Vogue magazine called it ‘provocative’. But in truth — even by the crazy standards of the fashion world — the show in New York’s prestigious Madison Square Garden auditorium yesterday, for thousands of paying punters and 20 million online viewers, was surely the most dazzlingly ridiculous spectacle ever.
Or, to take a more cynical view, it was the greatest act of self-promotion ever, for a family that have arguably turned such a thing into an art form. Of course, we are talking about the Kardashians.
For those who don’t know them — and there can’t be many left — this is the family of American socialites, models, rap artists and hangers-on who have become household names and multi-millionaires via their reality TV show, Keeping Up With The Kardashians.
They are used to courting controversy, but this latest venture into the world of fashion plumbed new depths of ludicrousness.
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Fame: Kanye West’s show in New York’s prestigious Madison Square Garden auditorium yesterday was the greatest act of self-promotion ever, for a family that have arguably turned such a thing into an art form
For a start, the show’s ‘designer’ was musician Kanye West, possibly America’s most famous male celebrity thanks to his bizarre pronouncements (he compares himself to Jesus) and marriage to the lavishly bottomed reality star Kim Kardashian.
The antics of the couple, who recently became parents to baby boy Saint (yes, really), a brother to daughter North West (again yes, really) make headlines worldwide and are meticulously documented on the television show.
And, of course, Kanye’s in-laws were out in force, with faces frozen, furs primped and cleavages dripping with diamonds, looking rather like an over-Botoxed Addams family.
They all wore his clothes. This was bad news for them, as the garments on offer — mostly body-con fleshy Lycra, vulgar furs and see-through mesh — were of such compelling ugliness that even fashion reviewers tried hard not to mention them.
Vogue contributor Tim Blanks, perhaps mindful of the close friendship between the magazine’s editor Anna Wintour and Kim, observed briefly that the flesh-coloured bodysuits had a ‘body-conscious severity’ and that people would buy his trainers, and left it pretty much at that.
(Kanye explained that he had been inspired by the London riots of 2011, perhaps hinting at a torturously slow creative process.)
Fan club: Kanye’s in-laws already knew all the words to his songs and sang and danced along. (L-R) Kourtney, Kendall, Lamar Odom, Khloe, Kylie, North and Kim
Friends with the designer: Lamar Odom sat with Khloe, though eye-witnesses say he was escorted to his seat by Kanye himself
Certainly, the picture of the family en masse is disconcerting.
First there’s Queen Bee Kim, 35, who turned up at the show’s 4.30pm start in a blonde fright wig. Kim is the daughter of celebrity lawyer Robert Kardashian — who famously got his friend O.J. Simpson off a 1995 murder charge.
She rose to public attention when a sex tape of her and singer Ray J was leaked, which netted her and her family a reality show. When she married Kanye in 2014, their wedding cost a reported £8 million.
Observing Kim’s plumped-out cheeks and catlike eyes, many were left wondering whether she’d had ‘a bit of work’ after the birth of her son two months ago.
It should be noted, at this point, that there is what U.S. magazines term a ‘divorce buzz’ around Kim and Kanye at the moment.
Although they posed happily for the cameras, they are said to be ‘constantly fighting’ and are rarely together — Kanye has been abroad, often in Paris, finishing his latest album, The Life Of Pablo, which was also premiered last night.
Party! The Kardashian-Jenner clan looked to be in high spirits as the show started. They seemed to know the lyrics to Kanye’s new music
Arms in the air: Kylie and Khloe couldn’t help but get into the groove during the show at Madison Square Garden
Then, swathed in furs, there was Kardashian matriarch and manager Kris Jenner, 66, whose second marriage to Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner recently ended in divorce.
This was due to Bruce’s decision to change his gender last year and reinvent himself as a woman called Caitlyn. And she was there too, beaming at the back, with Duchess of Cambridge-style long, glossy hair and knee boots.
Then there’s Kris and Bruce (now Caitlyn)’s daughters, Kylie Jenner, 18 (famous for getting grotesque lip fillers at the age of 16) and Kendall, 20, a model who turned up in the same white dress as her father. Completing the line-up were sisters Kourtney, 36, and Khloe, 31, who is known as the ‘sensible one’ in the family.
