Under normal, non-Kardashian circumstances, divorce is messy and convoluted. It’s hard for either party to agree on much of anything — let alone their outfit choices. And although I won’t pretend to know what Kim Kardashian and Kanye “Ye” West’s divorce is like behind the scenes (I’m sure it’s just as painful as anyone can imagine), the former couple has done an admirable — if slightly eerie — job of presenting a united front in public. By repeatedly wearing Balenciaga throughout the dissolution of their marriage, they remind fans, critics, and everyone in between exactly who they are: a once-couple with a habit of subverting expectations, prepared to do the same for their divorce.
On Feb. 19, 2021, Kim filed for divorce from Ye. Their divorce proceedings are still ongoing, and she filed to be “legally single” on Dec. 10, 2021. But they haven’t followed the A-lister tradition of laying low in the wake of their breakup announcement. From staged weddings on Ye’s Donda stage to appearances at the Met Gala, the duo has stayed in the public eye, and it seems like Balenciaga is dressing their divorce. Over the past year, Kim’s devotion to the fashion brand has arguably been more obvious — the monochrome, body-con dresses and matching sets of gloves are statement pieces, after all. But Ye’s connection to the Spanish brand hasn’t been hidden, either. In August 2021, his Donda merch was actually “engineered by Balenciaga,” and now he’s publicly dressing his new girlfriend, Julia Fox, in the fashion house.
If Kim and Ye’s divorce is a performance, Balenciaga is in charge of the costume department.
One thing is clear: If Kim and Ye’s divorce is a performance, Balenciaga is in charge of the costume department. (In the words of Nadja Sayej for Forbes, “[The brand’s role is] not unlike a costume designer at work designing garb for actors in a play or film.”) But costumes aren’t just pieces of fabric. They’re an active part of the story, impacting the performance as much as any writer’s room.
This Balenciaga saga is the ultimate blend of Kim's PR expertise and Ye's trademark fashion sense. And so it seems to be the only way for their relationship to end. Fortunately, they found a designer who seems to value storytelling and public perception (almost) as much as they do. Demna Gvasalia (known now as Demna), the creative director of Balenciaga, explained to WWD, “For me, clothes are the most important. This is why I do it, because it’s a tool of self-expression — creating your identity through clothes.”
At the end of the day, all we know about Kim and Ye’s divorce is what the tabloids report. The truth of their inner lives as divorced people is a mystery shrouded in Instagram filters and face-obscuring designer accessories. Of course, it’s likely that their Balenciaga Breakup™ will play out in the new Kardashian show and in Ye's future music, but dressing in the same brand gives them a chance to shape the current narrative as it’s being written.
Kimye & Balenciaga: An Overview
From the onset of Kimye, fashion was a key player. In Nov. 2021, Ye revealed that dressing his then-wife was a critical part of their relationship. “I“d be styling Kim, that’s a language of love for me. That how I bagged her in the first place,” he explained during an interview on Drink Champs, per Us Weekly. (Kim filed for divorce three months after this interview was released.)
Back in Sept. 2018, the reality star was named one of the most stylish women of the year in People’s annual Best Dressed, and she credited Ye with elevating her fashion sense. “I’m totally inspired by Kanye and the Yeezy team — and listen to the advice of everyone over there who is making all the clothes,” she said.
Even after their breakup, she had no problem giving Ye a nod for the role he played in developing her style. “Thank you to Kanye for really introducing me to the fashion world," Kim said in her acceptance speech for the People’s Fashion Icon of 2021 Award in Dec. 2021, while dressed in head-to-toe Balenciaga. “I mean, I started off as a closet organizer and a stylist. So the fact that I am winning a Fashion Icon Award, it’s like a pinch-me moment.”
Ye has history with Balenciaga, too. He collaborated with Demna for Yeezy Season 1, released in 2015. And on Feb. 24, 2016, Ye boldly tweeted, “I’m going to steal Demna from Balenciaga.” And although Demna was not successfully “stolen” from the luxury fashion house, Ye continued to collaborate with him on several occasions — perhaps most notably, during his Donda performance in August 2021.
While on stage, Kim and Ye, decked out in full Balenciaga (obviously), recreated their wedding. (The moment is featured in is Ye’s “Come to Life” music video.) It was a piece of performance art that left many fans questioning if the couple was officially back together. One thing that was clear? Balenciaga’s role in the stunt. When sharing photos of the night, Kim didn’t even acknowledge the staged wedding. Instead, she captioned the IG post, “BALENCIAGA HAUTE COUTURE.”
A month later at the Met Gala, Kim dressed in Balenciaga again — a black gown with a train, face-covering mask, and gloves. Her date also wore an outfit that obscured his identity, leading some fans to question whether she and her husband had reunited after all. The mystery man wasn’t Ye, though — it was (drumroll, please) Demna... yes, that Demna.
But wait, the plot thickens. On Oct. 10, 2021, Kim wore a monochrome, hot pink Balenciaga fit for her debut SNL hosting gig, where she connected with now-beau Pete Davidson. Lest we forget, Kim wore a pair of Yeezys on an early date with Pete, and the internet imploded for a minute. I personally have a hard time believing Kim didn’t know what she was doing. Instead, it seems that fashion, divorce, and storytelling are in a constant state of overlap for Kimye.
