Monday Jun 15, 2020

Six Degrees of Kanye West

The six degrees of separation is the theory in which everyone and everything is six or fewer degrees or steps away from each other. In other words, any two people on earth are six or fewer acquaintance links apart from one another. This same theory can be illustrated through Kanye West and many of the top designers in fashion and streetwear today. A number of brands that dominate our space all have one common link: Kanye West. In honor of his recent birthday, we will be taking an in-depth look at Mr. West’s influence and impact on the fashion industry along with the individuals that once worked alongside him and where they are now individually. 

Kanye West is arguably the most influential creator of our generation. He has made a huge impact in both the music and fashion industry with his unique perspective and his one-of-a-kind attitude. At just the age of 43, West has turned his fashion venture into a billion-dollar business --- or $3 billion business, depending on who you ask

After establishing himself as one of the greatest rappers and producers of our time, Kanye decided to take a dive into the fashion industry. Although most people associate Yeezy as Kanye’s connection with the fashion industry, his history in fashion dates back to 2007 when he landed his first collaboration with Bape. In the years to follow, Kanye would introduce and tease fans with his legendary line Pastelle. Although it was off to a promising start with a lot of buzz around the name, the brand never actually launched. Some blame Kanye’s infamous Taylor Swift incident on the shuttering of the brand while others point to the death of his mother. Either way, all we were left with were some rare samples and iconic photos floating around on the internet. Following Pastelle, Kanye would land some major collaborations with brands such as Louis Vuitton, APC, Nike and of course Adidas. 

In 2009, Nike and Kanye linked up in what seemed like a promising relationship with the release of the Nike Air Yeezy in three colorways; ‘Zen Grey,’ ‘Black/Pink’ and ‘Net.’ A few years later, the Air Yeezy 2 released in two different colorways; ‘Platinum’ and ‘Black Solar Red.’ However, after some disagreements, the relationship between the footwear giant and Kanye grew rocky. In 2013, Kanye parted ways with Nike and joined rival brand Adidas where the Yeezy brand we know today began. Since 2015 with the launch of Yeezy Season 1, the Yeezy brand has reached dominating levels that most brands might not see in an entire lifetime. In just five short years, Yeezy has become one of the most influential sneaker lines to date --- often being compared to Jordan brand in the 80s. After a very successful initial launch with great hype around it, Kanye was quoted in a Complex article, “eventually, everybody who wants to get Yeezys will get Yeezys.” A promise he would surely deliver in the years to come.

In the midst of all the Yeezy madness both with Nike and Adidas, Kanye surrounded himself with an all-star team. As shown in his previous fashion endeavors and music career, Kanye is no stranger to the art of collaboration. He has never strayed away from seeking creative assistance and has never been shy about giving the credit where it's due. According to the album credits, 117 people were credited with work on his fifth studio album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. 

To bring these collaborators together and aid him in all of his ventures, Kanye created a creative collective company called Donda --- named after his late mother. Started in 2012, Donda was made up of a superstar squad and ran officially for just four short years. Donda brought us some of the most iconic bodies of work of the decade; Cruel Summer, Yeezus, Yeezy and The Life of Pablo were all byproducts of the secretive, creative machine known as Donda. The creative work touched on everything from apparel design, album artwork, stage design and everything in between.

Since the disbandment of Donda, most members have gone on to start their solo ventures within the fashion space. Similar to an art degree, these creatives took the knowledge and experiences they gained from Donda with them as they transitioned into their own personal brands. Notable alumni of Donda University include Virgil Abloh, Matthew Williams, Jerry Lorenzo, Joe Perez, Samuel Ross, Heron Preston, Salehe Bembury and Justin Saunders. 

Virgil Abloh, Heron Preston & Matthew Williams / The Guardian

Don C

To kick things off, the first creative that we’re going to dive into is one of Kanye’s closest connections. Don Crawley, or Don C as we all know him, has been a life-long friend of Kanye as they both grew up in Chicago. Don C started his working relationship with Kanye in the early ‘90s when Kanye began dabbling into the music industry. At the time, Kanye was a part of a Chicago rap group called the Go Getters and Don C represented him as his manager. 

