Kanye West chose Cape Town as one of 21 pop up stores to drop his Pablo merch
Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Photography: Ashiq Johnson
When we first heard that Kanye West would be selling his Pablo merchandise via 21 pop-up stores worldwide, and that Cape Town would be one of the locations, our immediate thought was, “Help me, I’m poor.”
Obviously there’s no denying Yeezy’s influence on popular culture, and so despite our empty pockets we popped in to the pop up to see what all the hype was about.
When we arrived at 9am the line was already running from Bree Street, down Long Market, and towards Loop, tailing off just outside the entrance to the Chris Barnard Memorial Hospital. We found out why there was a long gap in the line outside of La Parada, after the manager told us to stop blocking his window.
“Oh no, please, I want to go to La Parada! I’m so excited!” says a kid with fewer manners than us, then, “Dude, that’s the closest you’ll ever see me get to your jut bar.”
There were supposed to be groups of ten moving from the one side of the street to the stairs leading up to the first floor of 107 Bree Street, but it was a mess, with lots of pushing and shoving, and no real control of the process.
A man with insider knowledge, Len, wouldn’t allow us to shoot inside the shop, only GQ US had permission, and so we kept things street kicking it on the pavement while speaking to the punters in order to find out why they’ve put themselves through this.
I was contracted by the international artist merchandiser to do the Pablo store in Cape Town. In the spirit of Kanye West, he knows how to keep things on the down low, keep a secret, so it was a bit tricky making sure all the loopholes were closed off. Lots of NDAs and contracts to be signed. This isn’t a first for me – I work for Big Concerts and did the One Direction pop up store two years ago. We have quite a lot of stock, a nice selection, and because it’s area specific we have different stuff to what’s in New York, what’s in Paris, what’s in Sydney... Everyone gets a different design, different colours, which makes it that much more collectible. Prices start at R450 going up to R3500. Can’t divulge much more right now. Why Cape Town? Well it’s in the city centre, so this is where it’s happening. There’s a culture here and Kanye specifically chose Cape Town to be on the map because of that. You can’t ask for a better venue. 107 Bree Street was formerly the South African market and we’ve redone the whole interior. We only started yesterday morning so I’m working on an hour and a half sleep right now. The store runs 10am – 10pm today, 10am – 8pm tomorrow and Sunday from 10am – 5pm. Then it’s done. Three-day pop ups worldwide. As soon as it goes up it comes down again.
You’re from Superbalist? My jacket is from Superbalist! I’m missing our varsity lectures to be here. We all study at Vega down the road. My friends convinced me to come, so now I’m chilling with them because I’m always down for a mission. We’re literally bunking a lecture in brand strategy right now. This is a good practical lesson in that, right? So it’s not bunking. It’s a school outing.
I work for FedEx, a transporter, call me The Transporter, and just picked these up from the airport. Got 13 boxes in here. Jackets and T-shirts. Dunno what it’s worth? Yoh, everyone here is waiting for this?
I didn’t even know about Ye's Cape Town Pablo shop. I just had my appendix removed at the hospital here and saw everyone. It was fate. Yeah, I usually just dress like this. Today I’m wearing G-Star and Jordans, I’ve got my card ready, but I don’t know what I’ll spend until I see what’s there. Not really a huge Kanye West fan, to be honest, I’m more about the fashion. Aesthetically I’m a College Dropout fan. Old-school Kanye was the best. Now he’s getting a bit too much into himself. He believes he's more powerful than what he is. But that’s just him being him I suppose. That’s an artist.
I’m 24-years-old and just finished my TEFL course to teach English as a foreign language. I came straight after Joao told me. He looks good, hey? The guy dresses like this just to go to hospital! We’re not together but look quite dashing, hey? I’m wearing a mix of American Apparel and G-Star and I’m looking to buy some Pablo T-shirts and hoodies.
I’ve been here since last night. Got here five thirty. We just chilled in the car all night. Heard about it yesterday morning and knew it would be mad, that we had to come through, so we camped out. I’m more into the fashion side, sneakers mainly, and I’ve lined up before at Shelflife just down the way there. What do I do for a living? This. Haha, yeah dude, just do this to support myself, have a few other things I do on the side, not much really, to be honest, I’m just flipping kicks.
I’m a bit older than the other kids, but it’s cool, I don’t mind, we’re the same when you consider how we all just want nice things. The guys were playing Biggie all night, that took me back, and we just hung out having a good vibe and listening to hip-hop. What am I wearing? Nothing special. Nike tracksuit. Nike Prestos. I own an art gallery, Wall in the Waterfront, a new gallery where we do modern masters. This type of thing could be compared to collecting art. Sure. I think if you know what you’re buying and you know the re-sell value, definitely.
