Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Kanye West And Bianca Censori’s Epic Barefoot Summer Fashion Odyssey In Europe

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Kanye/Yeezy/Ye West is a man of many facets, in music, business, fashion and, not least, in shoot-from-the-hip extemporizing. As we know, his utterances on this latter field of media play can spontaneously combust. On the personal-lifestyle front, he remains active, pictured above with his current partner, Bianca Censori, an Australian architect, (with a master’s from the University of Melbourne), who was hired by Yeezy (the company, not the man) as a designer in 2020.

Some background: Mr. West and his successive romantic partners have consistently exhibited great care in their public dress. Pictured above, a seminal shot of Mr. West with Amber Rose from 2009, at the BET Awards in Los Angeles. The intensity and scope of Mr. West’s concern for fashion detail has increased as he ascended through the ranks — an ascent fueled in no small part by his foundation of the Yeezy brand and the 7-year run of his partnership with Adidas, cancelled last October by the company in the fiery blowback Mr. West received upon making a series of highly inflammatory anti-semitic remarks.

That cancellation, along with several other contract terminations, left a giant smouldering crater where brand Yeezy had been and quite a few million — estimates running as high as $250 million — in shoes and clothes in the pipeline, not to mention the millions that went up in smoke from the Gap and other partners, running as fast as they possibly could away from their deals with the man. It was a fashion, and a career, bonfire.

His fashion doggedness, however, continues unchecked. Reduced by a billion or so he may be, but the man will be fashion-forward. Below, a shot from Los Angeles with Ms. Censori last May.

Socially speaking, Ms. Censori succeeds the New York It-Girl Julia Fox as Mr. West’s romantic interest. Although Ms. Censori and Mr. West are both grown people with their own well-established dress codes, they are nevertheless embarking upon a fashion odyssey all their own. However they express it, couples do form a shared visual semaphore that broadcasts the liason’s message to the street or, in Mr. West’s and Ms. Censori’s case, to the thousands of paparazzi hounding their every move.

In this shot as captured by one of those coursing dogs of the press last May, the basic elements of the West-Censori summer street kit are clear: For her, the sheer leotard/Pilates-workout/fresh-from-the-gym look in any shade, and for him, a Renaissance-looking singlet with some skateboard/snowboard/soccer shin guards strapped over some black leggings.

This is the telling detail: Despite the knee-and-leg armor, there are no moon boots, or, actually, sturdy footwear of any kind, of which in Mr. West’s incarnation with Ms. Fox, pictured below, he had been truly fond. Significantly, now, for such an avowed fashionista, Mr. West doesn’t seem to be wearing any shoes in the classic sense. Rather, it can be that he chose to don a pair of socks, or some softy ballet slippers, or a pair of newfangled sock-shoes minus the individual toe separators, or maybe, like a good pair of baby pajamas, his leggings just come with feet.

It’s important to recall of whom we are speaking here: A (former) shoe magnate. This is a bespoke man, so, he’s going to lose his shoes in a bespoke way. This is not the man who would rush out and snag a pair of nerdy Vibram Fivefingers V-Trail 2.0s without, first, seeing if he could make a better version himself. Despite having committed a sort of shoe-empire self-immolation last fall.

Taking the kit all together, Mr. West looks like he could be playing a solid supporting role prancing about in a Two Gentlemen of Verona production set in the 2050s. The obligatory codpiece seems already in place. He’s only missing his 2050 ray-gun in place of the short Renaissance rapier at midriff.

Below is what we can call a moon-boot or at least a “secure-form-of-footwear” parade that Mr. West staged with the energetic Ms. Fox, who has spoken entertainingly of her salad days’ freelance work as a dominatrix, at the Schiaparelli show in Paris last year. This show also marks Mr. West’s debut of the full-“bad”-Spiderman headgear.

