By Terrance Turner
Sept. 22, 2022
In a revealing new interview, rapper Kanye West (now known as Ye) opens up about his battles with corporate partners Adidas and Gap. On ABC’s “Good Morning America”, Ye directly addressed the fallout from Gap and Adidas, with whom he’d partnered on his Yeezy footwear line.
In 2013, Kanye West joined forces with German apparel company Adidas, which manufactures and distributes his Yeezy footwear. The collaboration finally bore fruit in February 2015, when Yeezy Season 1 debuted. The entire collection premiered that month, with flesh-colored military-style apparel.
Ye staged the show “with the Italian performance artist Vanessa Beecroft, whose ability to strip back everything to its purest form was something he related to. There were certainly enough flesh-toned body stockings to convey the notion of the pared-back-to-nothingness that is a Beecroft trademark,” wrote Vogue writer Tim Blanks. See photos of the designs below.
Photos from Vogue.
Global fashion brand HighSnobiety noted: “MA-1 bomber jackets, military parkas, distressed shirts and cropped shearling jackets were presented on a variety of hodgepodge models awash in a dark palette. Critics noted the similarities between West’s collection and his influences, and fans balked at the $600 sweatpants and $3,000 jackets.”
Though the footwear sold out quickly, the other apparel did not. After the Yeezy 1 fashion show, Adidas said it would no longer be a part of Yeezy apparel. Instead, it would focus on Yeezy shoes. The collaboration produced designs like the Yeezy BOOST and Yeezy Foam Runners:
Grievances by Ye
But despite the success of the brand, Ye had grievances with the company, per Bloomberg Businessweek. He had longstanding issues with how the line is managed, especially when he’s not consulted on planning and strategy. In June, he called the company out after it unveiled its Adilette 22 slide sandals. Ye felt that Adidas had copied his design, calling the shoe “a fake Yeezy”. (Never mind that Yeezy is manufactured by Adidas, or that Ye himself doesn’t design the shoes.)
“I’m not standing for this blatant copying no more,” he ranted in an Instagram caption. “This is for everyone who wants to express themselves but feel they can’t ’cause they’ll loose [sic] their contract or be called crazy…These shoes represent the disrespect that people in power have to the talent.”
Then, in August, Kanye took issue with the Yeezy day footwear initiative, an annual two-day event designed to commemorate their partnership. He sent out DM’s claiming that Adidas made up the day, chose colors, styles and employees without his approval, and “stole my styles and material”.
Meanwhile, his partnership with Gap also went sour. In 2020, Kanye West and Gap announced a 10-year deal for the Yeezy Gap clothing line. It would offer “modern, elevated basics for men, women and kids at accessible price points.” But in the 18 months after the deal only two products were released: a puffer jacket and a sweatshirt. They were available online only, per the New York Times.
It wasn’t until May that Ye & Gap released the full line: Yeezy Gap engineered by Balenciaga. The line included boots, backpacks, windbreakers and cargo pants. Hoodies cost $240; t-shirts, $140. Shoppers lined up around a Gap location in Times Square, where the material was purposely placed in garbage bags. (Kanye personally ordered this.)
Dissolution of Deals
The deal imploded. Lawyers for Ye sent a breach-of-contract notice to Gap on Aug. 16. Gap responded with its own letter on Aug. 23. A week later, Ye took to Instagram to air his grievances. According to Complex, he posted a pic of his upcoming Yeezy Gap sunglasses with a caption that read: “Gap held a meeting about me without me?” Then he followed up with a series of posts diving further into his frustrations of working with Gap.
In a move similar to his critique of Adidas copying Yeezy footwear designs, Ye took issue with Gap sharing a photo of an all black Gap logo T-shirt for kids. Ye accused Gap of copying his work from Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga for the T-shirt. He also said the company canceled a Yeezy Gap photoshoot with his own kids without his knowledge: “But they canceled a photoshoot with my kids in Japan without me knowing.”
Last Thursday (Sept. 15), Ye sent a letter to Gap saying that he’s terminating their partnership. The letter claimed Gap “abandoned its contractual obligations” and “failed to sell a single product in a single Gap store, including any of its 500+ stores in North America.” Gap confirmed the news in a statement to the New York Times.
“While we share a vision of bringing high-quality, trend-forward, utilitarian design to all people through unique omni experiences with Yeezy Gap, how we work together to deliver this vision is not aligned,” the Gap brand president, Mark Breitbard, wrote. “And we are deciding to wind down the partnership.”
But the drama didn’t end there. On Sept. 9, Ye shared a draft of a documents from his lawyers. Dated Sept. 13, the letter details a “Summary of Restrictions.” It said, in part, that “neither Yeezy nor Ye may use, wear, sponsor, promote, market, advertise, endorse, design, manufacture, license, sell, or provide consulting services with respect to any of the following products under the Yeezy Trademarks or Ye’s likeness or any other identifiable attribute, feature, or indica of Ye.”
Now, Ye is going independent. “It’s time for me to go it alone,” Ye told Bloomberg. “It’s fine. I made the companies money. The companies made me money. We created ideas that will change apparel forever. Like the round jacket, the foam runner, the slides that have changed the shoe industry. Now it’s time for Ye to make the new industry. No more companies standing in between me and the audience.”
During the ABC News interview, Davis asked Ye, “How do you move forward now in the fashion industry when they’re saying you can’t even show Yeezy products, but anything bearing that likeness?” He responded, “Oh, we got some new lawyers. We really had to level up and show ’em, really show ’em, who’s the new boss in town.”
So he’s going to forego corporate partners and do it himself — the very thing that radio host Sway Calloway suggested. In an infamous appearance on Sway in the Morning in 2013, Kanye ranted about Nike waffling on a partnership and about being “marginalized” by fashion houses. “Why don’t you empower yourself,” Sway asked, “and do it yourself?”
“How?!?” Kanye snapped. “How, Sway?!?”
ABC News reporter Linsey Davis brought up that moment today during the interview. Ye conceded that, it turns out, Sway was right.
“I will go ahead and say Sway had the answer,” Ye said.