I love Kanye because my children and grandchildren love Kanye. I’ve been sitting here with my knitting since five this morning. All these other people weren’t here. They’ve all arrived from I don’t know where. You see, look how they’re pushing. You know what they do, these people, these ones that rush in, they get the homeless, who were here with blankets over them this morning, they get them to queue and then they rush in and take over from the homeless. I’ve been here since five this morning with these guys with their blankets. And now look. But the homeless make some money. My grandkids are 13 and 11, and I’m 68, but I can still dance like them, look here…
Inside the backpack was a Red Bull – drank that – but I still have my chicken sandwich on sourdough, got to keep it good, keep it lifestyle, and then all my work stuff because I have to go to the office straight from here. Work understands that I need to be here. As soon as I told them they told me to live my life. I found out about this like everyone else, off Hypebeast. The rumour is that Mos Def organised it. Obviously being friends with Kanye, being signed to Good Music, it makes sense. It’s dope, this isn’t supposed to happen, but it’s happening now, shout out to Mos Def! Something like this happening is ridiculous. I’m a big fan of the music, the style, the man, everything. My favourite era? Oh man… I do like pink polo Kanye. Backpack Kanye. The old Kanye, But I appreciate the new Kanye, too. The old Kanye just touched a lot more people, but with the new one he’s made his look a lot more accessible, and you can see everyone here wearing the ripped jeans, the Ultraboost, long coats, bomber jackets... It’s dope to see it. And now his merch being available in Cape Town, above La Parada, that’s crazy.
Being a Joburger, we always get the cool stuff, so for it to happen here it’s crazy. There are a lot of Joburgers ready to fly down just for this. So it’s dope. Good on Cape Town. Top of mind for me is the Donde West T-shirt, the one with the graffiti aesthetic, which is in memory of his mom, that’s key, and then any other T-shirt, the outerwear and stuff might be too pricey. $400, what’s that, R6k? I’m buying to wear. F**k resellers! Working at adidas I know what that does, when it's supposed to be accessible to everyone and then only a select few get it and make it inaccessible to everyone. If a reseller gets hold of too much product he or she is going to resell it at, say, R2000 straight away, even if it was R500. And we’ll all buy it because we want it, we want something exclusive, and that’s quote unquote a part of Kanye. This is the closest a lot of us will get to owning a piece of Kanye and at R500 a T-shirt, that’s perfect.
I don’t even own Yeezys. Working internally I’m so put off by the stress that these kids go through. It makes me so sad. We forget that it’s cotton, we forget that it’s screen-printing, we forget that it’s all just material goods. But the value behind it is what makes it so intense that people lose their mind. It’s not cheap, watch how some of these kids swipe their mom and dad's credit cards, kids that have never worked for their money, they’ll come in and swipe like it’s nothing. I think I was one of the first twenty but the problem are these bots. People who have paid other people to wait in line for them. There’s some kids here who don’t look like they’re buying, but they are, and then there are definitely some people who definitely aren’t here to buy. It happens with Yeezys and it’s happening now with Pablo. It happens with anything of great commercial value. It’s sad. It ruins the culture, and people think it’s cool, think it’s funny, but it really isn’t. It should be for everyone and not a select few to profit off of.
I’ve got no insider knowledge. I saw yesterday that it was happening and thought that it’s cool that Cape Town is on the list. Here, speak to this guy, he knows Kanye personally...
No I don’t, he’s talking shit, I got this from the other stores. There’s been six or seven already. LA, Paris, New York… This is f**k all compared to what was in the states. New York was ten times the amount of people. I was there so that’s why I don’t think this line is too bad. This should be done in about an hour. The nice thing about this is that it’s not like his shoes. This is still affordable. And it’s unisex. I’m happy this isn’t in Braamfontein because there’d be quadruple the people and just a lot more heavily hyped up. This really isn’t bad. I thought it would be around the corner six hours, another story, so we’ll wait, buy some stuff, then swing past tomorrow to buy for the mates before we fly out. Here speak to this guy, he got the jacket…
This is from the pop up in New York, $500. It’s an Alpha, so it’s a dope jacket. This is a Louis Vuitton belt. Of course it’s real! Yeezy kicks we camped out for. Denims are just Topshop that I had a dude destroy for me. Supreme boxers. Off-White T-shirt from Hong Kong. The Pablo bomber is from New York and the Yeezus cap is from LA. So I’m worth a few bob. Might get nervous walking around like this in Joburg but not here. Vato Kayde – that’s my alias – I own the La Familia street culture store in Joburg. I flew down on Kulula first thing this morning. Dropped everything, because if you f**k with anything dope then you know that’s Kanye. He’s running shit now. Trends, hype, it’s all around him right now. I’m not worried about that line. We have that on lock.