Keeping both their friendship and work relationship intact, Don C would eventually go on to become Kanye’s road manager as well as G.O.O.D. Music’s label manager. Although there isn’t much physical evidence, it wouldn’t be foolish to assume that Don C played a vital role in both Kanye’s music and fashion career. As Kanye’s right-hand man and best friend, we can only imagine how much work he contributed to from behind the scenes.

In 2009 while still working for Kanye, Don C decided to step out from the shadows to launch his Chicago-based streetwear boutique and online retailer, RSVP Gallery, alongside Virgil Abloh. Just two years later in 2011, Don C launched his unique sport-meets-luxury-street label Just Don. Just Don is most notably known for its iconic python hats which were classic snapbacks designed with a python brim which took the industry by storm. The brand then went on to produce their take on luxury NBA basketball shorts which feature top-quality materials and craftsmanship. Additionally, Just Don has landed a number of footwear collaborations from Nike, Jordan and Converse.

Don C of Just Don / Complex 

Virgil Abloh

This next creative needs no introduction. If you don’t know his name by now, you’ve surely seen his work. Founder of Off-White and Men’s Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh, has surely made the biggest splash of any of Kanye’s proteges.

Like his mentor, Abloh is a Chicago-native. Abloh got his start working at a screen printing company called Custom Kings in Chicago. While working here, Abloh was introduced to Kanye’s longtime friend and business partner, Don C. At the time, Don C was on the hunt for a designer to help commission some pieces so he walked into Custom Kings and asked if they had a designer in house. This pointed him in the direction of Abloh. Because Abloh was aware of Don C’s connections with Kanye, Abloh went right to work for him right away. 

Shortly after in 2003, Abloh started working with Kanye himself where he became known as his right-hand man. Kanye took Abloh under his wing and a few years later would officially hire him as his creative assistant. Through the years, Abloh stuck by Kanye’s side all the way through the Donda years. During his time at Donda, Abloh would go onto become the most prominent member of the superstar group where he earned himself the title as Creative Director, just below Kanye. In fact, some people described Donda simply as “Virgil’s laptop.” Some iconic projects Abloh had the opportunity to creative direct included Watch the Throne and Yeezy for Nike.

“We are all the children of Kanye’s trailblazing,” -Abloh in an interview with W Magazine.

While working alongside Kanye, Abloh had his hands in a number of other projects outside of Donda. In 2009, Abloh and Don C founded the streetwear retailer RSVP Gallery. A few years later, Abloh started a solo “art project” or brand called Pyrex Vision. Although Pyrex Vision didn’t last very long, it brought some attention to Abloh. Pyrex Vision took vintage clothing from brands such as Champion or Ralph Lauren and added screen print with Abloh’s designs. 

In 2013, Abloh turned over Pyrex Vision and founded the famous luxury streetwear line Off-White, where he remains the CEO and Creative Director today. Abloh’s designs not only dominate in the realms of streetwear and sneakers but also in high fashion as well. The brand focuses on high-end fabrics but in familiar streetwear styles that use industrial packaging and plain labels. 

One of Abloh’s most notable works is his ongoing partnership with Nike. In 2017, Off-White ℅ Virgil Abloh partnered with Nike to deliver a series called The Ten. The Ten takes inspiration from Abloh’s favorite iconic silhouettes of Nike’s past and puts his signature avant-garde style on them. Arguably the most iconic silhouette out of The Ten is the Air Jordan 1 ‘Chicago.’ The Chicago puts a deconstructed twist on the original Air Jordan 1, all very much classic Off-White branding elements. Other notable models in The Ten are Air Max 90, Air Max 97, Nike Blazer Mid, Air Force 1 and Air Presto. 

In 2018, Abloh was appointed Men’s Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton. Abloh’s influence is unmatched in the fashion industry today as he continues to push the envelope of creativity with his industrial, luxury-meets-street approach to garments. 

Virgil Abloh & Kanye West / Highsnobiety

Matthew Williams

Alongside Abloh, Matthew Williams also served as an art director and music consultant for Kanye. William’s first break into the industry came in 2008 when Kanye’s stylist contacted Williams to create a one-of-a-kind jacket for his Grammy performance with Daft Punk. The jacket created for West had embedded LEDs that lit up along with his notorious shutter shades. Kanye was quite fond of Williams’ work and therefore put him right to work shortly after. 


