Last Thursday, Kanye sent out a tweet announcing a three-day pop-up shop at 83 Wooster St in the heart of New York City’s trendy SoHo neighborhood where he would be selling clothing inspired by his latest album The Life of Pablo. The first day reportedly resulted in New York City police officers having to shut down the entire street as hundreds of people flooded the area during the hustle and bustle of rush hour.
Kanye was the attraction, not his music or his clothing.
When I arrived at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, the following day, one thing become clear in minutes: Kanye is the attraction, not his music or his clothing.
Two employees decked out in The Life Of Pablo gear told us that the NY pop up shop was “three times” larger than Kanye pop ups in other cities. Someone even purchased $2,500 worth of clothing on the store’s opening night on Friday.
The feverish pace at which the clothing left the shelves is matched by how quickly it is resold. “There was [a listing] on eBay this morning that they just showed me inside, they used my picture as the ,” one of the workers stated before laughing at the fact the item was only being sold for “$60.”
When asked why people would stand for hours in the cold for, 17-year-old Harman Nahal, who met up with Basit and a few of their friends bluntly stated “It’s Kanye.” He then blurted out: “I didn’t buy the album.”
Sixteen-year-old Talal Basit is one of the dedicated buyers who waited outside starting at 7 a.m. When we met him, he was decked in his red “I Feel Like Pablo” hoodie and visibly shaking from the 38-degree weather. “I really don’t mind it,” Basit told Digital Trends. “Right now it’s pretty cold, though.”
Basit brought an extensive list of 11 items he was looking to purchase, but he only planned to keep one of them. “I’m mainly here for the jean jacket for myself, the one with the writing,” Basit stated. “The rest I’m [reselling].” This was a common sentiment from everyone I spoke with, most of whom chose to speak off the record in fear of being labeled as a reseller and banned from purchasing items. Some people stated they resold clothes from yesterday’s opening for more than 200 percent face value.
“He’s going to open up pop-up shops all over the United States … that’s how he’s going to earn his $53 million back.”
The crowds were rowdy enough that the NYPD even deployed members of its relatively new Strategic Response Group, a special group of officers trained to deal with terrorist threats and protests. It felt like overkill for a largely self-policing line. When a group of linecutters swooped in 30 minutes before opening, for instance, onlookers from the adjacent line immediately ratted them out. Showing the laughing police officers a picture of the line from his cell phone, a young man pleaded with police to remove the people attempting to skip the hundreds of others. After reviewing the evidence, the police relented and the offenders were removed, to the raucous delight of the adjacent crowd.
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The pop-up shop was set up in a space usually reserved for art galleries, and Kanye’s clothing was showcased as such inside. Blue denim jackets with “Pablo” emblazoned on the back lined the bare white and cream walls on racks. Blue and red baseball caps and beanies sat in rows on small tables. There were even taupe-colored shirts with with the faces of Kanye and his wife Kim Kardashian’s deceased parents, Donda West and Robert Kardashian, on them. The clothing ranged from $45 for a T-shirt to $400 for the denim jacket.
Many buyers seemed to know that the prices were too high.
“This shit sucks, it’s Gildan,” said a 20-year-old man waiting on line who chose to be referred to as Chino. “Gildan is the most basic t-shirt you can buy … you buy them from Gildan for like $2.99 each.” Gildan is a Canadian manufacturer of clothing and apparel. A quick search through MyGildan.com shows tools to design your own designs and buy. They manufacture clothing for Under Armour, New Balance, and now Kanye West. The Gildan Heavy Brand tag was visible on every shirt and hoodie in the pop-up shop.
“He’s going to open up pop-up shops all over the United States and each are going to have crazy amount of sales,” said Chino. “That’s how he’s going to earn his $53 million back.”
The entire event is a reminder of what an oddity Kanye West is these days. Hundreds of people people will wait outside in freezing cold to buy clothing they know is cheaply made simply because it bears his name. And they’re the type of people who know more about Kanye West’s alleged $53 million debt than his music.
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