Kanye West Wants to Sell You “Church Clothes”

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Kanye Sunday Service sweatshirts

Over the weekend at the Coachella music festival, Kanye West and company took to a grassy makeshift quasi-stage—or maybe a mountain?—for the latest iteration of the hip-hop star’s “Sunday Service” sessions. Since the start of the year, West has been holding and riffing on these events: part worship service, part concert. This weekend’s edition was easily the most grandiose to date—and like most of West’s regular concerts, it came complete with an assortment of site-specific printed graphic tees and sweatshirts.

The colors and silhouettes of the merch collection—muted and oversized—will be a familiar sight to most of West’s fans. Less familiar? The religious bent: T-shirts printed with “Trust God,” a “Holy Spirit” crewneck sweatshirt, and a two-pack of socks embellished with religious slogans. (“Jesus Walks” and “Church Socks”, if you were wondering.) The most perplexing item is perhaps the Sunday Service Poncho, a drapey, robe-like garment that looks more like religious garb than anything you might call streetwear. The design of the graphics suggests that the gear was likely produced in collaboration with Cactus Plant Flea Market, a cryptic streetwear label beloved by West—it’s the brand behind his Kids See Ghost merch, too. And according the product descriptions on West’s website, where the merch is now available, each product is a “Yeezy” item, rather than the screenprinted Gildan blanks West has sold in the past.

Kanye West

From one angle, this feels par for the course for Kanye: a big show demands a grip of hot merch. But the pieces themselves feel slightly different this time around. While West has never shied from gospel references or spiritual themes in his music, you’d be hard-pressed to describe his fashion and design aesthetic as overtly religious. During his The Life of Pablo album cycle, he put out sweatshirts with text like “What If We Fucked At This Vogue Party?” For Yeezus, he hired contemporary artist (and GQ watch columnist) Wes Lang to design heavy metal-inspired merch chock-full of grim reapers and skulls. This Coachella merch lacks the same anti-establishment bite of his previous collections. It’s also hard to ignore the fact that this quasi-religious streetwear—only $50 for “church socks!” is being released while an Instagram account calling out sneaker-loving hypepriests goes viral.

Kanye West

A prolonged period marked by West’s public support for Donald Trump and ill-advised thoughts on sensitive subjects has left his fans in a tricky place: Do I keep copping, or focus my merch attention elsewhere? West’s Sunday Service series has seemed calibrated to restore some of that lost goodwill—or at least provide a respite from all the controversy. Whether or not his Coachella merch sells out like the old stuff did isn’t a precise measure of whether his fans are ready to return to the fold. But it bears noting that just about all of it is still available to purchase online.

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