“Kanye is number one. He is the person that gave me my first break. I created a suit jacket for him to wear to the Grammys when I was 21 and he asked me what I did, and I told him I was working at this clothing brand. He then asked me how much I got paid, to which I replied, ‘Nothing.’ And he said, ‘Okay, I’m going to give you double nothing to come work with me.’ The next day I was on a plane with him to Japan. I owe him everything. He’s been an amazing friend and mentor.” - Matthew Williams from a Dazed interview.


Kanye West at The Grammys / Today

Williams went from designing costumes for Kanye’s performances and videos to art directing videos and even setting up the studio for Pastelle. Alongside Abloh, Williams would become one of the founding members of Been Trill.

Matthew Williams of ALYX / The New York Times

For anyone that knows, Been Trill has an interesting place in streetwear history. Been Trill was an art and nightlife collective consisting of Virgil Abloh, Heron Preston, Matthew Williams and Justin Saunders started in 2012. To go along with their DJing lifestyle, Been Trill introduced apparel with a heavy-graphic aesthetic. Their blood dripping fonts and hashtag graphics caused a craze in the streetwear world and became one of the most sought after tees of that time. At the peak of its hype, the brand was sold off to PacSun in which the founders split up to pursue their solo brands. 

Following the disbandment of Been Trill, Williams founded his brand 1017 ALYX 9SM in 2016. Over the last four years, Alyx has positioned itself on the cutting edge of the fashion industry with its unique and fashion-forward designs. The brand is most notably known for its iconic roller coaster belt buckle which even transcended its way into high fashion. Aside from Alyx, Williams has just been appointed Creative Director of Givenchy. 

Been Trill / Grailed

Heron Preston

Fellow Been Trill member, Heron Preston, got his feet wet in the industry as a blogger, contributing to underground streetwear and sneaker blogs. At the time, blogs such as NikeTalk were niche and members frequently interacted with one another and built relationships this way. One of the relationships Preston managed to build through the blogosphere was Virgil Abloh.

Preston then started his career working at Nike as a sportswear marketing specialist. He managed to give Nike the push they needed to bring a sense of street culture to the sportswear industry. By doing so, Preston helped bring Nike Yeezys to fruition. During his time at Nike, he was also working with Been Trill which gave him more major connections. After five years, Preston left Nike and began working for Donda as an art director. During his time at Donda, Preston worked on a variety of projects including YEEZY Season 1, tour merch and the infamous garment invites for YEEZY fashion shows. 

Following his time at Donda, Heron Preston went on to launch his namesake label. Heron Preston is known for merging the world of luxury wear and streetwear into one. Preston is committed to innovation and experimentation and uses his past experiences to build one of a kind collections. The brand is recognized by its use of the color orange and its Cyrillic wordmark, 'СТИЛЬ' which translates to style. Today, it’s difficult to talk about streetwear without mentioning the name Heron Preston.

Heron Preston / Hypebeast

Justin Saunders

The fourth main member of Been Trill and a member of Donda is Justin Saunders. If you’re not familiar with his name, you’re likely aware (or even use) his aesthetic. Simply put, Saunders practically invented the image-based mood board aesthetic we are now familiar with on platforms such as Tumblr and Instagram.

Saunders is a Montreal-based creative that started off in the blogger and internet space long before it was the trendy thing to do. In 2008, Saunders founded JJJJound.com, a blog where he posted strictly images, no text. The name was a play on another image-based blog at the time called FFFFound.com. Saunders’ blog was notoriously clean and minimal with subject matter that touched on all things aesthetic including old vehicles and other muses. 

While Saunders was catching the attention of people on the internet, Kanye was interested in bringing that aesthetic and creativity to real life. Kanye reached out to Saunders and had him start working for him right away. Alongside Abloh and Williams, Saunders became an art director for Donda. Although much of Saunders’ work was done behind the scenes, his approach to design was undeniably influential. Some even argue that Saunders is “your favorite influencer’s favorite influencer.” There are rumors out there West himself would ask, “Is that JJJJound approved?” when approaching all things design.

