Circa 2007-2008, long before YEEZY Boosts and Pablo merch, Kanye fans were collectively waiting to get their hands on gear from West’s first clothing brand: Pastelle. After just a few glimpses of product and a name-change thrown in for good measure – because it’s Kanye – the brand was shuttered before it hit the shelves.
Now, it seems Kanye has handed the reigns down to Ian Connor, for the tastemaker and self-styled “King of the Youth” to (presumably) revitalize and bring Pastelle to market. Ian even shared a telling stack of Pastelle samples on Instagram with the caption “Italy.”
But, assuming it sees the light of day this time around, will Pastelle and the ’00s streetwear look be successful in today’s streetwear market?
How Times Have Changed
The mid-to-late 2000s were a vastly different time for streetwear. Hallmarks of the day included vibrant all-over prints from BBC/Ice Cream, Casio’s DW 6900 G-SHOCK watches, New Era’s 59-Fifty fitted caps, and plenty of flamboyant graphics. At the time, Kanye was often dressed to match, and Pastelle certainly made sense in streetwear’s landscape of loud aesthetics.
But if Pastelle had successfully launched in 2009, we can expect the brand would have aged along with its contemporaries, most of which have since closed or altered their positioning. 2011 was a pretty dire year for streetwear, as Hong Kong conglomerate I.T. bought out BAPE , Jay Z assumed ownership of BBC/Ice Cream, and LRG founder Jonas Bevacqua passed away, marking the eventual downfall of the brand, while KAWS-powered OriginalFake announced its closure not long after.
In the end, maybe Pastelle’s premature closure was actually a good thing, foreshadowing a more timely introduction today.
In contrast to the ’00s, in 2016’s streetwear-fashion spectrum we’re seeing oversized fits, distressing, and neutral tones dominating the scene. Streetwear has grown up from a juvenile into a moody adolescent. Certain brands are even shifting away from a hip-hop aesthetic toward rock ‘n’ roll-inspired looks.
But as we all know, trends have a funny way of being cyclical, and in many ways every fashion movement is a reaction to the previous one. It wouldn’t be out of the question to expect exuberant looks, like those Kanye rocked back in the ’00s, to eventually bounce us back from drab minimalism. Enter the new-and-improved Pastelle.
The BBC Experiment
As a barometer for measuring how ’00s-era streetwear might fare in today’s climate, last year adidas and Pharrell painted the Stan Smith silhouette with Billionaire Boys Club’s legendary diamonds-and-dollar signs pattern. While the label’s motif was all the rage back in the ’00s, the shoes were still sitting on many shelves months after they dropped. In fact, they’re still available in most sizes at Sneakersnstuff, and select sizes at half-price from Dover Street Market.
Even though many would have suspected that a re-release of this nature would be well received simply due to its appeal to nostalgia, it seems it didn’t resonate in today’s high-fashion and tech-oriented sneaker market.
Given, most of the time when Kanye lends his midas touch to clothing or apparel ventures, the kids tend to go crazy, but it’s difficult to picture anyone rocking the Pastelle “Warrior” hoodie in 2016.
Could Pastelle Make It?
We can pretty much count the number of Pastelle pieces that saw the light of day on two hands, and to be sure, some articles would have aged more gracefully than others. West designed three different Pastelle varsity jackets, which we imagine would slot into today’s market much easier than the fox-tail belt he designed, or the aforementioned Warrior hoodie. But if Ian’s latest Instagram caption is anything to go by, an Italian-made Pastelle range might click better with today’s luxury-thirsty streetwear fans.
More importantly, Pastelle reflected Kanye’s creative headspace at the time, so picking up where Kanye left off should prove to be a difficult challenge for Ian. Let’s not forget how Ian got Kylie’s styling gig and actually got kids rocking Sketchers, proving his influence amongst young streetwear followers. So the self-proclaimed King of the Youth could very well be the right man for the job, as we know he possesses an appreciation for early Kanye designs, including West’s College Dropout-era Bapestas. Hell, Connor even got himself a set of pastel grills from Ben Baller not too long ago, so he’s on board for the cause.
Adding further intrigue to the case, members of Kanye’s inner circle including Virgil and Ibn were still communicating through Pastelle e-mail addresses up to 2014, so how long has this brand revitalization really been in the making?
As always, stay posted on more Pastelle developments as they arrive.
Now check out this super rare collection of Pastelle and other Kanye West merchandise.
- Main Image: Getty