Kanye West is pissed. While in Paris during fashion week, he was told off by the venerated brand Louis Vuitton. When West demanded a meeting, he was told to hit the road. And so, Tuesday morning, accompanied by his ever-loyal fiancée, he told fans on New York’s 92.3 NOW radio show to boycott Louis Vuitton until January. West slammed the company threatening that they will soon regret the snub because “they don’t know my power.”
Such a sentiment expressed by West is merely a typical day in the life of Kanye. Just last week, West took down Zappos by calling their products “sh-t” (never mind the fact that they don’t sell their own products, but are just an e-commerce brand from which to sell other mid-range items). And in the past, he has taken issue with everything from people in the fashion industry to those who he believes are incorrectly awarded a music award. With his egotism and barely comprehensible rantings, it’s hard to imagine that this is a guy who thinks he will truly disrupt the design industry.
A couple of years ago, however, Kanye West created a company whose purpose is as vague as his cryptic interviews. According to a tweet he composed in January 2012, West’s new company DONDA (based off of his late mother’s name) is his attempt to bring the best and brightest in the world ranging from what he terms “tech guys” to car designers to create things that “help simplify and aesthetically improve everything we see hear, touch, taste, feel…To marry our wants and needs.”
What is oddest about this company is that it seemingly doesn’t exist. There is no website, no list of employees. Everything is hush-hush and paranoidly vague, with only his cryptic almost nonsense sounding tweet (which was then deleted by Mr. West) as the sole insight into the goals of this Freemason-esque company.
His desire to be the next Steve Jobs is possibly the reason behind all this secrecy. Every Apple launch is shrouded in a veil of mystery, but the difference is that Apple is a legitimate company with a legitimate website and a legitimate office that creates innovative products. But with Kanye, although he has been promoting his Yeezus tour with the proliferation of “sneak previews” spearheaded by DONDA and speaking to university students about design principles, no one really knows what he is actually doing with this company. Is it going to accomplish its goals by selling t-shirts? Or will it merely be the “brand” for Kanye’s ever-growing empire? Or will it, possibly, create something truly unique that will affect and enrich all of our lives?
The inherent problem is that Kanye thinks his ideas (of which none has been clearly articulated to the public) will be revolutionary. His dream to become the “next Steve Jobs” is a stretch — not because he lacks the creative ability to think outside the box and move design forward, but that his ego gets in the way of him doing anything productive for society as a whole.
Whereas Job’s design principles were based on producing consumer products that were technologically novel, Kanye’s ideas are too vague to culminate in a consumer product that changes the way people interact with the world around them. His ideas are, inevitably, centered around Kanye himself, as is evidenced by the few images and designs that have come out of the DONDA brand. (i.e artistic mock-ups of Kanye’s face and the design of the Yeezus tour set.)
Which is why it seems that DONDA is, at its core, not so different than Lady Gaga’s Haus of Gaga. Like DONDA, it is a company that is filled with creative employees who are tasked with pushing the limits of design and theatricality. But Haus of Gaga has no pretensions about “changing the world through design.” It is fully aware of their Gaga-based design purpose. And while Gaga has brought some button-pushing designs into our cultural consciousness, the practical application of those innovations become watered down into capitalist-driven plastic drivel that provides little benefit to the enrichment of people’s lives other than simple entertainment.
If Kanye were able to let go of his ego and remove himself from the equation, it could very well be that DONDA could be the next Apple or even an American Bauhaus of design. It’s not that Kanye lacks the ability or the funds to get the best possible people to carry out his vision; it’s that the vision is extremely short-sighted and not in any way fleshed out.
But perhaps that is truly what Kanye means when he wants to marry feeling with necessity — entertainment is a necessity. At least, according to Kanye, whose very soul and naked ambition are expressed through the medium of entertainment.
The problem for Kanye then, is simply this: if you’re in the news more often for your egotistical ranting than for your genius works, then you are doing something wrong. When a person continuously tells you how amazing he or she is, you begin to doubt that person’s greatness. The greatness of Jobs was that he was known for what he created, and his narcissism was more like an afterthought, as if he had the right to be that way because he was such a genius. You can’t keep trying to convince the world you are a genius Mr. West, you have to have something to show for it that will speak for itself.