Eventually, JJJJound transformed from just a blog to a full-fledged design studio and brand as well. Today, JJJJound acts as one part blog and one part merchandise to accompany the simplistic aesthetic of the blog. Saunders randomly releases products consisting of his minimalistic design in the form of mugs, tote bags, socks and more. The products are created with extreme attention to detail and quality and typically sell out quickly due to their limited nature. Saunders continues to promote simplicity and lives by the 888aproach: 8 hours labor, 8 hours leisure and 8 hours rest. With a highly respectable approach to the industry, Saunders has landed himself major collaborations with brands such as Vans, APC and New Balance.

Justin Saunders from JJJJound / Instagram 

Jerry Lorenzo

One creative with a unique approach to American luxury and streetwear is Jerry Lorenzo of Fear of God. Mr. Lorenzo got his start as a club promoter for big-time clubs in Los Angeles. These clubs often attracted big-time names and allowed Lorenzo to surround himself with all the right people in fashion. Through his club promoting, Lorenzo met individuals such as Virgil Abloh, Don C and Ibn Jasper. By establishing a relationship with the Chicago crew, Lorenzo was blessed with the opportunity to meet Kanye in 2012.

Lorenzo, with a passion for the fashion industry and looking for a way out of nightlife, tried his hand at producing garments. After gaining a little traction, Lorenzo gave Kanye some samples of cut and sew garments. Kanye was thoroughly impressed with the sample and this peaked his interest to bring Lorenzo onto his team. 

Just a few weeks later, Lorenzo had his first opportunity to work alongside Kanye on his APC collaboration out in Paris. Not long after, Lorenzo would become an official member of Donda and started working on a variety of projects. Most notably, Lorenzo designed Yeezus tour merch which featured iconic classic rock imagery and fonts. All while working with Donda, Lorenzo also simultaneously released his first Fear of God collection. 

During his sneaker shopping episode, Lorenzo stated that he felt like a “prodigal son” as Kanye and the rest of his Chicago crew accepted him into their group and gave him a shot. Overall, Lorenzo worked with Kanye for about three years in which he described as, “a whirlwind of three years.” Although his work style was unique and oftentimes looked at as crazy, Lorenzo commended Kanye’s worth ethic and attention to detail, stating:

“What he did do that helped me so much was the way that he worked and how hard that he worked. And how much that he obsessed over the little things. Those were the things I was able to take away.”

Upon disbanding from Donda, Lorenzo has continued to push his American luxury label, Fear of God. As his company name implies, Lorenzo is a God-fearing man and uses his brand to voice his faith. Top-quality garments and high-end footwear made in Italy is in the DNA of Fear of God. Lorenzo’s reputable approach to design earned him not only an ongoing collaboration with Nike but also his very own signature model with the Nike Air Fear of God.

Jerry Lorenzo from Fear of God / Alan Philips from Medium

Samuel Ross

Adjoining the ongoing list of Donda creatives, we have Samuel Ross of A-Cold-Wall. Ross began his career in the fashion industry at the young age of 21. Being a bit younger than his peers, Ross set out on his creative venture in a different way than the others. Ross followed Virgil Abloh on Instagram with the intention and hopes of getting a follow-back. After becoming followers and fans of each other's work, Ross and Abloh began messaging back and forth on Instagram and created a connection. Just two days later, Ross quit his day job in hopes he could go to work for Abloh.

Samuel Ross from A-Cold-Wall & Virgil Abloh from Off-White / GQ Japan 

After a string of DMs and emails, Ross earned himself a position as Abloh’s assistant. With Ross under his wing, Abloh brought him along everywhere he went where Ross learned the ropes of the fashion industry. One Paris trip in particular gave Ross the opportunity to meet all the contacts he needed.

Being around Abloh all the time eventually gave Ross the opportunity to work under the Donda umbrella. Ross described that while working under Donda, he would take on creative gigs for anything and everything that was thrown his way. Much of the work he did was ghost work and although he didn’t get all the glory, Ross was okay with this as he was solidifying himself in the industry. Some of the projects Ross worked on were Pyrex Vision, Been Trill and a numerous of Donda-related projects. Ross worked with Abloh for three-and-a-half years leading up to the founding of Off-White. 

