West has long been a fixture in the front rows in Milan and Paris, but he's both anxious and cocky about his line of sneakers hitting the Paris runway. Anxious because he's the first to admit he's a fledgling designer. And cocky because he couldn't care less how clichéd the idea of a rapper taking over fashion with signature sneakers may seem. "I'm all about clichés now!" he says. "People base their opinions on cliché. There's a reason why they're clichés: 'I was gonna wear a coat today, but it would be so cliché.' How about some pants—if it's not too cliché?"

West has had his own clothing line, Pastelle, for three years, and the fashion world has exacted its pound of flesh from him much as he once did from drug dealers eager to make it as producers. "The big payback," he calls it. "I work with different designers and they'll see me coming, saying 'I wanna do this line,' and they're like, 'Cool, give me $150,000 for two weeks' work'! It's like, 'This dude is so eager to get in—he's a millionaire who doesn't know his ass from his face, and we're gonna charge him up the fucking ass for a sketch, for an idea, for a sample.' Every time I did a sample line—it was over a quarter-million."

Like the 12-year-old who lost nights to making a penis take a step, West is no dilettante playing at fashion design. He'll spend an hour in a Jil Sander store scrutinizing collars, devote days to freehand sketches. "I'm 31. I study now," he says, flipping through a designer's book, catching everything: the flow of material at the elbow crease of a jacket, the same face shape on different models. When Glow in the Dark hit Belgium, West went straight from the stage of Brussels' Forest National theater to the sea—a good hour-and-a-half drive—to make it to a party attended by Raf Simons, Jil Sander's chief designer, whom he texts almost every day.

"He talks to me a lot about fashion," Simons says. "He's very serious about it. I like him a lot as a person, but I'm not sure how an internship would work."

Despite his celebrity status, West insists he's sincere about starting from the ground up. "It's like pressing reset on my life," he says. "I moved from Chicago to New York and all I had was a bunch of ideas and a few DATs in my pocket and a relationship with an A&R guy at Roc-A-Fella. Now I'm moving to Paris and I have a relationship with Louis Vuitton, and it's like, Look how far I took that relationship to the biggest record label, and look where I took it in music."