At 9.30am this morning I joined the back of a long queue winding from Old Street’s Kachette up Shoreditch High Street. I was there to check out Kanye West’s new pop-up shop, but of course I’d have to wait in line for two hours first.
The merchandise ranges in price from £40 for a cap to more than £300 for a jacket so I was expecting the queue to be full of Supreme-clad affluent twentysomethings, but I was actually surrounded by teenagers.
‘It’s a once in a lifetime thing,’ says 16-year-old Gabriel. He got here with his friends Emmanuel and William at 5am to make sure they got the merch they wanted. When I catch up with them they’re already wearing nearly £200 worth of new beige Kanye gear with their Yeezys. I ask if they’re Ye super fans. ‘We’re more fans of Kanye’s clothes than his music,’ says Gabriel. ‘His music is nice though.’
The shop weirdly functions a bit like an Argos. While waiting in the queue, you’re given a crib sheet of the different clothes on sale. Once you get inside the store you then place your order at one of two counters.
The space is bare-bricked, moodily lit and full of rails of clothes that you can touch but not pick up. There are a lot of rules and regulations: the shop has two identical sides and you're only allowed in one of them; you're allowed to touch the clothes on the rails but not take them off the rails. Kanye’s 'Life of Pablo' album blares out, and the tills are lit from above like shrines to consumerism.
A guy on the till tells me that the biggest spender dropped more than £2,000 this morning and that they had a fair few £1,000 spends at the start of the day. The only people not sold? Parents. While waiting outside the shop I saw so many teenagers having strops as mum and dad refused to queue for hours with them to get merch, and even those who made it inside weren’t having a good time.
The merch itself features Kanye lyrics like 'I love you like Kanye loves Kanye' and the word 'London' in gothic font. It's mainly long-sleeves and t-shirts in beige and white. I liked it because I'm a millennial with a passion for slogan tops and Kanye. Teenagers liked it too. However, parents were not fans. I saw many confused dads getting told off for taking tops off hangers to check their size and quality. They were not happy about this. In fact, the best conversation I overheard was a dad telling his daughter: ‘I’m not paying £100 for this shit.’
Even if Kanye can convince people to queue for hours to a pay £70 for a long-sleeved top (disclaimer: I’m referring to myself), he will never fool the spend-savvy dads of this world.