Gold Digger? Did Kanye's 'Friend' Turn a Fashion Week Booking Into a 6-Figure Fraud?

Kanye West attends the Versace Fall 2019 fashion show on December 02, 2018 in New York City.
Kanye West attends the Versace Fall 2019 fashion show on December 02, 2018 in New York City.
Photo: Roy Rochlin (Getty Images)

No one man should have all that power—and by “power,” we’re talking the ability to negotiate, book and collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in payment for a Kanye gig the entertainer didn’t even know about.


That’s what TMZ and several other outlets reported happened this New York Fashion Week, when designer Philipp Plein contracted the rapper, producer and fellow designer to perform at his splashy 20th anniversary show on Monday night—or so he thought.

Sources told TMZ that one of West’s associates reached out to to the brand, misrepresenting himself as a manager and negotiating for West to perform at Plein’s runway show, staged as a black-tie event with a three-course meal at the former site of New York City’s Four Seasons restaurant. The fee? Somewhere between $750,000 and over one million dollars, according to various reports.

TMZ reports that the fashion label sent a $900,000 advance for the appearance. According to The Blast, who obtained a copy of the contract, Grammy-winning spoken word poet and longtime West associate Malik Yusef negotiated the deal, for which three wires were sent on January 31, totaling that amount, $650,000 of which were paid to the West-founded Donda Social Program Foundation, in exchange for the following:

According to the contract, West was supposed to show up five hours ahead of time, walk the red carpet, attend the catwalk presentation, the cocktail party and the dinner. He was supposed to perform three songs with an orchestra and the deal called for Kanye to not wear any visible brands or logos other than Philip [sic] Plein — though he was allowed to wear Yeezys.

The contract stated that Plein would pay $500,000 to the Donda Social Program Foundation and that six children from the foundation would appear at the event (dressed in a Philip [sic] Plein “total look”). They were also allowed a travel budget for Kanye, Yusef, an orchestra and the kids totaling $170,000.

Another $150,000 was reportedly sent to Burundi Partlow Consulting, run by music industry insider Burundi Partlow, who reportedly put Yusef and Plein in touch. However, despite being at the center of the negotiations, “Kanye not only knew nothing about any of this, he received none of the money,” according to The Blast. “The contract has Malik Yusef’s signature and a stamp of a signature above Kanye West’s name.”

But believing they’d successfully booked West for their event, Plein’s camp promoted West’s upcoming performance on their invitations, one of which was obtained and reprinted by the New York Times.


It would’ve been a fitting celebrity feature for the skull-laden, rock-and-roll lifestyle luxury label, which the Times reports has spent as much as $2.8 million for its over-the-top presentations, and has previously worked with problematic faves like Chris Brown, Tekashi69, Iggy Azealea and Azealia Banks. However, the bait-and-switch with West may now prove the most problematic of all. Less than a week before Monday night’s event, it became clear something was amiss when West’s wife, Kim Kardashian West, dismissed the announcement of his appearance as “Just a rumor,” via a tweet to her nearly 60 million followers.


A rep for West subsequently confirmed that he would not be performing, offering no further comment. Philipp Plein International, in turn, was forced to issue a statement on the matter, confirming the controversy and telling The Blast:

“We were beyond excited to work with [Kanye West] but unfortunately an individual pretended to be part of his management team and acted without Kanye’s knowledge, capitalizing on a former friendship with him. Unfortunately, we too were affected by this misrepresentation,” the statement read. Additional reporting from the Times claimed the statement concluded: “We hope to collaborate with Kanye West in the future, and we look forward to our 20th anniversary show this Monday evening.”


Plein’s camp did not comment on the alleged $900,000.

Looking to get to the heart of the matter, Pitchfork reached out to the nonprofit formerly known as Donda’s House, which changed its name to Art of Culture, Inc. last June after a memorable dustup between the Wests and longtime foundation runner and West collaborator Rhymefest. Rhymefest’s wife, Art of Culture co-founder and executive director Donnie Smith, denied any involvement with the Plein payment or planned performance, giving the following statement to the music site:

Art of Culture Inc. was contacted today by a reporter inquiring about our knowledge as to whether our organization received a wire transfer receipt of funds connected to an as claimed Kanye West performance by an entity called “Donda S. House Inc.” Art of Culture Inc. changed its name publicly in June of 2018 from Donda’s House Inc. to Art of Culture Inc. and is in no way connected to or related to Donda Social, or Donda S. House Inc. Art of Culture Inc. has no knowledge of any specific contracts, transactions or relationships connected to performances by Kanye West, or related to Donda Social or Donda S. House Inc.


Rhymefest himself chimed in on the issue, telling The Blast, “We don’t want the work we are doing to be sullied by this situation. It is unfortunate.”

And the plot thickened.

So, what happened to the money? Malik Yusef issued his own official statement Monday night, denying any fraudulent activity and clarifying that the payments received were part of an ongoing deal intended to include t-shirts that would “fill the world with positivity” and a donation of $750,000 to Donda Social. Yusef also claims that when West became “incapulant”—by which we assume he meant West refused to capitulate to the terms of the deal for “unknown reasons,” the entirety of the money was returned to Plein. As further evidence of no wrongdoing, Yusef even mentioned looking forward to attending Monday’s event.


No word on whether Yusef was still on Plein’s invite list—or attended the runway show, though we know West definitely didn’t. Nevertheless, the event went off without a hitch on Monday night, and as of the time of this post, no further comment has been given on whether Plein will be pursuing legal action against Yusef, Partlow, West, or any affiliated organization.


But in perhaps the biggest irony of all, one of Plein’s most notable recent personal campaigns has been his fight against frauds.

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up, co-host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door...May I borrow some sugar?



Hot take:

Malik Yusuf is messy for this.

That is all.