Then, on Jan. 5, Kim posted another photo, dressed completely in Balenciaga, with a telling caption: “the best is yet to be.” That same day, she was spotted on vacation with Pete in the Bahamas. Could this be her way of expressing excitement about Pete while still showing her connection to Ye, the father of her children?
When Ye met Julia on New Year’s Eve, she quickly became a central piece of the Kimye x Balenciaga puzzle. On Jan. 3 (the day after their first date), Julia was photographed in a Balenciaga swimsuit on a Miami Beach. Of course, she didn’t stop there. The next day, Ye directed a very Balenciaga photoshoot for Julia in New York City. “After dinner Ye had a surprise for me. I mean, I’m still in shock. Ye had an entire hotel suite full of clothes,” Julia wrote about their date night for Interview Magazine. And on Jan. 10, she was photographed with Ye sporting what appeared to be a Balenciaga purse.
Two days later, on Jan. 7, Ye’s connection with Balenciaga became even more legally binding. Gap announced Yeezy Gap Engineered By Balenciaga, which the press release described as, “The first of its kind launch sees Ye’s peerless vision bring together the most influential designer of his generation, Demna, with iconic American brand, Gap.”
This isn’t the only time this designer-celebrity relationship has been mutually beneficial, either. After Kim used a bathroom Balenciaga photoshoot to announce that she passed the baby bar on IG, searches for “Balenciaga dresses” increased by 200 percent, per WWD.
Long story short: Balenciaga has been a clear presence in Kimye’s divorce so far, but are they agreeing on joint custody or engaging in a custody battle? Fans are starting to take notice, and Balenciaga has simultaneously guaranteed a rapt audience for New York Fashion Week in February.
Is Kimye’s Divorce Sponsored By Balenciaga?
So how much of this is a sponsored plot and how much is pure, fashion-forward coincidence? When reached for comment, Kim's rep questioned what we meant by 'sponsor.' (Read into that what you will.) Ye, Julia, and Balenciaga’s reps did not respond to Elite Daily’s requests for comment.
“I find it rather unprecedented that Kim and Kanye are exclusively wearing Balenciaga. To sponsor and dress a celebrity divorce feels like a cynical yet brilliant new breed of endorsement,” writer and creative director Patrik Sandberg wrote on Twitter on Jan. 4. When another Twitter user responded, calling attention to the fact that Julia was also sporting Balenciaga immediately following her first date with Ye, Sandberg added, “I feel like we’re too desensitized to find this as strange and incredible as it is.” TL;DR: If this is a coincidence, it’s a wild one.
MJ Corey who is behind Kardashian Kolloquium, a TikTok account dedicated to Kardashian discussions, dove into this theory on Jan. 6. “The Donda promotion was a high scale sort of performance art. It was sort of like a fusion of reality TV and a play... Balenciaga provided a wardrobe for all of this storytelling,” Corey explained.
Her take on the sitch? “I think advertising is getting more entrenched in media images, and it’s harder and harder to tell what’s real and what’s an ad. I think Kimye, as a unit, is really good at storytelling. These kinds of media stories are more and more becoming centralized forms of entertainment.” (Who needs Hulu when you have Balenciaga?)
Cole Habersham, a freelance writer who shares his thoughts on the TikTok account Cashmere Tote, covered the Balenciaga Breakup™ in a slightly different way, referring to Kim and Julia’s outfits as a “Balenciaga standoff.”
“It’s just so petty,” he explained in his video. But is it really petty or kinda genius — or both? Either way, if the goal is to get people talking and keep them interested, which seems to be a fair assumption, it’s working. (Kris Jenner, whatever they’re paying you, it’s not enough!)
So, Um, What Does This Mean?
For Kim and Ye, Balenciaga seems to have become an integral part of their breakup. And although they might have perfected the designer divorce, this isn’t the first time that celebrities have forayed into potentially branded breakups. When Irina Shayk (Ye’s rumored ex!) split with Bradley Cooper in June 2019, they were spotted wearing matching Burberry that same month. In April 2021, Irina shared a photo of her in Burberry, crediting “daddy,” aka Bradley, with taking the photo. It’s a more subtle take on the same idea, but Kimye is not known for subtlety.
If there is one thing that’s undeniable about the former couple, it’s that they have a habit of setting new precedents. Whether it’s the way they dress or the way they stir the pot (hi, Taylor Swift), they’re trendsetters through and through. That said, this Balenciaga Breakup™ could be ushering in a new era of celebrity divorces, defined and empowered by their fashion.
Kimye is shaping the narrative of their divorce without uttering a word.
Traditionally, celebrity divorces have been exploited by tabloids — something that Kim is very familiar with. Following her short-lived marriage to Kris Humphries, tabloids sunk their scathingly sharp teeth into the story. (A Hollywood Reporter headline from 2011 reads, ”10 Signs The Marriage Was One Big Hoax All Along,” Another 2011 report on their divorce was titled, “Kim Kardashian, Kris Humphries: Are You Surprised?”) So who's to say that spon-con divorces can’t be the A-listers’ attempt to take some of that power back? In their coordinated outfits, Kimye is shaping the narrative of their divorce without uttering a word — and considering many of these Balenciaga pieces involve full-face coverage, that’s a handy tool.
Even when they do speak out of turn, like Ye publicly calling for Kim to “run back to [him],” their outfits clarify the narrative, constantly asserting that they are on the same page — even if Julia is now reading over Ye’s shoulder.