Quick recap: Performing twice at the Grammys and proving he's as culturally divisive as ever. A year of expectations surrounding the Kanye x adidas line coming to a screaming crescendo. The most anticipated New York Fashion Week show in recent memory. A monstrous outdoor performance in numbing temperatures. A surprise cameo at Drake's concert. Personally contributing to a massively successful sneaker launch by handing out pairs of Yeezy 750 Boosts to the morning's first customers. Appearing on Saturday Night Live's 40th anniversary special. Dude's busy.

And yet, on a snowy Saturday, Kanye West still has the patience and enthusiasm to geek out over sneakers another dude in the Mercer Hotel lobby is rocking. Spying a pair of New Balance 696 "Re-Engineered" sneakers, the man who can literally move mountains reflects on a moment of recent vulnerability: "Those are the shoes that, when they came out, I was like, 'Fuck! We already designed these.' They have the exact same perforation, color palette; it's the same situation." When the New Balance owner suggests the Yeezy Boosts that Kanye is wearing are actually better, he replies, "In some ways."

It's a small moment in our conversation, but hearing Kanye West concede that the insanely hyped sneakers he created aren't automatically the dopest kicks in the room is indicative of his extremely considered approach to music, design, and everything else. Nothing exists on a simple binary of good and bad. To Kanye, every aspect across the whole spectrum is worthy of a look, and it's with this studied process that he creates, designs, and even converses.

It's not what we've come to expect from the world's top celebrities, and it is for sure a reason why he sought out a partnership that gave him the freedom to create how he needed to create. And so, "Yeezy Season 1" has finally touched down, and with Kanye fresh off presenting his full collection, we dove deeper with him on his reinstatement to the runway, and how he's helping to shift the larger conversation.

Interview by James Harris
Photos by Andi Elloway