I had a wedding yesterday and went straight from that to the airport to this. I got into Kanye through the shoes. You’ve got to appreciate how marketable the oke is. I’m not actually into his music at all. Obviously people love him for his music, but I’m not one of those people. I admire him for what he does. Like this. Not many people can get queues to line up to buy low-quality merchandise. But I’ll still buy it because I’m a hype beast. It gives me something to do, and it keeps me out of trouble. I used to be a heavy party animal, and so this is a better way to spend my time and money. Instead of killing myself I’m looking nice. I work at Nando's head office and do all their merchandise, design uniforms and that. Which is why I know that the long sleeve T-shirts and hoodies, if you went to a corporate eventing place and picked stuff out of a catalogue you’d get the same from there. Like I said, it’s out of a catalogue. It’s not like Kanye went to a CMT and said, 'please would you put this stitch here' or anything, he literally picked some stuff out of a catalogue and had it screen-printed. I’m telling you, you could go and pick some stuff out of a catalogue, same colours, and print up thousands of units yourself. There’s nothing stopping you from buying your own hoodie and screen-printing it yourself. There’s so much bootlegging.
I’m 23-years-old and studying at UCT. I’m wearing a kimono from a label in the UK called Granted, G-Star skinnies, H&M hoodie and the boots are from…
I’m a fashion designer and entrepreneur. Nothing is out yet so let's keep it low key, please. I just want to buy a hoodie. Keep it simple. I’m more a fan of the music than the fashion. Obviously, the fashion is great, but for me, it’s the music. Favourite album I can’t tell you, but my best song is ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing’ or ‘New Slaves’...
I’m a student at UCT studying Film & Media. This is an Armani Exchange bag from New York City, thanks mom, Superstars, my other Casio watch because I lost the other one, adidas top from France, Champs-Élysées, and this skirt is thrifted. Probably cost 20 bucks. There was a lot of thought put into this outfit. I wanted to wear something that suited the theme, something Hypebeasty, and for me that’s sneakers, some adidas… I’m here to lose all my money. I wasn’t going to buy anything initially because I actually prefer the Yeezus merch to the Pablo stuff, but then I heard there’s a shirt that says, 'I love you like Kanye loves Kanye', and thought I’d swipe now and regret later, which is my strategy for most things. I’ve been here since six, and woke up at four to drive in from Durbanville. What did I pack for today? How lit are we getting? Because there’s a celebratory jay for after we cop the merch. Otherwise earphones, water and my school books, because I have to run to school after this. I’m a dedicated student, but I’m happy to miss out on the morning lectures. If you’re a fan of Kanye you’re a fan of yourself. It’s that complete self-promotion where you just go in and preach yourself. That attitude is reflected in the clothing and who am I to not support that? As a young black girl in South Africa he’s a good guy to aspire to. I used to call myself Hlon-eezus because in me is an inner Yeezus. I love him. Lately I’ve been a hit with the ladies, so the lyric I’m feeling lately is, ‘Step up in this bitch like I’m the one your bitch like’ I’m straight, but lately I’ve been such a hit with the ladies!
I just did a shoot inside for GQ America. The photographer is still inside if you want to speak to him. I’m originally from Ivory Coast, but been living in France and now I’m based in Cape Town. I just modeled all the Pablo stuff inside. It was a really quick shoot. I bought a bomber jacket and a hoodie.
I bought two T-shirts, ‘Ultralight Beam’ and ‘I feel like Pablo’, and an ‘I feel like Pablo’ hoodie. Basically you wait in a line, then wait in the line leading up the stairs, then the first ten people up the stairs get a print out and a pen, and you mark what you want, size, how many… When they let you into the store you hand it to the people behind the counter and they get your Pablo for you. I dropped R3500, and I’m definitely happy. I actually spent a lot less than I was expecting to.
I’m the first shopper out the store! I bought a cap, crew neck, and the gold T-shirt. It’s pretty amazing in there. You don’t want to leave. There are some rules. They let ten in at a time. You can’t take clothes off the rack. It’s quite intense. There are racks where you can see the clothing but you’re not allowed to take them off the rack. I’m still at school and just spent the R3k that I’ve been saving up for a while now.
We don’t want to give our names because we’re embarrassed to be here. This is not what we expected, man. At least give us a quality shirt. Or a bit of a bigger space. Basically it was just a small rectangular room. It’s all hype and definitely not worth it. We looked around for an hour and then left. And we’ve been camping over since last night. Nah, we just didn’t like anything. Nothing to our taste. These other guys just eat this shit up. If it was a quality jacket then that would be fine, but it looks like Edgars clothing.