Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
A man is screaming that he bought $3,000 worth of merchandise and that he needs to get back on to Wooster Street. The whole block has been shut down and barricaded by the police to control the chaos incited by Kanye West's The Life of Pablo pop-up. The store opened today, but people were lining as early as yesterday. It runs all throughout the weekend, but enough people got in line today to fill the store for the rest of the weekend. Notice a trend?
I made a huge mistake by arriving only a little before 3pm today. The line already stretched the entire block and even after it opened at 4pm the wait for movement was more agonizing than the one for the album. You know, the one that was supposed to release Thursday after the MSG event but didn't actually come out until around midnight Saturday after SNL. After hours of waiting in line, I had barely made it past the halfway mark of the street.
And even as a huge supporter of Kanye, I had to check my fandom as I huddled around the unwavering Kanye disciples around me. "Kanye just put his feelings into this," a patient fan told Racked. "All his feelings, man." It seemed like an arbitrary way to talk about apparel printed with song lyrics, but he was proven right, at least in this small sliver of NYC.
"Everything Kanye does is just genius level," another fan says. There's certainly a way you can argue that case successfully. Here's a store with a bunch of T-shirts, hoodies, bombers, and denim jackets printed with an album title and lyrics from said album. But because it's Kanye, the cops are on-hand and the entire block is shut down. It makes you feel lucky to buy his merch, to even be in the rarified air of items that any other artist would be happy to sell you online. He's at least a genius of branding. Kanye has sold $100 white T-shirts, this was child's play.
"It's more than just concert merch," another fan tells us. "The Life of Pablo is about more than the music. It was part of the fashion show at MSG. Now, it's this whole line of apparel. He's created this whole experience around it."
This was also a relatively affordable way to get your hands on some of Kanye's fashion designs. Yeezy Season 1 was instantly derided for offering dystopian-style clothing at prices only President Snow could afford. Here, T-shirts range from $45 for short sleeves to $65 for long sleeves, hoodies are $95, and bomber jackets $350. These are hardly outrageous prices considering the bombers in Yeezy Season 1 would have set you back $2,080. It's why that bomber is still available and these will be long gone in the next 48 hours.
Especially since some of the high-priced items are legitimately cool. The burgundy bomber jacket with the orange lining looks incredibly similar, but for a darker shade of red, to what buzzy brand Vetements sent down the runway this season.
One of the touchstones of Kanye's music is his ability to weave pop culture throughout it. The references make his music funny and relevant. Now, Kanye is pop culture and he's taking the moments he's been a part of and incorporating it into his own material. Namely, with the "Squad Sheet Vintage Jean Jacket," which recreates the TLOP track list notepad that evolved over the weeks before his album released. What started with just a "Kylie Was Here" signature is now on a $400 denim jacket.
Customers know how coveted these items will be. Resellers exiting the shop carried translucent bags stuffed with items and immediately started shilling their items to those of us still waiting in line. TMZ reports that there was strict limit of two items per person, but people's massive hauls begged to differ.
If you want to look at one item that's seemingly overpriced, it's the $200 zines from Yeezy Season 1 and Yeezy Season 2. Yeezy Season 2's never went on sale, but Season 1's was free when it first released.
All these items were laid out in a sparse space with racks aligned along the sides and tables for the hats, beanies, and zines. A projector played clips of snarling wolves and OJ Simpson's famous white Bronco chase scene.
Unfortunately, I didn't stick around long enough to make it in. I bailed on the line after another basically motionless hour and a conversation with two guys who told me they only gotten in around 5:15pm after showing up to wait in line at 9am. "It was well worth it, though," one said. "Welllllll worth it."
The Life of Pablo pop-up runs Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 8pm.