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We Saw the Thirst and Cool Chaos of Kanye West's "Pablo" Pop-Up Shop

Mike Dean, hand-painted Levis jackets, and infamous streetwear resellers were all on-hand at Wooster street.

af Craig Jenkins og Derek Scancarelli
20 marts 2016, 4:13pm

All photos by Derek Scancarelli

This week a simple tweet from Kanye West of an address in Manhattan kicked up mythic levels of downtown cool kid thirst. Without much detail, West announced a pop up shop at 83 Wooster St. in Soho that would be swarming in fans by early afternoon on Friday. No one knew what the store would sell, and speculation in the line beforehand buzzed about whether fabled physical copies of West’s seventh album The Life of Pablo would be present. By mid-afternoon the line looped both ways around Wooster St and up to the end of the cross street. Puzzled spectators chuckled when they asked what the line was for, and no one in it could really say.

Inside, the pop-up shop was stark and minimal. Shirts, hoodies, and jackets emblazoned with the “I feel like Pablo” line from “No More Parties in LA” hung on sparsely situated clothing racks. Most of the room was white, open space. Kanye’s album played all the way through, followed by cuts from Drake and Future and, naturally, still more Kanye. A screen above one of the racks played wildlife footage loosely associated with the accompanying music; Pablo’s “Wolves” touted video of the animal in question. Celebrity sightings were low, although Texas hip-hop impresario and frequent Kanye collaborator Mike Dean was present early on with a dog and a handful of shirts.

The merchandise mirrored Pablo’s punk-inspired visual aesthetic, much of it purposefully simplistic and employing short messages written in a typeface resembling gang tattoos. The most fascinating items for sale were hand-painted Levi’s jean jackets. No two looked alike, and the specialization ran the charge up to $400. The cost of the shirts and hoodies wasn’t astronomical, but considering the materials involved -- Gildan cotton for the tees, for instance -- the price point was on the higher end of what most would go for. Still, they looked cool, and cool in New York is half the battle.

First in the door to the event were crafty New York streetwear resellers, some of whom boasted having been on site since the night prior. One of them, Andre A.K.A. Sole Street Sneaker Co, was recently featured in a Complex documentary about the business of buying and flipping Supreme. By dinnertime Sole Street’s Instagram had a wide spread of I Feel Like Pablo merch. West’s patented Donda West and Robert Kardashian airbrush tee will already run you triple the $45 in-store price on EBay.

Fans who simply wanted something for themselves hung patiently at the back of the line as the log jam created by resellers buying two of everything distended the wait, but on the latter end of the store’s four-hour Friday opening, plentiful plastic bags full of Pablo merch seemed to suggest that everyone got what they were looking for. Peace was maintained in the line throughout the day, except for some early near scuffles at the front of the line, most likely a side effect of the tense, sustained police presence throughout the day. You can’t so much as sneeze as a rapper in New York City without a cop or five on-hand to document it. Below are photos of the spectacle.

Producer Mike Dean was at the shop