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Heron Preston and Kanye West: One Trash Collaboration, and One Trashed Collaboration

On New York Fashion Week’s unofficial first day, many people were excited to see what Kanye West had in store for his latest collection. YEEZY Season 4 built a buzz around the mysterious circumstances preceding the event.

Attendees were advised to ride shuttle buses to an undisclosed location, later revealed as Roosevelt Island, a hard-to-get-to location in New York City.

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The star-studded event featured many of West’s cohorts in attendance, from musical collaborators like Pusha T to Off-White designer Virgil Abloh. Guests were sat around the triangular runway, situated on Roosevelt Island’s Four Freedoms Park, as an initial phalanx of models (arranged by performance artist Vanessa Beecroft) stood in the blazing heat for more than an hour before the show itself started.

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Exclusively featuring womenswear looks, Yeezy Season 4 stayed within West’s previously established realm of dystopian military and athletic wear, with select accessories from Adidas. The company recently formalised a more involved partnership with West. The reaction to the show was mixed, with Stella Bugbee, editorial director at The Cut, being one of the show’s most vocal detractors.

In line with West’s previous show at Madison Square Garden, arguably a much larger spectacle that doubled as a listening party for his latest album, The Life of Pablo, a merch booth was set up at the fashion show, selling long sleeve t-shirts styled in the vein of previous invites to the show. Seasons 1-3 gave out a clothing item emblazoned with the show details on the garment. However, unlike the previous seasons, these shirts now commanded a price of $75 each.

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Later in the night, former Kanye West collaborator Heron Preston showed “Uniform,” a combination art project and charitable collaboration with the New York City Department of Sanitation—DSNY for short. It featured a series of outfits customised by Preston that consisted of decommissioned garments actually worn by the city’s sanitation workers. Appropriately, the venue was the Spring Street Salt Shed, a building designed after an abstract salt grain. It’s literally where the city stores salt for use on the roads during inclement weather.

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In a recent interview with W, Preston says his goal is to bring a new awareness to DSNY iconography, while also raising funds for the city’s 0x30 Initiative, an effort that hopes to send zero waste to landfills by the year 2030. So he handprinted and embroidered a selection of up-cycled clothing like t-shirts and hoodies and sold them at the show, with proceeds helping the 0x30 Initiative.

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The goods on offer ranged in price from $60-$120, which seemed more reasonable than the $75 merchandise for sale at West’s earlier show. The fact that it also promoted a good cause and sent a message about waste in an age of mass consumption further drove the point home.

There was a sense of discovery while perusing Preston’s repurposed wares. Few items were alike, and shoppers found treasures like band tees from Iron Maiden and artists like Michael Jackson that had been customized with embroidery and the DSNY logo. A variety of curved-brim baseball caps were also for sale, priced from $60-$75.

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The true irony is derived from the fact that West himself is inspired by a lot of vintage pieces for his collection. In a recent Vogue interview about his newest collection, he tells writer Dirk Standen: “I want to make pieces that can be timeless…Pieces that you can pick up out of a vintage store in 20 years and say, ‘Wow, I’m happy I have this.’ ”

West also reinforces his design ethos as someone who wants to solve problems through his designs, even admitting that he’s a bit reticent of the “f word” when it comes to describing his clothing: “I’m not saying that this is a fashion proposition, I’m saying that this is a human proposition.”

With “Uniform,” Heron Preston achieves both goals in a much simpler way. He comments on the waste produced by consumer culture, while concurrently providing a viable alternative to creating new product: Simply discover what’s already out there, and find a way to make it your own.

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