In this op-ed, Teen Vogue Editor in Chief Versha Sharma calls on fashion media to stop covering Kanye West without criticism.
Before Kanye West sent models down the runway wearing “White Lives Matter” T-shirts, before he posed in one himself with right-wing personality Candace Owens, before he started using his massive platform to bully a successful Black woman in fashion who dared to be somewhat critical of him, I tweeted a plea for fashion media to stop breathlessly covering everything he does.
This is not a new conversation — it’s one we’ve been having at Teen Vogue for years — but it picked up steam again this weekend when he opened the Balenciaga show at Paris Fashion Week, generating myriad headlines and social media posts about his runway debut. Not one of these mentions seemed to wonder at the irony of creative director Demna saying the show was about “digging for the truth” and being “down to earth” despite it having been opened by a conspiracy theorist who wants very, very badly to make it in luxury fashion.
My frustration had already been building, as I scrolled through a slew of photos in my Instagram feed a few days before this about Kanye’s socks-and-bedazzled-sandals look, which CNN called “the look of the week.” Almost every time Kanye steps out in clothing, period, I see a post about it on at least a few fashion Instagram accounts, including men’s style publications and indie magazines. I wonder at this, as those same publications are promoting thoughtful discussions about toxic masculinity and critiques of racism and elitism in fashion — but they still keep playing into this particular Yeezy circus.
Now, finally, Kanye seems to have crossed a line that many in fashion media will not allow. After highly respected fashion editor and barrier-breaking stylist Gabriella Karefa-Johnson posted critically about his Paris show featuring the “White Lives Matter” shirts, Ye took to his Instagram account Tuesday morning to start attacking Gabriella personally and relentlessly. To be clear: he’s bullying her because she dared to disagree with him, which should not be a surprise to anyone who saw his harassing behavior toward Kim Kardashian this past year.
Despite Kanye’s attacks, Gabriella’s critique was actually quite generous toward him. She said she could see what he was possibly trying to achieve, but that it landed completely wrong, and she disagreed with it. But her nuanced thoughtfulness wasn’t enough to stop one of the most famous people in the world from going after her personally, serving up yet another example of Kanye’s infantile and cruel behavior. In addition to the blatant disrespect this signifies, we know from Donald Trump, from Tucker Carlson, what happens when you sic a cultist following on a woman on social media: everything from trolls to death threats. Gabriella deserves precisely none of this.
It’s time to draw a clear line in the sand.