Just a couple years after departing ways with Abloh, Ross went on to establish his solo-label, A-Cold-Wall. Often referred to as ACW, it can be described as a modern yet high-end menswear line. Ross views ACW as a case study that looks at melting pot culture and class systems through art and garments. In response to the British social climate, Ross uses ACW to celebrate the energy of youth culture. With the use of utilitarian materials such as PVC, rubber, latex nylon and more, the brand puts an emphasis on making sustainable products and reducing their carbon footprint where they can.

Samuel Ross from A-Cold-Wall / The Guardian

Joe Perez

Joe Perez may be a name you’re not quite familiar with… yet. Like many of the Donda members, Perez’s creative thumbprint is spread all over pop culture. In fact, Perez has over 150,000+ Donda-related files to his name alone. We were blessed to have the opportunity to reach out to Mr. Perez himself to allow him to tell his story of working alongside Kanye and where it got him today. See our exclusive interview with Perez below:

For someone who has never heard of you, what should they know about Joe Perez?

I’m a creative director/graphic designer who’s had the privilege of working alongside some of the most talented artists and music artists in the world.

Joe Perez / Instagram

You are from Rhode Island. How does someone from the smallest state end up working with arguably the biggest artist of our time? 

Rhode Island may be the smallest state in the union but it has a very vibrant art scene.

I was lucky to have parents that were artists who raised me in a household that fostered creativity. My father designed cars for GM and my mother worked as a sculptor at Hasbro. 

As a teenager I found myself producing skate videos which later led to my acceptance to film school at Art Center College of design. After school, a friend of mine was hired as Kanye West’s videographer. Soon after Kanye launched his website and blog, Kanyeuniversecity, and was looking for a blogger to gather content ranging from the latest and best in music, fashion, design, etc. My friend called me and asked me if I was interested, I accepted the job and I was apart of the team…This was May of 2008.

At the top of 2020 you started the Instagram account opt_archive where you posted a ton of unreleased creative material from the golden years of Donda. Recently you wiped that account clean and announced you would no longer be posting archived Donda material. What was your reasoning behind this?

opt_archive was a way to share the process of the work I was apart of while at Donda. I am no longer posting because I was ordered to stop posting. 

A common theme that comes up in many Donda conversations is the work ethic that was involved. In one interview you mentioned 16 hour days, 7 days a week, for months on end. Did you ever feel burnt out? Was this work ethic something that carried over with you in your solo creative ventures?

My college Art Center trained its student for these types of hours and the possible burn out that may be associated with that type of schedule. That being said, yes, there was a massive amount of burn out, ha. I found strength within the team dynamic. Kanye, Virgil and Jerry all had such immense creative energy and unwavering focus…That really helped pushed me to keep going to that next level.

You’ve mentioned that there were 325 variations before finally settling on the Cruel Summer album cover we see today. Did you ever face creative blocks while working under Donda? If so, how would you overcome those with the pressure to produce for such monstrous projects?

Honestly no, I never faced creative blocks while I was at Donda. I was extremely excited every day to be apart of what we believed was a movement. Donda was about solutions, not problems or blocks. A block was just a hurdle that you jumped over.

Oftentimes artists like yourself work on major projects but may not get all the glory or credit deserved as much of the work is done behind the scenes. Do you prefer being up front and center or working behind the scenes?

I believe in giving credit where credit is due, I’ve never viewed credit as “glory.” It’s an honor to work with the clientele that I have amassed and projects themselves are extremely rewarding.  

I’ve always been more of a behind-the-scenes, but at moments it’s necessary to be out in front in order to support others or a project.

Joe Perez's Artwork

Describe Kanye West in one word.

INTENSE.

Since Donda has disbanded, you have gone on to launch a couple of your own brands. Tell us about your current brand. What are you striving to achieve with Club Fantasy?

Club Fantasy is an output of fun and experimentation as much as it is a collaboration with designers that I really want to work with. The brand itself is inspired by rave culture and the electro genre. 

Most Donda members have gone on to pursue their own creative ventures. Do you keep in touch with any of them? Do you have any plans on working with any of them again in the future?

Yes, I’m in touch with them every so often as we’re all very busy. My studio worked with Virgil on branding for a Louis Vuitton sneaker as well as graphic exploration for Off-White.

