone’s character through what they wear. Arnaud, Pineault and Rupert show very little interest in creativity and innovation and, unfortunately they are also depriving the designers of their independence and creative freedom. They use their omnipresence and power to impose their wishes and influence everything that happens in their industries of interest. This is done by delaying release dates, inflating prices, controlling the supply and distribution of the best materials, restricting access to manufacturers etc. And let’s not forget keeping newcomers away from the throne by any other means necessary. You can be a talented designer, a master tailor or an iconic figure with the ability to sell $4500 sneakers and still be kept on the sidelines as a small contributor.

Kanye West is making some of these companies shit loads of money just by giving his endorsement, so why is he being locked out? POWER! Power, is what the luxury fashion trinity is holding on to so dearly, probably because their ego and competitive nature won’t let them. It’s all about getting on top and staying there. As Kanye said in one of his songs “They don’t have the power to let power go”. So, if you want to play in this members only club, you’re going to have to push, fight and scream your way in, and sometimes even that won’t work. Your passion, skills, education and your great reputation won’t cut it (pun intended)! But if you’re lucky, it might get you and your boys an internship at Fendi.

For most of us, that price to pay to earn the respect and be considered as one of the best is just way too high or simply not worth it, but to some, it’s all about following your dreams until they become your reality. You’ll end up being called crazy, self-centered, greedy or even egomaniac during the process, but for Kanye, that’s just another day being Kanye! A man ahead of his time, doing what has never been done, going places others will never dare to go and proudly opening new doors for generations to come.


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