Kanye West, G-Dragon, & Fashion Week
2016 New York Fashion Week (NYFW) Fall/Winter is about to wrap up with the final runways being walked on Thursday, but the long term effect will be felt for months and years to come. Because 2016 was not only the year that music made it big at Fashion Week, but K-pop made its appearance too.
As pop culture and fashion intersec, there’s going to be a lot of where that came from with pop icons like Kanye West and G-Dragon breaching the divide between the audible and the wearable. Yeezy might have been around for awhile, but for the first time ever G-Dragon, and K-pop, is poised to truly enter the realm of western pop culture and he made his long-awaited debut amidst designers.
Comparing any of the K-pop stars who made waves at NYFW to Kanye would be belittling Kanye’s status in society; his fashion show for his Yeezy clothing line doubled also as the venue for the release of his new album “The Life of Pablo” and it will likely be the most talked about event from NYFW 2016. The Madison Square Garden extravaganza will be remembered by the history books as one of the biggest amalgamations of pop culture and high fashion.
Less remembered will be the fact that a brand new song featuring G-Dragon was released during Alexander Wang’s new show. The Baauer-produced “Temples” features M.I.A doing her thing in English while G-Dragon swoops in like a hawk and brings bilingual raps to the runway. In a runway being walked by models draped in an Asian-American designer’s clothing, mind you.
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Debuting a song by the triple threat of Baauer-G-Dragon-M.I.A at NYFW may seem like it doesn’t make much sense; this should be released on an epic scale! But with all of the media looking towards NYFW and top stars from all over the world in attendance, including several K-pop stars like 2NE1’s CL (a member of the recently unveiled promotional WANG SQUAD) and Girls’ Generation’s Sooyoung, attending the runway shows, then debuting the thumping, plinking “Temples” at Alexander Wang’s show meant that all eyes would be on the models and ears open for the invasion of a catchy, bombastic new track. Already there has been heavy coverage of “Temples,” despite the fact that Baauer’s debut album that features the song won’t be out until next month.
And let’s not forget that a Korean pop artist’s voice was poised as a backtrack to an iconic New York City event open to only the highest echelons of the fashion and cultural world. So not too shabby for G-Dragon to quietly make waves without most people even realizing how iconic that runway background music was. If Psy made people aware of K-pop, G-Dragon’s presence at NYFW makes even the most discerning critics stop and pause to listen to the music.
If it seems that music and fashion are just being combined together this NYFW season by accident, it’s most certainly not. Kanye West and the K-pop genre as a whole are more than aware of how the musical superstars of our era double as fashion icons, and all of the money invested in one is likely to affect the other. Which means that when music sales are down, turning singers into walking talking billboards for fashion brands is perfect. But sponsored artists are not enough in this day and age, at least based on the trends; K-pop music agencies like YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment are working with fashion brands at the same time that Kanye is literally transitioning from just a musician to a cultural entity that affects trends of both the music and fashion worlds. (Or at least he’d like to think so).
Does that mean G-Dragon, or any other K-pop artist, is going to pull a Yeezy and start a fashion line, throwing the gauntlet into the diversification of K-pop into new brand arenas? Unlikely. For one thing, G-Dragon told the New York Times that he wouldn’t, and for any other lesser K-pop star than G-Dragon to debut a line aimed at global fashion would be suicide, as seen by the relatively limited success by former Girls’ Generation member Jessica Jung’s foray into fashion.
As much as we — the collective we of K-pop writers and fans combined — like to talk about the rising popularity of K-pop, it’s taken more than five years from the viral hits of 2009 like “Gee” and “Sorry Sorry” until now to merit an icon other than the gag-making Psy who media is really taking notice of. Sorry Psy. G-Dragon, and to a lesser degree CL, are the only K-pop stars Vogue truly cares about.
However, despite the lack of impending fashion lines straight from any K-pop artist, it’s no small thing that both K-pop and Kanye were prominent at this year’s NYFW- Music, like fashion, is able to transcend cultural boundaries more so in 2016 than ever before, and NYFW proves it. K-pop’s finally making its mark on American cultural products isn’t an accident, just like Kanye moving into the fashion world is intentional. New York Fashion Week, once only visible to a premier class of people, is now open to the world thanks to social media. With the opening up of Fashion Week to the masses comes the need to make high fashion relatable, and nothing is more accessible than music.
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K-pop, which has struggled so hard to try and garner attention overseas, is making leaps and bounds in 2016 with new acts like SM Entertainment’s soon to debut NCT, trying to fit into local music scenes, and more and more K-pop concerts heading to the western hemisphere. But as a genre that lends itself innately to fashion due to it’s visual elements, such as K-pop idols and music videos, K-pop is a perfect mash for NYFW and fashion in general. It’s only now that high fashion has accepted music and one of pop culture’s burgeoning figures into its threshold that there was room to recognize Korean artists as equals who are able to add to the conversation of art, rather than detract from it. G-Dragon, who is so far ahead of the rest of the K-pop crowd as an artist, is no less than K-pop’s Kanye.
Transcending the boundaries of music and art, G-Dragon mirrors Kanye as an influential musician who represents an entire way of life in the eyes of the western media. Fashion has been the friend of both, but there is no question that both these men are all about the music and are smartly using this platform to promote their art.
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