‘Donda’ Sets up a New Chapter in the Kanye X Balenciaga Partnership

Under Demna Gvasalia’s creative direction, the listening party for the highly-anticipated album also became a display of fashion genius.

Nearly everything Kanye West is involved in easily becomes a capital “E” event – which the rapper literally did with his highly-anticipated album Donda. Between August 5 and 6, Kanye took over Apple Music with a silent livestream of his makeshift bedroom-slash-studio at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where he was seen sleeping, doing push-ups, finishing his record, and welcoming Demna Gvasalia along with models dressed in Balenciaga robes and armor boots. At one point, Kanye himself appeared in the label’s black spike-covered jacket from Autumn/Winter 2020, which he later wore at the beginning of the album’s second listening party.

The West-Gvasalia friendship goes back to at least the designer’s early Vetements days and the duo collaborated on Yeezy’s Season 1 in 2015. More recently, the two partnered up to create a t-shirt in benefit of DMX’s family after the rapper’s passing in April. Kanye also attended Balenciaga’s couture show in July in his now-signature full-face mask. 

For Donda, Gvasalia updated the previous July 22 listening party’s much rawer set, creating a powerful visual narrative around the album. Kanye’s stadium bedroom was recreated at the heart of the arena with a minimalist set-up that included a white mattress, a black blanket, and a flickering candle. Kanye appeared at the center, surrounded by a crowd of performers dressed in black who kept walking in a giant circle. 

During the performance, the rapper picked up the blanket to reveal it was actually a body-length puffer coat, and also appeared in a custom bulletproof vest emblazoned with his mother’s – and biggest inspiration for the deeply personal record – name at the front and back. 

Wearing something so intricately tied to police brutality could be seen as a form of protest, but is also extremely symbolic considering this might be Kanye’s most vulnerable body of work yet. The vest, of course, is offered as part of the party’s merch lineup designed by Gvasalia and sold at the venue. A sweatshirt featuring a logo that combines the Star of David with a cross at the center is still available on the rapper’s website

Kanye’s former partner Kim Kardashian also joined the Balenciaga party that evening in an all-black outfit that included a long-sleeved top, tight pants, high heel boots, and a matching face mask with zipper openings for her eyes, mouth, and hair, which was tied in a long braid. In one of Donda’s tracks, currently titled “Love Unconditionally,” Kanye raps about their marriage: “Time and space is a luxury but you came here to show that you’re still in love with me.” 

Kanye closed the cathartic experience with “No Child Left Behind” and ascended into the light, arms and legs stretched as if he were finally rising to reunite with his late mother. Donda currently has 24 tracks listed on its pre-order page on Apple Music and features collaborations with names like Kid Cudi, Playboi Carti, Travis Scott, Roddy Ricch, Pusha T, The Weeknd, and the long-anticipated reunion with Jay-Z. 

The album, which was originally set to drop in summer 2020, failed to materialize on August 7 as originally promised and is currently set to release on Friday, August 13. But if the delays mean we’re potentially getting an even more fine-tuned record along with impressive fashion-forward performance art shows – then it’s certainly worth the wait.   

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