“Did she or did she not?”
I only go through the artists complete repertoire and what the artist and their body of work personally mean to me when I have actually captured them on Polaroid. Since this is not the case and I can not imagine you don’t know who KANYE WEST is, I can skip the introduction and go straight to what matters.
Only two weeks ago I decided last-minute to go to Paris Fashion Week, with no preparation what so ever, to chase for a KANYE WEST Polaroid story. I’ve never really told you, but in the very beginning of this blog, almost 2 years ago, I did my very first attempt for a YEEZY shot. Turned out that the story could be wrapped into: Came into venue. Saw concert. Went home. Not really thrilling, let a long a West-worthy story.
A small year ago, I started to realise, if I wanted certain artists for my series, I’d have to look for them in other places. Big artists play in big venues. Football stadiums, XXL concert halls, humongous festivals. I’m talking about artists like Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder, Beyonce, Diana Ross, Sade, Jay-Z, Kanye West…. If you want to see those people in the flesh and not by the size of your thumb, in a room with a hundred people instead of a thousand, you have to start looking at more exclusive locations and events. Events you and me don’t get in. Events, only the lucky few get an invitation to. When I saw this picture popping online from my friends at UBER & KOSHER from Kanye West at Maison Martin Margiela during Paris Fashion Week a while ago, I wasn’t only appalled by the amazing Givenchy leopard jacket, but even more about the fact that in three years, I have never even considered to go chase for Polaroid during Paris Fashion Week.
(picture by Uber & Kosher)
This picture was my wake-up call. This picture was also a “WHY THE FUCK WERE YOU NOT THERE?!”. So I plugged it into my head and let it snooze in my brain until it was time to wake up, shake the dust off the idea and put it into motion. Time goes fast, very fast, and before you know it, Paris Fashion Week was slowly back in sight. When the news hit that Kanye West was going to present his very first runway collection in Paris and not New York, I realized this was my shot. Everything about it felt right: Flashing lights, heartless gold diggers, amazing women, power, and an american boy named Kanye. It makes sense to chase for a Yeezy Polaroid in these fashion drenched circumstances, because Mr West never made it a secret that he is very fond of Belgian fashion like Maison Martin Margiela, Dries Van Noten, Kris Van Assche and of course, Raf Simons. I have this embarrassing fantasy of taking a Polaroid picture from Kanye West all dressed in Dries Van Noten with me taking the Polaroid wearing those MMM lace bunny ears on while Belgian photographer WILLY VANDERPERRE is taking a picture of me taking the picture. 🙂
What can I say, call me cray. However, the decision to go to PFW came a bit late. That meant that I did not have any invitation to any fashion show in Paris and that it was probably to late to get some. Going to Paris Fashion Week with no invitations is like travelling to Disney Land as a young girl and being refused at the entrance. You can see the main attractions but you can’t enjoy the ride. You can almost smell those ‘Pommes D’Amour’ but you can’t have a bite. It’s simply cruel. All I could do, is ask for help. That’s all. I realized very quickly that for this story I would have to let go of my pride and my ambitions of pulling it of on my own and ask for help every single time. So I started out with communicating online that I would travel to Paris for a Kanye West Polaroid to find out how much people I know are in the area during that time. To my surprise I received a little mail from an old friend of mine, who works for HAIDER ACKERMANN and she gave me a single invitation to his SS12 show in Paris. I felt very blessed to receive an invitation to what is considered to be one of the most anticipated and inspiring fashion shows during Paris Fashion Week. I also felt a bit relieved that I could actually go to a show in Paris, I mean, it was FASHION week after all right?
The next thing on my mind was that I needed to find a connection closest to Kanye West as possible. You know, like the six degrees of separation? It turned out that I had two options I could start from: 1. Theophilus London and 2. Bryan Black. Theophilus London was playing in La Machine Du Moulin Rouge on sept 30th in Paris. I’ve introduced and featured Theophilus London twice on this blog and from time to time we bump into each other. I grabbed all my courage together and mailed him to ask if he could do anything to help me out. He replied me that he was limited with these type of requests, but that he could introduce me in Paris if the right occasion came along. I don’t like to ask favors to artists and I prefer not too. I will only use that option if I really, réally have no other choice. And with the short amount of time ahead of me, I had no time for insecurities, I was only occupied with erasing my ‘what-ifs’. I hate ‘what-ifs’. I was glad I send the email, but somehow I felt that this was not the right road that would lead me to my final destination. Enters BRYAN BLACK. Turns out that I had a legit connection coming straight from my work office. I have a new job since a few months and one of my new colleagues, told me that he could introduce me to one of his friends who might be able to help me out. My colleague told me that he briefed Bryan Black and that I had to contact him asap with all the information and my request. Again I hesitated. I told my colleague that I’m not a fan of sending mails to complete strangers and asking them for favors, and I wondered if it wasn’t impolite? I mean, what If I knew Kanye West in person, I’d probably receive everyday an email with some sort of request, no? My colleague looked at me funny, frowned and said: “Ouni…just do it.” and walked away.
