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Kanye West Explains How Merch Helped Him ‘Break The Class System’

In a new interview with LALA magazine, Kanye West envisions a world in which fashion acts as a gateway to larger social change. In Kanye’s mind, fashion is just one area where the status quo can be disrupted to “break the class system,” opening the door for wider disruption and more ingenuity in design, architecture, and art. In parts of the interview, excerpted by Complex, Kanye explains just how to get from one to the other.

“I didn’t come in to make merch,” he says. “I came in to make operas. That’s no knock to merch and no knock to T-shirts, but now it’s time to change the architecture. It’s time to design cities.” He explains how his first forays into the world of fashion came through working with tour merchandise, which opened the door for more expansive opportunities for him. “When I wanted to get into fashion, everyone would bring up The Row and how they started with t-shirts,” he says. “I didn’t want to start with a T-shirt. love merch, but we did merch as a punk answer to us being told we can’t work at Louis Vuitton, Versace, Nike. Merch started as one of the only things we could control.”

Now, Kanye says, “I think we can break the class system. This sweatshirt is the blank that we used for merch. In the setting, it feels very elegant, but it’s a very simple cut design — all of the energy and ingenuity. It’s so much time that went into finding the simplest version. That’s what artists do; they take everything that’s happening in life and sometimes encapsulate it into an hour and a half of Eddie Murphy on stage, or Dave Chappelle, or 16 bars inside of a verse, or the cut of a sweatshirt or a boot.”

Looking at the trajectory of Kanye’s career, it’s easier to see his thinking. He went from making merch to designing his own fashion line, eventually receiving a self-given green light to other creative outlets like his dome houses, operas, and work in prison reform. And while some of those things have turned out better than others, he seems confident his concept homes are “very close” to being a workable solution to a problem that desperately needs one, and is affected largely by class. Hopefully, he’ll remember to clear the paperwork when it comes time to put his plans into action.

More information on the LALA interview can be found here.

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