Picking Through Kanye West’s Trash-y “Homeless” Controversy


It feels like the less said about Kanye West these days, the better. His followers dig their heels in either way — Yeezus died for our sins, you know, and he can do no wrong — and Ye continues on his merry way regardless of backlash.

In some ways, that’s admirable. In others, like when Ye uses his fame to uplift alleged sexual predators, that sucks. This is one of those times that sucks.

On August 12, the mostly social media-free Ye uploaded a new text post to his scant Instagram page. It read: “Look to the children / Look to the homeless / As the biggest inspiration for all design.”

Pretty odd statement for anyone to upload on Instagram bereft of context, especially a billionaire who’s already gotten some sidelong glances for questionable homeless-related endeavors.

Rewind to late November 2021.

Ye took center stage at the LA Mission’s annual Thanksgiving event to rant about Pete Davidson and his kids.

The impromptu, rambling speech wasn’t exactly inspiring but it also wasn’t the reason that Ye was there. Reportedly, he’d just met with Reverend Troy Vaughn, the CEO and president of the LA Mission, to “share ideas” about the nonprofit’s drive to aid the local homeless.

A few months later, in January 2022, TMZ reported that Ye was reportedly working with a man named David Sabastian on a collaborative YEEZY GAP project to benefit Skid Row’s homeless population: a runway show that’d recruit homeless people to model the clothing.

Social media outrage came swiftly.

A representative for Ye quickly clarified that the event was “not on our schedule” and that there was no such collaboration. The hubbub was immediately snuffed out but not before social media got all abuzz about Ye’s fascination with homelessness.

On one hand, Ye has supposedly been developing low-cost YEEZY HOME shelters to provide affordable housing for folks that otherwise lack it.

There hasn’t been any update on the project since 2020, however, and the temporary structures that Ye’s team initially developed were torn down almost as soon as they arrived.

On the other hand, the aesthetics of Ye’s YEEZY brand also became a point of discussion, as commenters dissected what they believed to be Ye’s occasionally questionable inspiration.

Admittedly, I don’t have a ton of patience for any fashion-adjacent conversation that devolves into a bunch of Zoolander memes, given how these jokes are often used to discount the aesthetic value of a designer whom someone simply doesn’t understand (it commonly comes up in discourse around directional brands like Rick Owens and COMME des GARÇONS).

After Ye’s Instagram post on August 13, however, the argument was reignited, as Twitter users took aim at Ye’s YEEZY GAP store.

They had gripes with the ways in which the distressed garments were distributed, drawing throughlines between Ye’s August 13 comment about homeless “inspiration” and the YEEZY GAP clothes piled inside dumpsters and shapeless containers that commenters described as “trash bags.”

YEEZY GAP’s in-store receptacles are not quite trash bags, really — much too big and dense — though it’s easy to see what engenders the similarities.

On Highsnobiety’s Instagram, even, commenters compared the customers digging through YEEZY GAP’s “trash bags” to shoppers hunting through Goodwill, Marshalls, T.J. Maxx, and other low-cost retailers.

A generous consideration of Ye’s YEEZY GAP presentation circumstances might posit that by distributing utilitarian garments in a no-nonsense, celebratory manner, Ye and former YEEZY GAP partner Demna might be evening the playing field, reframing luxury garments as pragmatic clothing to be worn every day, by everyone.

A less generous take might suggest that the indignity of being forced to dig through a dumpster full of discarded hoodies is itself egregious, let alone the fact that the hoodies cost $240 apiece.

While this discussion was simmering across social media, the LA Mission re-entered the conversation.

Though TMZ suggested that the organization was disappointed by Ye’s oblique August 13 Instagram post, Rev. Vaughn, the man who met with Ye in November 2021, issued a placid statement on August 14.

“We have absolutely had collaborative discussions with Ye about improving the lives of the unhoused on Skid Row, especially through design as he mentioned in his [Instagram post].”

Vaughn also suggested that Ye might be part of its forthcoming Skid Row Revitalization Project.

All that being said, you’d think that Ye might be reticent to further discuss homelessness. You’d be wrong.

On August 17, Ye was briefly interviewed for Fox & Friends, the one-time preferred program of Ye’s pal Donald Trump, about the critical discourse surrounding YEEZY GAP being sold out of “trash bags.”

“I’m an innovator, and I’m not here to apologize about my ideas,” Ye replied bluntly. “That’s what the media tries to make us do, make us apologize for any idea that doesn’t fall under what they want us to think.”

Sure.

I mean, no argument about the way that contemporary culture uses soft pressure, like social media outrage, to enforce personal narratives but that’s not really addressing the question.

I won’t weigh in on whether or not Ye’s YEEZY GAP distribution really does “fetishize” the homeless, as some have said on Twitter, but the fact of the matter is that Ye did post an enigmatic message about getting “inspiration” from the homeless and that there doesn’t appear to be any material progress on Ye’s homeless shelters or partnership with the LA Mission.

That’s the sort of actionable progress that would give Ye ammo to defend himself against accusations of wrongdoing, or insensitivity.

Then again, Ye isn’t exactly known for doing anything gracefully.

He abruptly severed ties with former friend Kid Cudi earlier this year, and continues to wear YEEZY sneakers after suddenly calling out adidas over “stealing” YEEZY designs.

YEEZY GAP, meanwhile, is gearing up to drop Ye’s first-ever sunglasses as it continues rolling out restocks and capsules.

Likely, everyone’s gonna take their ball and go home before Ye commits to any self-reflection and clarifies what exactly is going on with the LA Mission and his weird homeless Instagram post.

If anything’s consistent about Ye, though, it’s that we’ll be embroiled in another controversy soon enough.





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