On the off chance you missed it, Kanye West, who adorns his two-year-old daughter in pastel furs and has boasted in rhyme about running suicide drills on private planes, sent the social-media industrial complex into overdrive this weekend when he bashfully announced on Twitter that he was $53 million in personal debt. The impecuniousness, he noted, was the result of following his dreams in the fashion industry.
While commentators were perplexed by his lack of frugality, or surprising surplus of modesty, the over-leveraged rap icon’s state of affairs is a reflection of the brutally difficult fashion business—an industry that requires significant upfront costs and can promise little in return. Despite a growing popular appreciation of his designs, West has learned the realities of the industry the hard way. In 2009, he put all of his musical endeavors aside to work on his label, Pastelle—which then shuttered after seven months. Add to that however much it cost to create his line of G.O.O.D. merchandise, marketed to fans of his record label. He was chewed up and spit out for his attempt at a high-end women’s-wear line called Kanye West in 2011. The line never made it to stores. According to a 2013 interview with Jean Touitou, the founder of the French line A.P.C., which created capsule collections with West, the experiment put the rapper out $30 million.