And so I did. I send Bryan Black a little mail with a short description of my blog, the goals and the intentions for my Paris visit and the request if he could do anything to help me regarding to achieving my goal with any type of advice, information or recommendation. Now, let me explain you the Bryan Black x Kanye West link. Bryan Black, hailing from New York, is part of a duo and band called MOTOR. In 2008, Belgian designer RAF SIMONS used a song called ‘Sweatbox‘ from MOTOR in his runway show. In 2009, when MOTOR was invited to tour with Depeche Mode, Raf Simons designed their tour shirt. Kanye West found out about the shirt and posted it on his blog. MOTOR then remixed Kanye West, a song called Robocop. Fast forward to 2011 and designer RICK OWENS uses MOTOR’s song ‘Ice’ for his SS12 menswear collection…
…and invites Bryan Black to his SS12 show in Paris.
Already a few hours later I receive a very kind email from Bryan Black telling me that he would text Kanye West and ask him for an invitation to his fashion show and if all works out, I could be his +1 and that we need to meet up in Paris the day before the show. Voilà. Easy breezy. Just like that. You probably think that I was over the moon with that news when I read it, no? I wasn’t actually. Doing this blog I learned to focus big, but set my expectations as low as possible. Nothing was 100% confirmed and for some reason I was very cautious with any type of victorious feelings. After all, it took me 4 times to snap Pharrell Williams on my terms on Polaroid, I didn’t expect my journey to Kanye to be a walk in the park. What did surprise me, was the fact that Bryan Black really did an effort to help me out. So with 1 invitation and 2 little options I left for Paris, accompanied by Aicha, who helped me out for the occasion. First stop was the Theophilus London show in La Machine du Moulin Rouge.
The next day we had some spare time and we wandered through a very tropical feeling Paris. It was so hot during our stay in Paris (very global warming-esk) and I was secretly very happy that I didn’t have to marathon all over Paris from one show to the next, dressed to the nine in high painful heels with make-up melting off my face. Only fools go to Paris Fashion Week in these temperatures. Normal people go to the beach. We walked all the way up to La Bastille, a habit I intend to maintain every time I’m in Paris. (Preferable at night, but hey)
While enjoying some good food, I remained somewhat focused. Afterall, we still did not have a clue where the Kanye West show would be held, and no details regarding to the location were known and we were only 24 hours away from the show. So I was relieved to find out on Twitter that the official invitations for the D.W. by Kanye West show were sent out and that the exact location ànd RSVP mail address was on the invitation which probably was being retweeted by a hundred, thousand, trillion.
Then the idea popped up to RSVP to the PR company who was responsible for the invitations. I already contacted the PR company before my Paris departure to request an invitation but with this blog, every time I play by the rules, nothing happens because the rules do not want to play with me. So, there are I was, considering to actually RSVP to an event I did not have an invitation for, all in the spirit of: “You just never know.”It was kinda hard RSVP’ing to that, because what do you RSVP if you are not invited in the first place? “Ouni +1 thank you very much?” So I wrote out a little, polite email, erased another ‘what-if’ from my list and pushed SEND. We had two things scheduled for our second night in Paris. First picking up my invitation to the HAIDER ACKERMANN show and catching up with my friend. (thanks again girl!!)
And afterwards meeting up with Bryan Black for drinks at club SILENCIO, a brand new and very exclusive club designed by DAVID LYNCH and the newest thing in town. Interesting detail is that we landed ourselves in the middle of what appeared to be an exclusive LOUBOUTIN cocktail party. The ratio of people in one room wearing shoes with red shoe soles was very…high and it was definitely funny standing there wearing plain old Bershka & New Look shoes. It wasn’t allowed to take any pictures in this very ‘hush hush’ club (So hip you can’t flash), but we did it anyway. The hallway and the toilet that is. 🙂
Bryan Black turned out to be a very sweet, laid back chap and over a few drinks he told me that unfortunately he didn’t receive any news from Kanye West, but that he would send another email the next day, just in case. Although a night of partying in Silencio and a few drinks more were very tempting, I decided that we could not be distracted by this and left around 2PM. With no invitation what so ever, the prospect of standing at the main entrance next to a big crowd and lots of paparazzi at Kanye West his show became more and more a reality and for that, you need to be wide awake and focused if you want to have any sort of result starting from that very unfavorable position. Plus, I had a very early wake-up call the next morning, the HAIDER ACKERMANN show was scheduled at 10h30 AM and my friend advised me to come early because even if you had an invitation, your entrance would not be guaranteed. When we left Silencio, while waiting and looking for a much wanted and impossible-to-grab-cab to drive us home (it took us almost 2 hours!!) I remarked that Kanye was present in Paris regardless any show.
Because, no matter what, there are always the true fans.
I prayed this was a good sign and all would work out in the end. I was not planning on missing one of the most anticipated shows of PFW so the next morning I dragged myself out of bed at 8PM and went straight to the show. 21 metro stops later, I arrived. 🙂
First familiar face I saw was Deborah from UBER & KOSHER
and of course lots of fashion folks.
The Haider Ackermann show was amazing and simply mind-blowing.
(all Haider Ackermann SS12 pictures by Uber & Kosher)
After the show it was time to head back and meet up with Aicha and see what our remaining options were for the day. We knew the location of the show and we knew where the after party would be, but that was pretty much it. By the early afternoon, I received a text message from Bryan Black telling me that he did his best but that he had no more reaction from Kanye West and he wished me good luck with my mission. I thanked him for the heads up and for his help and the lovely night out at Silencio. It was so strange realising that we might fail, while I could feel YOU, yes YOU rooting for me in all ways possible. It’s surreal how many texts, tweets, mails, encouragements I received from everybody who loves this little blog. It was heartwarming and very encouraging indeed, because every minute I started to question what the heck I was doing again for a simple Polaroid, I felt your support and used your energy to remain positive.
There was one angle left, one possible option that was suggested by a friend overseas, who urged me to contact an individual called Virgil Abloh, Kanye his fashion consultant and close friend. Honestly, by that time I was done sending mails asking for favors. I don’t really believe in it, because why would people on that level help a random girl from Ostend, Belgium? It’s not a negative point of view, it’s a realistic one I learned doing this blog for the last 3 years. But in honour of the story and putting the more than excellent ‘NI**AS IN PARIS’ track into practice, I decided that in order to get what you want, you need to be willing to go all the way. In the words of Kanye West: “Look, you need to crawl before you ball.” Afterall, I wasn’t going into any bathroom stall, this was a simple email I needed to send. So I contacted Virgil Abloh ànd send a second email to Theophilus London with my final request for help . It remained silent from both angles. Yup. Ouni in Paris, definitely crawlin’. Not much ballin’.
And then it was time. Dressed to the nine, “hair done, nails done, everything done” , we went straight for the location where Kanye West would present his D.W by KANYE WEST collection to the world. And this is what we witnessed when we arrived at the scene. A little isle of paparazzi and hardcore fan madness.
All people who just want a glimpse of Kanye West, standing in front of the entrance or exit where Kanye or other VIPs would leave the show. The Kanye West show was in delay, so we had some time to check out the perimeter and it turned out that there were 3 exits/entrances so we tried our luck, picked one and stayed with it. And not much later, all eyes went to one direction, because it looked like the show was over and the VIPs were leaving the building….
The VIPS walked out the venue one by one, and boy o boy, what a flash fest it was. In three years time, I have never seen this type of frenzy and I must admit it was quite intense to feel all that build up suspense energy from all those people. Special shout-out to my assistant Aicha, who was thrown straight into a sea of paparazzi and hardcore fans snapping pictures like hungry piranhas but still managed to capture these more than excellent paparazzi shots for you all.
And when Jared Leto came out followed by Terry Richardson, well then all hell broke loose and I swear it felt like bright daylight with all the cameras flashing.
And that was it… I could hardly believe Kanye would leave his own show through the main exit, but we stayed and hung around anyway, just in case. We decided to walk back to the subway when we passed the side exit for cars and saw all these young girls still hoping and waiting to see a glimpse from their idol.
When a black van left the compound, all girls went straight to the car to see if Kanye was not in it.
We talked with these two sassy ladies who were also planning on going too that much wanted after party at Silencio.
In the subway I suddenly started to doubt if it even made sense to go back to Silencio. I started to feel that this story was a wrap and that it might be possible that it was not meant to be for this one. My feet were hurting from my killer heels, I only slept 3h the night before and what I really wanted was a Stella, a reefer and a chair, not another frenzy at yet another door we more than likely could not get in. I explained Aicha that I had serious doubts about going to Silencio and she told me: “You know you will regret this decision in the morning.” And she was right. I would regret it. Because if there is one thing that totally drives me crazy, than it must be the ‘what-if’s. So, off we went, back to Silencio. Just because of the what-ifs.
When we arrived, the scenery at the club was the exact opposite of the scenery we witnessed the night before. A small crowd of hundred people were almost blocking the street and definitely the sidewalk in front of the club. We met up with Bryan Black who did a final attempt of getting us in the same club we walked into yesterday with no problem, but very fast we all realised that it would not happen. We were standing there almost for 30 minutes, waiting with no invitation, amongst people who were getting more and more agitated because they could not get in. People were yelling, pushing, shouting, waving their exclusive member cards, or waving their wrists with the black Kanye West all access wristband from the show and were very, and I mean very frustrated that they could not enter the club. The club was already over capacity and apparently there was a door embargo for safety reasons for an unknown amount of time, until things calmed down. There was no PR-representative to communicate the fact that nobody could get into the club and to calm down the VIPs and try to work something out, which made the people very vicious towards security. When all of a sudden I see iconic designer Azzedine Alaia literally exploding because he was outraged from the – understandable – very unprofessional door policy all hell broke even more loose. VIPs came storming out the club, yelling to the security things like: “DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU JUST REFUSED??!!”. Of course they did not, they are security, who were left completely by their own in the situation, because nobody wanted to deal with it. Working in fashion and PR myself I was very surprised that there was no representative what so ever to be seen. Not from the club, not from the PR company who picks out the people who néed to be inside, who makes sure the ones who do have an invitation get in. Somebody who communicates with the rest of the crowd to remain calm and explain why they can’t get in the club in the first place. At that point me and Aicha knew that we tried, but standing any longer in that absurd situation with all people trying to get in, we realized we had no business there, we questioned if we even still wanted to be there, plus…. if Azzedine Alaia could not get in, let along Ouni & Aicha. So we trew the towel in the ring and together with Bryan Black we started looking for a cab. Bryan invited us to come along to Rick Owens after party, but we were officially done. After yet another hour of waiting and hailing cabs we finally came home where we went to bed.
The next couple of days after I left Paris, I saw Kanye West making appearances to other shows in Paris, going out, etc and I received a message from Bryan Black, that the minute he arrived back in New York, Kanye West emailed him to let him know that he did not check his emails before the show and that the show was limited for photographers and buyers with no standing room. Oh well…I wondered if I’d stayed a little longer in Paris and just positioned myself at the Louis Vuitton show gates, and yelled ‘Kenny, Kenny, Kenny’ would that have been easier to capture him? 🙂
Oh well. What-Ifs… I admire Kanye West for a lot of reasons, for his music first and definitely for his guts. The man launches his own fashion collection in Paris right in the lion’s den of fashion, knowing that the entire worldpress is ready to chop him into little Yeezy pieces and still he has the courage to execute his ideas, no matter what you, me or the rest of the world think about that. And that is something I respect deeply. It wasn’t meant to be for this time and that is that. You know that I will dust my shoulders off and try again.Let’s just pray it will not turn out in another Pharrell-Saga, shall we?
So, Mr West, if you would happen to read this extended A Polaroid Story with the healthy word count of 3959 words, something I seriously doubt, If you’d happen to be interested in posing in front of my modest Polaroid camera and/or make our own YouTube spoof version of NI**AS IN PARIS like this one here, please. Contact me?
Special thanks to Bradly for introducing me to Bryan Black. Bryan Black for àll the help, Aicha for assisting me, Griet for the Haider Ackermann invites, Uber & Kosher for the Haider Ackermann pictures, Emeka Alams, Marcus Richardson and Lefto for the encouragement and advice when my energy was low, and last but not least, MY READERS for channelling all that positive virtual energy via mail, texts, tweets & FB messages. It was probably the best part of the whole damn story