We’ve worked with Jerry Lorenzo a lot on the Air Fear of God’s for Nike. We also helped out with his upcoming collection.  

We’ve worked with Salehe Bembury on branding for the Versace TriGreca sneaker.

All of these guys are awesome to work with and I’ve learned a lot from both Virgil and Jerry.

They are masters of their crafts.

Club Fantasy is a relatively young brand. It seems to be off to an impressive start so far. How has the transition been from freelance designer to brand owner been? What has been the biggest challenge?

The transition is pretty seamless.  I use the same process for building collections as I do on music merch projects.   

The biggest challenge has been finding a balance between working on Club Fantasy and overseeing a full-time design at the same time.

What’s next for Club Fantasy?

Next would be more collaborations that you wouldn’t expect, more accessory development and footwear.

What kind of advice would you give to a young creative who aspires to work alongside Kanye West?

My advice Part 1:  You’ll need to find your own voice and produce work that moves people.

My advice Part 2:  If you do work with Ye never tell him you can’t do something.  

My first assignment for Kanye and this isn’t an exact quote, he asked me: “Can you find the speakers that look like robots? And send me pictures.” Ye couldn’t remember the name of the speaker so that’s all I had to go off of…  I sent Kanye hundreds of speakers, and none of them were the ones that looked like robots.  After a week and a half, I emailed Kanye apologizing and wrote “I can’t find the speakers that look like robots.”

I received a call 2 minutes later from Ye and he told me “We have to fix your vocabulary because as a black man I’ve heard the words NO and CAN’T all of my life.  I want you to only say YES and I CAN.   

This statement had a profound impact on my life, on my world view, it made me really think, I mean REALLY think just how much shit Ye must have had to overcome to “make it.”

The moral of the story is to never give up on the goals that you set out to accomplish.

Even if it seems the whole world is standing in your way you have to stay positive and never lose sight of that goal. 

If your goal is to work alongside Kanye, then you’ll have to put in the work and figure out a creative way to grab his attention.


Club Fantasy / Joe Perez

Salehe Bembury

Salehe Bembury solidifies the message that if you work hard, you will succeed. Bembury grew up being a sneakerhead and was the kid you could find lined up for the latest release and NikeTalk. Because Bembury had no real industry ties, he made himself marketable by gaining experience anywhere that he could. Bembury worked at companies like Cole Haan and Payless which ultimately helped him gain experience in the footwear and fashion industry. One day while on his lunch break at Payless, Bembury spotted Kanye getting out of a taxi. Naturally, Bembury ran up to him and explained that he was a designer and had a dream to work with him. Don C, who was with Kanye at the time, took down Bembury’s information and said they would contact him. Bembury never received an email. 

Fast forward to seven years later, Bembury had a full-circle moment when he officially started working with Kanye and the rest of the Donda team. After getting hired on with Kanye, Bembury introduced himself and showed his gratitude for the opportunity. Kanye’s response was, “let’s change the world,” a statement that Kanye took very literally, according to Bembury. Bembury went to work on many notable projects including footwear design for Yeezy Season 3 and Season 4. Yeezy Season 3’s military boots, oversized fits and iconic Madison Square Garden’s showing all came to fruition with the help of Bembury’s touch. 

After a little over a year at Yeezy, Bembury parted ways and found himself in Los Angeles doing freelance work, looking for his next big gig. On a whim, Bembury reached out to Versace via LinkedIn and pitched himself. Three days later he heard back and just like that, he was on his way to Milan. Bembury presented an in-depth 40-page presentation which helped him secure the job at Versace on the spot. Bembury remains the head of footwear at Versace to this day. From Payless to Versace, Salehe Bembury is the perfect example of where hard work and persistence can get you. 

Salehe Bembury / The New York Times 

Ibn Jasper

Unlike the majority of the rest of the names on this list, Ibn Jasper knew Kanye West before he was Kanye West. In fact, Ibn Jasper is actually Kanye’s personal barber. Another Chicago-native, Jasper met Kanye when he was just 18 years old. Jasper started cutting hair at the age of 14 and had begun to make a name for himself as one of Chicago’s best, young barbers. Through barbering, Jasper met Don C and started cutting his hair. Kanye liked Don C’s cut and was interested in who was cutting his hair. When Jasper met the young, 18-year-old self-proclaimed producer, Kanye admitted that he wasn’t able to afford his haircuts. In exchange for free haircuts, Kanye agreed that he would help teach Jasper how to become a better producer.

