YEEZY Season 6 is breaking the internet again. Just another day. The words “break the internet” were first coined as the title of Kim Kardashian’s cover shoot for PAPER, and #breaktheinternet it certainly did, in fact, it was irreparably shattered.
The online PAPER story, a semi-nude Kim popping champagne, received over 36m page views, more than double the amount the publication would usually receive in a whole year. This taught us that if you market something to appeal to internet culture, you can get the whole world to look at it. Online advertising was changed forever and YEEZY knows this.
However, this was in 2014, aeons ago in internet time. In 2018, the internet “breaks” every couple of days, and it’s become media-office shorthand for “people are talking about this particular thing right now!” Yesterday it was a rat taking a shower, tomorrow it will be something else. People forget quite quickly, but it all siphons off into an infinite digital abscess to be mined again for future content. Ideas are recycled, replicated and reproduced without much of a fuck given to legality.
The fact that we’re looking at something we’ve already seen is unimportant, because the day after, we’re just shown something else. In reality, it’s all the same, just packaged differently, and this is where YEEZY Season 6 holds an alarmingly accurate mirror to our online consumption and is actually trolling us all.
Until now, Kim K had been the face of YEEZY Season 6 and it makes sense, she’s a marketing machine. Including her family, the combined amount of Kardashian/Jenner Instagram followers sits at 425 million, about one and a half times the population of the United States. Even a casual drive around Melrose makes the unanimous appeal of looking, acting and talking like a Kardashian abundantly clear. The truth is if you have enough money, it’s an easy enough look to imitate with hair extensions, make-up and cosmetic surgery.
Following the YS6 paparazzi lookbook that came out late last year, the latest rollout saw a group of willful influencers dressed as Kim Kardashian in head-to-toe YS6, mimicking the original shots with every detail replicated. It’s interesting to note here that the clothes in question aren’t even anything new. They’re the same plain tracksuits we saw in November, just on marginally different bodies. Paris Hilton, Amina Blue, the Clermont twins and streetwear angel Sarah Snyder had their identities erased and their image willfully curtailed as a billboard for this latest piece of viral marketing.
It may seem harsh to take young girls and clone them into second-tier knock offs of his superstar wife, maybe even a bit dehumanizing, but ‘Ye is just pointing out what was already happening. These images of girls in YEEZY sweats would already exist with or without this campaign, on blogs or even possibly on something like Highsnobiety‘s Instagram feed.
However, by repurposing these image as advertisements it puts all the power with YEEZY and the only thing left for the media to do is dutifully republish them, perpetuating the cycle. Everybody kind of wins, apart from the consumer, who was fed a lie built on a lie, built on another lie to buy a pair of Desert Rat 500s, which are, of course, now sold out.
As it feels kind of shit for customers to be trolled like this, it’s imperative to note that there’s a tongue-in-cheek element to all of this. It can’t be ignored that there’s an obvious inclusion of corporate culture, mass production and general “accessibility” to these photos. It’s not like there’s any real glamour or aspiration, and if you think there is it’s because you’ve been moulded to see them that way. It really is just someone getting out of car, hardly the typical high-budget affair usually associated with fashion advertising.
It’s not totally tone-deaf though, many of the shots feature out of focus, but instantly recognizable McDonalds logos; because is there a more poignant 21st-century symbol of mass production than a one-dollar cheeseburger? Many of the girls are also carrying that ultimate basic accessory, the Starbucks cup, and there’s even a convenience store. The campaign can essentially be read as a DIY YEEZY Season 6 starter pack.
Meme’d before it could even become meme, this is our first encounter of a pre-meme and it’s just as ridiculous as it sounds.
There’s a line in the 1999 classic Fight Club, where, in between social commentary of consumer capitalism and toxic masculinity, the lead character mourns that “everything is a copy of a copy.” Far from a throwaway comment, perhaps this was the death rattle for what we used to call “original content.” Although in 2018 where all we really have are copies to begin with, does it even matter?
The answer is a resounding “no.”
Enter Balenciaga. The heritage fashion house has been hailed as an exemplary case of a brand that was able to pivot to internet culture to stay relevant. The meme-able clothes, the outrageous price points and employment of stylist slash Instagram/internet influencer Lotta Volkova all point to a brand that knows how to translate its designs for consumption via digital media.
Balenciaga’s latest campaign dropped just 24 hours after YEEZY and of course, there were cries of “copycat” in the comments, but can you really copy a copy? As Julie Zerbo, the world’s no.1 litigious fashion writer points out, none of this is something we haven’t already seen before. Fashion campaigns imitating the paparazzi can be traced back to over a decade ago to Jimmy Choo’s campaign with Nicole Ritchie in 2006.
Even before then, Steven Meisel was appropriating ‘razzi photography for a style story for Vogue Italia in 2005.
With internet pioneers Kanye, Kim and even Demna Gvasalia of Balenciaga dictating how we view, covet and eventually buy things that we see online, they are essentially designing the new language of advertising and it seems to be working. This new language, which is mostly wordless, speaks in aesthetics, symbols and signals.
Words, the classic tool of the manipulative advertising of yesteryear (remember “Got Milk?”), doesn’t have much to do with the internet age because who needs clumsy, difficult-to-translate-words when you have infinite access to globally recognized images. Words, it seems, are being phased out. The rise of mumblecore rapper Lil Pump and his viral hit “Gucci Gang” confirms that the post-literate age is already upon us.
It’s not really so surprising that in our world of emojis and reaction GIFs that this new language will be entirely image-based. Even less surprising is that it’s engineered to sell us stuff. This return to something not dissimilar to ancient hieroglyphics could be hailed as some kind of digital utopia, but sadly this new system is built around profit and it trickles down just like our economy.
Miss Guided, a UK-based retailer that’s kind of like Forever 21 but for Brits, has just released its latest collection, a stunningly pale imitation of YEEZY Season 6, and available for about 1/10th of the price.
The images remain much the same. The caption, however, reads “Kim K lifestyle” although it doesn’t need to. It’s already implied in the visual cue of a tanned woman in gym clothes with a er, ample rear, being made the focus.
As Julie Zerbo has already pointed out, YEEZY Season 6’s campaign is most likely illegal under current FTC laws which state that all advertising has to be clearly demarked with #ad. It seems though that in the future the differences between an Instagram image and an advertising campaign will be so infinitely blurred that they will be one and the same.
Until then, we’ll gladly accept Kanye’s postmodern take on this developing pop culture phenomenon. Call it trolling but we’re perplexed and intrigued and we absolutely love it.
All the info about Kanye West’s meta-marketing for YEEZY Season 6 is right here.
- Main & Featured image: @clermonttwins / Instagram