Kanye West and Gap Will End Their Partnership, With 8 Years Left on the Contract
UPDATE – 9/15/22, 6:25 P.M. EST: Gap CEO Mark Breitbard confirmed in a memo to employees on Thursday that the retailer would “wind down” the Yeezy Gap partnership, though they still plan to follow through on plans for remaining products already in the works.
“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,” Breitbard wrote, per Bloomberg.
Ye appeared via video call on CNBC Thursday afternoon to address the news, confirming that he wasn’t happy with how Gap priced the Yeezy products much higher than their standard line, or their progress on launching physical Yeezy Gap stores. “It was always a dream of mine to be at the Gap and to bring the best product possible,” Ye said, while wearing a pair of YZY SHDZ sunglasses. “It was very frustrating. It was very disheartening, because I just put everything I had. I put all of my top relationships,” he continued, citing his connections that brought Balenciaga creative director Demna onboard for a capsule collection.
“Everyone knows that I’m the leader, I’m the king,” Ye concluded. “A king can’t live in someone else’s castle. A king has to make his own castle.”
“I’d like to be the Steve Jobs of the Gap,” Ye, née Kanye West, told Style.com in 2015; five years later, in the summer of 2020, the rapper and designer would ink a reported decade-long contract with the mall retailer, which has struggled to adjust to a digital-dominated retail landscape. Since then, Yeezy Gap has seen the much-hyped launches, and mostly successful sales, of geometry-bending puffer jackets, “perfect” hoodies, and a capsule collaboration with the French fashion house Balenciaga.
Now, two years into the deal, Ye’s lawyers have sent a letter to the Gap notifying the company that his Yeezy LLC is terminating the arrangement, citing the retailer’s failure to release apparel or open brick-and-mortar stores as planned, according to a report published Thursday by the Wall Street Journal.
While such a definitive expression of desire to cut ties may be surprising, it isn’t exactly unexpected: Ye’s been particularly outspoken with regard to his corporate partners as of late. On Tuesday, he told Bloomberg that he was ready to “go it alone” and nix his ongoing deals with the Gap and Adidas, after accusing both companies of various offenses, including copying his designs and restricting brand growth, in recent weeks. Plus, as the New York Times reported back in 2020, Ye and Gap’s original contract did include the option to renew or opt out after five years, though they are still a few years shy of that benchmark. (Ye’s 10-year deal with Adidas expires in 2026.)
The letter comes not long after the Gap premiered the partnership’s first in-person retail concept back in July, with a Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga pop-up at its flagship store in Times Square. Ye has been vocal about his desire for his product to be available to shop in person: in July, he wrote in a now-deleted Instagram caption that he “came to Gap to put good product directly in stores,” adding in early September, in an also-now-deleted video, that he wants the retailer to “put Ye’s shit in the front” of the store. (A nod, perhaps, to his College Dropout song “Spaceship.”) His lawyers’ filing cites an inadequate response to this initiative; per the WSJ report, Gap was required under the agreement to open as many as five retail stores dedicated to showcasing Yeezy Gap products by July 31, 2023, according to the letter. To date, the letter claims, Gap hasn’t opened a dedicated store.
As of press time on Thursday afternoon, Gap has not responded to a request for comment. Meanwhile, Ye’s personal Instagram feed is still full of images featuring his galactic “YZY SHDZ” sunglasses, which look like a paper-thin swipe of silvery mercury affixed to one’s head by bungee cord, which thus far have been advertised as a product of the Yeezy Gap partnership. (The design also resembles the futuristic-spoof shades worn by Christopher Lloyd’s Dr. Emmett Brown character in Back to the Future Part II.) As recently as September 9, a rep for Yeezy Gap emailed out a press alert with branded imagery featuring the model Candice Swanepoel in a pair of YZY SHDZ, shot by photographer and longtime Ye collaborator Nick Knight. Ye posted the same image on Instagram, sans the Yeezy Gap logo.
A newly bearded Ye hosted an event for the shades in New York City on Tuesday night, attended by the likes of Swanepoel, Chris Rock, and Vogue editor Anna Wintour. He shared images from the party to his Instagram Story late Wednesday. And then, around noon on Thursday, he took to the platform again, this time posting a screenshot of his lawyers’ letter to the Gap. The document’s plain white background had been replaced with a photo from outer space, of a solar flare over the moon.
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