Skip to content

The Troubles of Ye: Kanye West’s ‘White Lives Matter’ Controversy at Paris Fashion Week

  • Culture

By Tahera Islam BA/BSc Social Sciences, Arts & Humanities with Foundation Year

It is no surprise that Kanye West, despite being considered one of the best-selling male artists, producers, and entrepreneurs today, is also known for his reputation for controversial actions and crazy statements. From West interrupting Taylor Swift in the infamous 2009 VMA speech to his unsuccessful attempt to run for president, it is safe to say that his outspoken views have been a frequent source of controversy. Most recently, during Paris Fashion Week, when YEEZY SEASON 9 was set to make its surprise debut, it also revealed West’s latest controversial political stunt. This featured models on the runway and Kanye himself wearing a t-shirt with the bold statement ‘White Lives Matter,’ alongside right-wing commentator Candace Owens.

Owens, known for her pro-Trump activism and criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement and the Democratic Party, can be seen as no surprise for wearing a ‘White Lives Matter’ t-shirt. Undeniably making the event a striking highlight for Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2023. This action faced backlash and many people immediately took to social media calling out West for his problematic statement as an offence, a motto negating the importance of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. Amongst the crowd was Vogue’s fashion editor and stylist, Gabriella Karefa-Johnson. She took to Instagram to condemn his harmful message, describing the stunt as ‘indefensible behaviour.’ She said, ‘he was trying to illustrate a dystopian world when whiteness might become extinct or at least would be enough in danger to demand defence.’ Furthermore, she states that there is no excuse, there is no art here. I do think if you asked Kanye, he would say there was art, and revolution, and all of the things in that t-shirt.

Following Karefa Johnson’s response against his actions, West took to his Instagram page of 18 million followers to attack and ridicule the editor. In a since-deleted Instagram post, West responded to the Vogue editor’s comments by sharing photos of the journalist and mocking her appearance captioning, ‘this is not a fashion person You speak on Ye Ima speak on you Ask Trevor Noah.’ He then took to another post in a mocking tone, specifically targeting Karefa Johnson’s Timberland boots, which he stated Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour dislikes. 

After West called out Karefa-Johnson for her criticism, many celebrities came to her defence including Gigi Hadid. Under one of his posts, she commented, directing at West,  ‘You wish u had a percentage of her intellect. You have no idea haha…If there’s actually a point to any of your s**t she might be the only person that could save u. As if the “honour” of being invited to your show should keep someone from giving their opinion ..? Lol. You’re a bully and a joke.’ Alongside Gigi Hadid was Hailey Bieber who also expressed her support for Karefa Johnson. However, it is unsurprising that West didn’t let their support slide lightly, as West issued another one of his Instagram tirades targeting Gigi and Hailey. He referred to Gigi in his post as a ‘privileged Karen.’ While Hailey never actively named Kanye in her post, the rapper took offence over her support of Gabriella and called her out in an Instagram post of an old article from 2016 about Hailey and Drake on a date. Under the post, the caption was directed at her husband, Justin Bieber, ‘Get your girl before I get mad. You spose to be my friend right.’ 

Vogue also shared its defence for its global fashion editor-at-large and in a statement issued on Twitter, they stated, ‘…She was personally targeted and bullied. It is unacceptable. Now more than ever, voices like hers are needed and in a private meeting with Ye today she once again spoke her truth in a way she felt best, on her terms.’ 

While Paris Fashion Week was filled with momentous moments from Bella Hadid’s incredible spray-on dress at the Coperni show to the Balenciaga mud pit runway, the overall impression taken away from Ye’s show was definitely a negative one. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *