Can we just talk about the hype.

So after Kanye West announced on Twitter that he would be opening one of his 21 global Pablo pop-up shops in Cape Town, die-hard fashion and Kanye fans held their breath in anticipation.

Its opening on the Friday morning saw a queue down Bree street of hours long, with each person eagerly waiting for their chance to get inside for a peek of the exclusively-for-Cape-Town merch. Yes, each city got designs of different variations, making each piece limited edition.

We managed to get our chance on the Saturday when the queues were much shorter. The Pablo stuff was… Average. Sure, the designs have become iconic, and kudos to Kanye for rolling with the unisex trend (which might also have been pure laziness), but the quality of the products was worse than terrible. At prices that range from R540 for a t-shirt to R3645 for a military jacket, surely Mr West could have given us something worthy of his name and price tag, or at the very least, cut out the labels of the t-shirt printing company?

This was our initial train of thought. But the more we thought about it… The more right it seemed. The stark contrast between extrinsic, perceived value, and actual worth vividly showed the extremity of the hype, and how much merit we place on pop culture. As soon as a product is exclusive and aligned with something that reflects the zeitgeist of today, (in this case, Yeezy himself) we swipe our credit cards.

On top of that, the pop-up format was ingenious. All this forms part of a wider fashion conversation; one of consumer engagement. And Kanye using his social media influence, rather than any traditional advertising, to send his fans on a journey to search for his stores, and on the adventure of waiting in line to see which pieces came to your city, is a prime example of consumer engagement. Buying his merchandise is an experience.

Kanye is one of the biggest names, along with Justin Bieber and Rihanna, to add to the current concert merch trend. As music sales dwindle thanks to digital downloads and streaming, artists find new ways to generate income. Thanks to the trend towards experiences (such as live concerts), and purchasing souvenirs of such experiences, musicians have upped their merch game. Gone are the days of licensing and generic designs. Today artists are making an effort to reflect their own style aesthetic in the products they put their name on, allowing consumers to buy into the persona they so admire.

The hysteria is certainly not as ludicrous in South Africa as it is in the US, where there are re-sellers putting the merchandise on e-bay for double, even triple the already much-inflated price. But nonetheless, the excitement was palpable and the sales were going through the roof. Nearly every person who went into the shop, came out with a purchase.

You may hate the man, but you can’t deny the legend.

And that, friends, is the Kanye effect.


Words: Yolanda Senekal

Graphics & Photographs: Yolanda Senekal