The musician and designer sent a ‘White Lives Matter’ t-shirt onto the runway as part of his YZY SZN9 show

That Kanye West was set to debut a new YEEZY – or, as it’s now known, YZY – collection in the thick of Paris Fashion Week was a rumour that had been circulating among both the fashion crowd and online fan forums for weeks. 

The rumour was further fuelled by the musician and designer’s sneak peeks of model lineups on social media, before a show was set in stone on Sunday night (October 2). At that point, the 50 or so editors who were invited to the presentation were emailed a secretive gif detailing the time and date of the presentation, with the address – near the Arc de Triomphe – following closely behind. 

From there, things were typically Ye. There was chaos both outside the doors and in, as well as a lengthy wait of almost two hours before anything began to happen. And then, when it did, Kanye himself stepped into the spotlight at the centre of a circular, three-storey space in a t-shirt bearing a “White Lives Matter” statement, before sending a series of models, including Selah Marley, around the runway in designs featuring the same mantra. 

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Upon noticing the slogan on the back of the t-shirts, a wave of horror swept through much of the audience. Dazed’s editorial director (US)  Lynette Nylander walking out of the show, while others were left inside feeling tricked, complicit in the projection of an abhorrent message they wanted no part of.

Kanye was not immediately available for comment, and, at the time of publishing, he has made no statement on the matter or its context beyond an Instagram story calling Black Lives Matter “a scam”. There is also no information relating to the mantra and the print of Pope John Paul II and the words “Seguiremos tu ejemplo” on the front of the tee, which translates to “We will follow your example”. 

However, with or without context, the “White Lives Matter” message is irrefutably harmful and Kanye’s inclusion of the statement is completely irresponsible. In emblazoning a t-shirt that he has designed “for everyone” with something that has been classified by the Anti-Defamation League as a hate slogan, Kanye has co-signed a harmful rhetoric in which, if a Black man can utilise, commodify, and project a racist message, that is rooted in white supremacy and favoured by the Klu Klux Klan, then why can’t everyone else? 

That conservative political pundit Candace Owens was also present at the show, wearing her own White Lives Matter t-shirt, took the message beyond any claims of satire, parody, or irony. The right-wing Republican commentator and Trump supporter has previously denounced the Black Lives Matter movement, claimed COVID was a scam, and stated that white supremacy was not an issue plaguing America.

Kanye is no stranger to controversy and pushing forth radical and sometimes dangerous ideologies. In 2018, he stated that slavery was “a choice” and made his support for racist President Donald Trump known by wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap. In 2020, he came out as pro-life at a presidential rally when he himself was running for office, explaining that he and then-wife Kim Kardashian had considered aborting their first child, North West. 

More recently, he relentlessly trolled and threatened Kardashian’s new boyfriend Pete Davidson in the wake of their divorce, and spent months harassing her in a bid to win her back. In 2021, he also spoke out in defence of alleged abuser Marilyn Manson, and brought the musician out on stage at one of his Donda listening parties.

For reasons unknown, Ye has been given chance, after chance, after chance despite airing such controversial, violent, and right-wing views. Last night, the excitement was palpable ahead of his first show since before the pandemic. But as stony-faced attendees filed out of the venue in disbelief, it felt like Kanye West had finally gone too far. 

Dazed has reached out to Kanye for comment, but has not received any response at the time of publishing.