We'd always imagined Kanye West to have some kind of dorkproof force field built of, like, Armani and burly guards and purified air imported from King Tut's tomb in Egypt. So it was to our everlasting surprise at today's Rodarte show to turn around and see Kanye standing three feet away from us, having a quiet conversation, no cameras clamoring to capture it and no tape recorders in his face. In that laid-back setting, we found ourselves drawn to him like tourists to a bagel shop, notebook at the ready. What was the worst that could happen — he'd interrupt us and say somebody else's interview was way better? The thing is, that would probably be true. Plus, this seemed like a calmer, gentler Kanye. In fact, maybe it was one of many impersonators dispatched around town to help him get all his work done. So we waded in slowly with a question about his dapper black outfit (which had a tiny smudge on the front, as if he'd hugged a lady whose foundation preferred cleaving to his lapel rather than her face). "It's a YSL jacket and a T-shirt," he said. "I don't know, I just put shit together." Sweet merciful trousers, it sure sounded like the real Kanye to us. And now we had to think of something else to say, lest we accidentally bust out with asking him if he ever did figure out what happened to his antique fish tank, and thus look like lunatics.
We decided Twitter was the way to go, since Kanye's feed has been our favorite corner of the Internet ever since he began it. "I haven't tweeted much in the past couple days because I've got so much to work on," he said. "I'm color-correcting this film I shot in Prague a couple weeks ago." He said the movie — the same film, incidentally, about which he tweeted a week ago, "I want to edit the film on a boat. Where are the good editing boats?" — is called Runaway, and is a 40-minute noir piece based on his new album. "It's the story of a phoenix fallen to Earth, and I make her my girlfriend, and people discriminate against her and eventually she has to burn herself alive and go back to her world," he told us. "I've been feeling the idea of the phoenix. It's been in my heart for a while. It's maybe parallel to my career. I threw a Molotov cocktail on my career last year, in a way, and I had to come back as a better person." Is it weird that we wanted to hug him? Like, somebody, please find this man his missing fish tank, you know?
Kanye watched intently from his front-row seat, while across the room, Serena Williams was Anna Wintour's seatmate again (guess they really did have a ball together at Vera Wang), and Elijah Wood sat next to Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon and appeared to be videotaping the entire show. When we grabbed him before it began, he said he's been tight with the Mulleavy sisters for several years and always tries to get to their shows when he can. "They're always so dramatic and theatrical, and really evoke the story by which they create each line," he said. "It's always so interesting and surprising and fun."
When we asked which of their productions was his favorite, he paused for a second. "You know, it's always whatever the last one was," he smiled. "Except I missed last season, so for me, it was the one before that — with the smoke machines. That was unbelievable." This season involved a runway that wound around a maze of short, flat wooden pallets, which gave at least one model literal pause as she tried to remember which way she was supposed to turn. At the end, the models all kept walking and walking, snaking through the obstacles, until they all stood out there together. The lights went down as they stood for a while, and amber bulbs glowed from underneath the wood, creating almost a postapocalyptic feel. And then off they went, in their chunky shoes with ornate heels, as the crowd applauded enthusiastically for the designers.
Then, as we all surged for the entrance — it was one tiny door and steep stairwell for a rather large crowd of people — we ended up among the last to get out (along with the newly straight-haired Rachel Zoe, in a cute clochelike hat). And there, just a few bodies ahead of us, was Kanye, exiting the building with the masses, nary a security team nor an entourage in sight. Before the show we asked him if his new era of austerity, in life but especially in wardrobe, was here to stay. "I went all red onstage the other night, with gold and shit. Onstage, it's crazy, I can be fully expressive there," Kanye said. "And then in real life I can chill out a little." So, kind of like how Beyoncé has her performing alter ego, Sasha Fierce. We wondered what Kanye's would be called, imagining it might pertain to items from some of his more colorful and popular tweets — like, say, Rick Cherub, or Geraldo Font. Instead, he laughed. "There's no such thing as an alter ego for me," he said. "I am the ego."
And that is why Kanye is a national treasure, and we personally hope he doesn't feel the need to change. After all, when a phoenix rises from the ashes, it's still a motherf'ing bad-ass awesome phoenix, right?
See more: Rodarte's Spring 2011 Collection