Will Kanye’s next project address homelessness? The answer may be yes—and no

OPINION: The entertainer-entrepreneur is rumored to be launching a design initiative highlighting Los Angeles' homelessness crisis—but exactly how remains in question.

Empowering or exploitative? That was the immediate question we had upon reading buzz from TMZ that Kanye “Ye” West, he of post-presidential and sold-out Yeezy runs, had “a radical new idea to address the homeless crisis in Los Angeles.”

How? Reportedly, by employing “the homeless to get some experience modeling clothes they make.”

Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

To be fair…it’s not the wildest idea Ye has ever had (see: that aforementioned presidential run). But is this really the opportunity most people experiencing home insecurity envision as a “hand-up”? Nevertheless, the site reported, “Kanye is working with streetwear brand Skid Row Fashion Week on a new collab and fashion show with the ultimate goal of helping the homeless.”

The proposed venture was confirmed by none other than the brand’s founder, David Sabastian, who claimed to have met with West while the latter was recording Donda 2 in Los Angeles’ Arts District—which TMZ noted happens to be “near Skid Row.” That proximity reportedly inspired a clothing collaboration Sabastian claimed will reach the public as soon as February 22 of this year, also teasing the venture would be multifaceted in its benefits to the houseless population.

David says his company donates a portion of all sales to helping those living on Skid Row and the factory that makes the clothes employs the homeless. In addition, the Yeezy collab will use 100% of the proceeds to help the homeless on Skid Row.

The fashion line drops Feb. 22 and we’re told the money from sales will help hire more people struggling with homelessness to work at the Skid Row Fashion Week factory.

What’s more, David says he and Kanye are in the early stages of planning a fashion show where they’d hire people from the SRFW factory to model the clothes.

We’re told they also want items found on Skid Row to be integrated into the ensembles. One of the ideas being kicked around — a trash bag puffer jacket.

Credit: TMZ

Admittedly, the puffer jacket has so far proven a key component of Yeezy’s instantly sold-out offering for new 10-year partner Gap, Inc. (h/t GQ), so this concept isn’t entirely farfetched. But the idea of recycling trash bags as some sort of homage to life on Skid Row (rather than an environmental imperative) feels a little, dare we say…Derelicte?

That’s not even a novel comparison; while some of us have long joked that Ye’s Sunday Service gear vaguely resembles cult-wear, as early as 2015, Esquire made a comparison between the fictional Derelicte label made famous in the film Zoolander and Yeezy’s earnestly ironic but overwhelmingly bland product offerings, noting: “by pairing models with trash trucks, it almost seems like [Ye’s] biting Mogatu’s infamous ‘Derelicte’ collection from Zoolander. Though, we should add, there are a couple good items, like the black shearling overcoat.”

Okay, so maybe a shearling coat is the must-have item we should be revisiting from Yeezy’s output to date (especially in this subzero season), but Ye’s current reps and collaborators refute reports we’ll be getting it via Skid Row Fashion Week. In fact, a Yeezy GAP spokesperson exclusively told the New York Post that while “Ye has a deep and solution-oriented commitment to addressing issues surrounding homelessness…this reported event is not on our schedule at this time nor are we aware of any product collaboration in development.”

That said, TMZ previously reported Ye did meet with Los Angeles leaders to discuss the city’s chronic housing crisis. But aside from Donda 2, it looks like the artist’s other main project currently in development is “Juliye.”

Maiysha Kai is Lifestyle Editor of theGrio, covering all things Black and beautiful. Her work is informed by two decades’ experience in the fashion and entertainment industries, a love of great books and aesthetics, and the indomitable brilliance of Black culture.

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