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(T-shirts courtesy of Charles Mangan) One Pastelle designer, who asked to remain anonymous, places the blame on the lack of a business plan. “His clothing was more about an outlet of expression and not necessarily a revenue stream,” he says. “It wasn’t structured like a business that practiced proficiency and scalability. It was a complete experiment from the beginning.” He adds that when he was brought on in 2009, West’s “main focus” had shifted to a Gap collaboration . “When I got there, he was on the heels of a Gap collaboration,” says the designer. “There were mood boards [at the Fairfax office] with Kanye’s inspirations and sketches of different sunglasses, pants, and tops. [He wanted to] do something radical that Gap wasn’t going to expect.” (West later confirmed, during an interview with 99.7 NOW! , that he was once in talks with Gap, but the partnership fell through because he “couldn’t get past the politics.” Gap declined to comment.) “I think at that point, he still needed to define what his point of view was,” the designer continues. “I think he was looking at it project by project and I don’t think that, in design, he found his voice yet.” West declined to be interviewed for this story, but a member of his inner circle says the rapper’s decision to end Pastelle was twofold: In the rapper’s mind, the collection wasn’t ready, and he wanted to turn his focus to a high-end women’s line, something his current team wasn’t set up to do. “We basically came to a position where Kanye and I had a conversation about whether or not we were actually going to put product out,” he says.
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