Toward the end of August 2008, Giorgio di Salvo and Paolo Budua, founders of Italian brand VNGRD, received a call in their Milan showroom from West’s personal assistant. West, the rapper’s assistant said, wanted to speak to them. Unlike Daniel, the designers, then in their early 20s, knew exactly who West was. “It was amazing,” di Salvo says about the co-sign from West. “It was like, ‘Wow. Now we are the kings of street fashion.’”
West was a fan of VNGRD and had praised its Fall/Winter 2008 collection on his blog, which di Salvo and Budua checked regularly. Now he wanted them to work on Pastelle. “He told us, ‘I’m doing a collection. Its name is Pastelle. I want to open some Pastelle shops in the world. I want to do something that’s not expensive,’” recalls di Salvo. “After that, he sent us the PDF with the line sheet of the collection and asked us to give feedback about the pieces. He asked what, in our opinion, Pastelle needed, if there was something to add.” In the next three months, VNGRD designed a total of roughly 20 streetwear-inspired technical jackets, sweatshirts, sweatpants, and hoodies for West, most of which were emblazoned with the same pastel-colored rainbow that was becoming a prominent feature in the existing Pastelle collection. They also worked on the Pastelle logo, submitting 31 different graphics—some in black, others in pastel colors, and a few incorporating triangles or gradient effects.
Those logos joined the many others that West commissioned for Pastelle, including artwork from Bryan Espiritu and Allister Lee, both graphic artists from Toronto brought on by Jesar Gabino, co-owner of the now defunct boutique Nomad. “I was working for an ad firm at the time and I was at the office when I got the email [from Jesar],” says Espiritu, who was given four days to create branding for Pastelle. “I remember being like, ‘If I get this, this is it.’ They were looking for five or six concepts from me. The only designer that they actually told me was working on it, other than myself, was KAWS. They had sent me the work he had done—it was a bird with sunglasses—to reference it and they were like, ‘This is what KAWS did. You don’t gotta do the same shit but this is kind of what we’re going for.’ Which at the time, considering I’d only been designing for a few years, felt like the fucking world was on my shoulders. It was like, ‘Here’s what KAWS did. You just gotta do something that Kanye is going to think is better than this.’” Espiritu’s cartoon-like sketch of a bird later made it onto mockups of shirts.
Arnold says Pastelle was “more like a conversation” than a “supreme vision,” which is why he thinks West had so many contributors.
“I think he wanted [Pastelle] to be the sum of the best things he found, personalized by him,” adds Retrosuperfuture’s Simon. “So, he chose the best people, or who he thought were the best, to collaborate with.”