After many years of friendship and even more haircuts, Jasper moved out to Los Angeles in 2004 to accompany West on his first tour for The College Dropout. Through the years, Jasper remained not only Kanye’s personal barber but also provided cuts for other famous rapper’s hair as well. Along with cutting hair, Jasper has always been at the side of Kanye and has unofficially been a part of a handful of projects.

With the exposure and knowledge he gained just from being by Kanye’s side, Jasper launched his own footwear brand called Stratica International in 2018. Although still a very young brand, Stratica International has managed to find itself in top retailers. The brand is based on Jasper’s interests and can be best described by what Jasper calls the three pillars: fashion, skate and street.

Ibn Jasper from Stratica International / Hypebeast 

Travis Scott

The next name on our list surely needs no introduction. Setting himself apart from the rest of the names we’ve mentioned, Travis Scott’s connection to Kanye originated from the music side of things rather than fashion or design. Scott signed with Kanye’s label, G.O.O.D. Music, back in 2012 where he made his debut with a verse on Sin City off of Cruel Summer. Following his Cruel Summer debut, Scott made major contributions to Kanye’s sixth solo album, Yeezus. Scott’s signature producing styles can be heard all throughout the polarizing album. Just a month prior to Yeezus, Scott had put out his first official body of work, a mixtape titled Owl Pharaoh. Following the kickstart he got from Yeezus, Scott has gone on to release a second mixtape, two collaborative albums and three solo albums.

After establishing himself in the music industry, Scott has since branched out to put his twist on the fashion and sneaker industry. With his infamous rager persona, it was Scott’s turn to add sneakers and apparel to the mix to evolve him from just a rapper to an entire brand. Scott’s partnership with Nike began in 2017 where he released his first Jordan collab, the Jordan Trunner LX. The silhouette was never released however it got Scott’s name buzzing in the sneaker world. His first official Nike collaboration came later that year where Scott put his personal touch on the classic Nike Air Force 1 as a part of Nike’s AF100 collection alongside Just Don and Virgil Abloh.

Following his first AF1 release, Scott has gone on to release another nine official sneaker collaborations with Nike and Jordan with his most recent being on Nike’s Air Max 270 model. Scott’s most hyped and sought after sneaker release was without a doubt his take on the Air Jordan 1 High which featured the iconic backward swoosh and a hidden stash pocket in a dark mocha colorway. 

In addition to his sneaker collaborations, Scott regularly releases merchandise to accompany his music releases, tours and overall rager lifestyle. With frequent selling out and steady resell prices, it would be hard to argue that Cactus Jack isn’t a full-fledged brand at this point. 


Travis Scott / GQ 

Today when Kanye is not working on his Adidas YEEZY line or different endeavors, he can be seen with his family and helping his wife, Kim Kardashian-West on a variety of projects. Kanye’s influence can be seen spread in other companies outside his realm like SKIMS, KKW Beauty and more. With Kanye’s influence, the power couple has transformed the fashion industry and now entering the cosmetic industry, into the new everyday aesthetic of minimal and tonal contrasts, which can be seen throughout different seasons of Yeezy and SKIMS campaigns. Kanye also just recently expanded his 'Yeezy' trademark into the beauty and skincare industry. 

Kanye West & Yeezy Season 8 / Highsnobiety 

After diving into the deep end with Kanye West’s former team members and peers, it’s very apparent what a massive impact Mr. West has already made in our industry. All of these creatives have added true value to the “Kanye effect” we hear about so often. Each individual we mentioned is directly linked with West. In other words, this is really just the first degree of Kanye West. We can hardly imagine what the next five degrees will bring to the table.

If Donda were a university, Virgil, Jerry and the rest would make up the student body, and Mr. West would be the professor. It’s hard to imagine where the sneaker, streetwear and high fashion scenes would be today without Kanye West. Maybe one man should have all that power.

Kanye West - Yeezy Wheel / The Sole Supplier

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