Of those many packs of coursing dogs of the press on his tail, the most avid on the newlyweds’ scent are from Britain, and this has a sort of old Empire-driven logic: For better and for worse, Britain’s press barons and their many celebrity-beat hounds view Ms. Censori’s Australian heritage as making her very much one of their own. Murdoch’s Sun ran shots of her Australian mom and dad in Tokyo, on the visit where daughter Bianca introduced her family to her new beau. She’s being explained as “the new Kim” in the UK, with the sisters making artificially much of the fact that she has sisters and a mom-manager. In a word, no. The families bear fairly close to zero resemblance.

That noted, in the Ye cosmos, no move or phenomenon should come as a surprise. So, a few short weeks after Mr. West and Ms. Censori were reported to have been married in what has been described as a “secret” but which seems more likely to have been just a private, Beverly Hills ceremony in January 2023, they were reported, also, to have honeymooned luxuriously in Utah. Still in possession of one of his Wyoming ranches, Mr. West has a known penchant for seeking downtime in the great American West.

To the extent that Mr. West can ever approach what ordinary mortals would consider a modicum of rest and recreation, he often does so in Europe. Summer 2023 is no exception. He has been spending some seemingly easy days with Ms. Censori in Italy.

And, we might be forgiven for thinking that that would be the end of the story. They’re on vacation. But no matter how quotidian his actions may be on the surface, Mr. West always — always — presents the running dogs of Fleet Street with an opportunity to manufacture a narrative.

The current Italian trip is the example par excellence, combining a) a man who just a few months back lost something like a billion or at least a few hundred million in steady value and income, b) his new wife, who has a penchant for form fitting fashion, and not least, c) the British press, who scour the better watering holes and hot spots in southern France and Italy for the length of what we can fairly call the superyacht season — which typically ends with the Venice Film Festival, this year, on September 9 — for any and all celebrity hijinks.

Surprisingly, given the fact that Italy is the country that, a hundred and three years ago, produced the genius Frederico Fellini, who, in 1960, produced in La Dolce Vita the footage of Anita Ekberg dancing wet and fabulous in the Trevi Fountain, the (London) Daily Mail and the Sun began reporting that Italians in Rome, Tuscany and elsewhere were “complaining” that Ms. Censori’s outfits — invariably the same tight, leotard-like tops and bodysuits in varying colors as we saw in Los Angeles in May — were too risque. Prudish about fashion, this country is not. What was up with that?

True, as in the Los Angeles paparazzi shots above, Ms. Censori has a striking figure and is not afraid of revealing it. But Ms. Censori’s attire is in keeping with any Italian or French beachwear on any fashionable plage from the Cote d’Azur all the way around to the Tuscan beaches and over to the Adriatic. This is Europe. The female breast is out, period, and has been for generations over here.

Ms. Censori’s difficulty was, rather, a touristic fashion crime: She was in beach-like or seemingly beach-ready/workout costume, but she didn’t remember that she wasn’t on a beach, which is an easy slip to make around Mr. West. Still, the fact remains: Unlike Americans, Australians or, increasingly, the British, the Italians of all socioeconomic strata do still dress for town. Ms. Censori was wearing the workout gear on strolls around central Rome. Naturally, British tabloids being what they are, their breathless dispatches had little to do with any “complaint.” At bottom it was a splendid chance for them to run as many revealing paparazzi shots of her as possible, in classic Fleet Street full-on bathing-beauty-on-Page 3 tradition.

More importantly, a few days ago, the British press were shocked — shocked! — to report that Mr. West had upped — or more accurately — downsized his footwear from May-time in Los Angeles. He was snapped strolling around barefoot. First, it’s useful to know that no shoes is a trend. Surprising numbers of hipsters and other edgy, fashion-forward people are going without footwear on business around town. It’s a thing among certain arcane cohorts of the demimonde in Berlin, Prague, Paris and Scandinavia.

But in a larger context, it’s important to embrace the metadata — the background — of Mr. West’s summer fashion choice. He’s the former billionaire who just, in a trice, lost what can be fairly described as a shoe empire a few months back. Barefoot here and there, he’s doubling down on that bit of fashion semaphore. Where in the world is Ye?

From Italy, Mr. West’s answer to that is: No shoes is where he is.

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