A multiyear partnership between Kanye West and Gap, is finally happening
For years, Kanye West has been adamant about his mission to outfit as many people as possible in his designs. The multitalented tastemaker par excellence has never been shy about his aspirations to make product on a widely available scale, and for a long time that desire took the form of what many considered a mere pipe dream: the opportunity to design affordable clothing for the masses. Today, those dreams are suddenly looking like a hard-earned reality, because this morning Yeezy Gap, a multiyear partnership between West's fashion label and the iconic American retail chain, was announced to much fanfare online. (West, for his part, celebrated the decades-long effort with a signature ebullient tweet.)
What's Happening, and When.
Though the deal was officially finalized yesterday, co-branded apparel from the line, which is set to include clothing for men, women, and children—and will reportedly be priced at under $100 per item—will start to appear in Gap stores and on its website in the beginning of 2021. As of now, likely due to West's ongoing agreement with Adidas, the collection will not include footwear of any kind. West will also have creative control over the way Yeezy Gap is presented—meaning his remit will extend to the way the collection is merchandised in stores and across Gap's digital channels.
Why it Matters.
No matter how you slice it, this is big news. West's had a longstanding infatuation with Gap, shouting out the chain frequently in songs and interviews as an archetypal democratizer of fashion. The recently inked deal marks the culmination of his decades-long effort to be taken seriously as a power player in the mass-market apparel space, and represents a poignant full circle moment for an artist that famously worked a gig at his local Gap as a teen growing up in Chicago.
West's knack for navigating shifts in consumer sentiment has led to a footwear partnership with Adidas that generated well over a billion dollars in sales last year, but his more formal clothing collections—some backed by Adidas, others funded independently—have failed to catch one as effectively as his sneakers due, in part, to a series of production and distribution issues, and price points that remained far from accessible to most shoppers. (Prices from West's prior collections have often started in the hundreds before rapidly going into the thousands.)
Gap, like many of its big-box peers, has suffered severe losses in recent years only exacerbated by the onset of the coronavirus and the subsequent global shutdown. Earlier this year, the brand indefinitely postponed a collaboration with industry-favorite Telfar, a deeply disappointing end for what should have been a much-deserved nod of national recognition for one of fashion's most exciting independent talents.
The retailer stands to benefit substantially from West's brand and his ability to move merchandise on a large scale, but whether West can replicate the success he's experienced selling highly-limited sneakers in relatively small batches remains to be seen.
What to Expect.
Although details are sparse on what the clothing will actually look like, earlier this morning West tweeted out a blurry image of a model in the type of relaxed silhouettes familiar to fans of the artist's personal style, done up in a color way more in line with Gap's bright, cheery fare than Yeezy's typically-dusty palette. West has also announced that he's tapped Nigerian-British designer Mowalola Ogunlesi, a Central Saint Martins alum who debuted at London Fashion Week last year, to oversee design direction for the forthcoming line. In what capacity West himself will be involved with the design process is still up in the air, though if prior endeavors are any indication he'll remain a hands-on presence.
Also included in the tweeted image is a large carryall bag branded with "Developed by Yeezy and Gap in Cody, WY", the city where West purchased a substantial plot of land last year, and one that remains a central nucleus for the burgeoning Yeezy business. West has mentioned his desire to bring manufacturing stateside in the past, and his last presentation at Paris Fashion Week prominently featured wool sourced directly from sheep on his ranch. Manufacturing the Yeezy Gap line entirely in Wyoming, let alone in the States, is unlikely, but using the production facilities there in some capacity would represent a real coup, even by West's ambitious standards.
Doubts might remain over West's ability to channel his design savvy into products palatable to Gap customers around the world, but according to the Times Gap expects the line to generate a cool billion in annual sales from the outset (a number that represents a whopping fourth of the company's total revenue last year). And so far, the markets have responded in kind: following the announcement, Gap's shares have soared by up to 40%, finally settling to about a 20% increase by the end of the day.
Ultimately, much remains to be determined. What is clear, however, is that Kanye West is finally that much closer to making good on a nearly lifelong dream, and when ambitions that substantial are suddenly made real interesting things tend to happen.
As always, there's little to do but wait and see how it all plays out. Lining up outside the closest Gap come 2021 might not be a bad bet.