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Interview: Thoughts for Kanye with Louis Whaley

With his keen interests in hip hop/trap music, Louis Whaley had a few footnotes for Kanye West’s Global TLOP Pop Up Store and sat down with the team to express it.

So you walk into the TLOP Tour collection display. First Impression?

Hmm. It was minimal, but cool. I’d been waiting for it a while, so I was just happy to be inside and see the clothes. The music was also dope.

Why do you think the pop up store received so much backlash?

Mostly ignorance but some of the backlash was definitely justified. It was a pop up store for Kanye’s tour and the clothes were not a part of his Yeezy collections. I kind of knew what to expect. It was always going to be basic items with words printed on them. I remember hearing people in the line saying “Wow, I wonder if they will have Yeezys inside” and stuff like that. The quality was also lacking a bit though – I didn’t like that the manufacturer’s label was still on.

Do you think that there is a direct correlation between identity and style?

Yes and no. It actually depends on the person. Some people genuinely don’t mind what clothes they wear. I have friends that wear t-shirts and shorts everyday, and that’s fine. However, I think if you’re making an effort in terms of style and fashion, then your identity will inevitably show through.

How much of your identity is reflected in your personal style?

Hmm. I don’t have access to all of the clothes that would accurately represent my identity yet. Also, I’m still trying to figure out what my identity is. So perhaps my style does represent my identity at the moment: experimental, testing out what I like and what works.

Which parts of the collection would you say reflect your style or mere admiration for fashion and clothing?

The collection was quite basic, but it was cool and super wearable. I mean, who doesn’t wear tees, hoodie and dad hats? They’re staples. But, the point of it was definitely to appeal to eveyrone and have something for anybody. Personally, I liked the hoodies and the military jacket.

“We the millennials, bro. This is a new mentality. We’re not gonna control our kids with brands.” - Kanye West’s VMA Vanguard Speech

In Kanye West’s “New Slaves” he exclaims sans filter that “he’d rather be a dick than a swallower”. Has Kanye West created his own market of “new slaves”?

Definitely. People will queue for days for Yeezys, or anything Kanye related. To understand Kanye’s influence, all you have to do is compare retail and the prices on EBay for Yeezys. Despite the ‘low quality’ of TLOP merch, it still sold like hotcakes, so that’s testament to his influence and what the kids will do.

In criticising Kanye’s TLOP Tour collection, many people seemed dazed by and fixated on the pricing of its merchandise. Personally, what correlation between the pricing of merchandise and its value have you picked up?

I think the pricing is fair, to be honest. The value is in the hype, not the quality of the merchandise. TLOP is all about hype. Simple. People are paying for the hype and to flex. People were out in their masses to buy the stuff. Of course, if you’re looking at it purely as a product, and in terms of quality, it’s definitely overpriced. Definitely. But, that’s not what it’s about. If you were Kanye, wouldn’t you also price these items similarly, if you know you can?

What determines value along the lines of branding, quality, sentiments and aesthetic for you?

I think a number of things. For something like TLOP merchandise, hype is the number one determinant. Hype encompasses how rare it is, who’s wearing it, etc. So, because there were only 20-something TLOP pop up stores worldwide, it was pretty rare, and when it’s anything related to Kanye, the value skyrockets. But of course, it has to still look and feel good.

Would you say that the South African youth is reluctant to support its local brands and designers? If yes, why so?

I think some people are, but there are some very, very cool local brands and designers, who are doing big things and getting support from people. But, it’s still nowhere near the hype that overseas brands are getting, and I don’t know how we change that. I definitely think it’s coming though.

As part of a” woke” generation, we tend to criticize and measure the decisions of influential people against ethical, socio-economic and political principles. What is your opinion on Kanye’s request for a “multiracial women only” cast?

I saw that and didn’t really know what to think. If he meant “lightskin” women when he said “multiracial”, then that’s very problematic. He’s just perpetuating western standards of beauty, but I don’t actually know. I don’t even know what he was trying to say.

Are you a fan or nah?

I have a love/hate relationship with Kanye. There are so many things that he does that I love, and other things which are truly indefensible. I’m a fan of a lot of his work (music, clothes, shoes, etc), but some of his actions are…questionable.

What’s the hype? Much conversation is generated around Kanye West. Is it that deep?

I genuinely don’t get the hype, and how it started. But, it’s here now and I don’t think it’s going anywhere. How deep is it? It depends, for some it’s just clothes, or shoes. But, at the same time, when one man has that much influence over that many people, it actually is that deep.


Photography by Tshiamo Ramano

You can keep up with Louis Whaley on his Instagram

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