And speaking of poor taste, who else but the shamelessly barrel-scraping Kardashians would wheel out basketball player Lamar Odom, the brain-damaged estranged husband of Khloe, just to add lustre to this grisly show?
Odom, you may recall, had numerous strokes and was left in a coma after a three-day drugs and prostitutes binge in Arizona in October last year.
At the time, he and Khloe were in the process of divorcing — but since waking up he hasn’t been able to remember much, so he is back in the money-spinning Kardashian circus — for now.
Of course, there was also an assorted cast of celeb hangers-on, including model Naomi Campbell, actress Melanie Griffith and superstar rappers 50 Cent and Jay-Z.
In demand: The stage and surrounding areas were packed, making it difficult to see the details of the clothing
Facing the music: Kanye, who was wearing a long-sleeved tee printed with the words ‘I feel like Pablo’, started the show with a song called Ultralight Bling
So with this audience safely in place — along with 18,000 fans who had paid for the privilege of being there — what of the show itself?
Well, it began with some Kanye songs, at which point a massive tarpaulin was removed from the stage to reveal 200 models standing stock-still beneath. There they remained, vacantly, for around an hour. At one point, one of them yawned.
A critic wrote: ‘There were hundreds of “performers”, most of them African-American or of mixed race, wearing the new collection of tattered sweaters, oversize dusters, bodysuits, tanks, hoodies and shearlings. But it was hard to know Kanye’s message.’
Another wrote that it ‘basically looked like a Yeezy-clad refugee camp [a reference to Kanye’s clothing range] penned in the centre of the floor’.
This was all on Kanye’s say-so — a list of ‘performance rules’ has since been leaked, which demands: ‘No smiling, no dancing, no eye contact, no fast movements, no slow movements, no sharp movements, no sexy posing, behave as if no one was in the room, if you want to move you can shift your weight, do not act cool, do not be casual, do not break the rules.’
Quite a few empty seats were visible in the auditorium and by 5.25pm the Kardashians had gone, along with the fashion writers.
However, Kanye had more to come — a cartoon showing his mother Donda, who died in 2007 after having plastic surgery, ascending through the gates of Heaven.
Gang’s all here! Kris Jenner held court on the front row, where she was joined by (left to right) rapper 50 Cent, model Karlie Kloss, Balmain designer Olivier Rousteing and Melanie Griffith
Watchful eye: Anna, 66, who sat next to Kim and spent the time before the show looking at her iPhone, appears to have kept her iconic sunglasses on for most of the show
He then managed to slip in some controversy by making an off-colour reference to the singer Taylor Swift: ‘I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex. Why? I made that bitch famous.’
He also announced at one point: ‘2020 I’m going to run the whole election’ — he wants to run for President — which sounds like quite a threat.
At 6pm, the crowd filed out and were given a chance to buy T-shirts with the slogan ‘I feel like Pablo’, a reference to his album.
Kanye, meanwhile, was seen in a rather extraordinary T-shirt which had a picture of his late mother on the front and Kim’s late father Robert on the back.
These, too, were on sale.
No wonder some suspect that Kanye’s grandiose public persona is an elaborate joke. The man who complains on Twitter about how hard it is to sleep on fur pillows and the sheer loneliness of buying your own Cartier bracelets is surely spoofing us?
Having sold 21 million albums and amassed a £97 million fortune, he surely — surely — must be the brightest man in the room.
Yet every time he opens his mouth, nothing but colossal ego emerges.
Who else would simulate sex with his topless wife on the back of a motorbike in a music video?
On his wedding day, he treated guests to a 45-minute diatribe about how poorly celebrities are treated. And let’s not forget his repeated stage invasions when he feels the wrong person has won an award.
Shortly after murdering Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody with some out-of-tune vocals, he told the Glastonbury festival this summer: ‘You are now watching the greatest living rock star on the planet.’
There are signs that even fans who paid to hear his new album and see his designs were unconvinced.
At one point, he asked: ‘Tell me how y’all feel about the clothes?’
‘Make them cheaper,’ yelled someone from the back.
Yet so long as our fascination with him and his family continues, this lunatic self-promotion shows no signs of ending.