What’s Up With Kanye West’s Yeezy Shades?
This originally appeared in Show Notes, GQ staffer Samuel Hine’s fashion week newsletter. For more stories like it, hit the link above and subscribe.
Yesterday, the fashion supernova known as Yeezy Gap officially burned out. In a memo to employees, Gap CEO Mark Breitbard confirmed that the brand would “wind down” the partnership with Kanye “Ye” West, after Ye’s attorneys sent Gap a notice of termination earlier that day. Per that notice, Ye claimed breach of contract, following a tumultuous few weeks where he demanded, among other things, that Gap throw their mainline products in outlets and stock every store with Yeezy Gap. In a memo to employees, Breitbard wrote: “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.”
Ironically, at the same time as Ye’s lawyers were working to free him from his Gap contract, Ye was busy hyping a forthcoming Yeezy Gap release. More specifically: he was in the selfie cube.
The so-called “selfie cube” is the site where the latest (and, now, likely final) Yeezy Gap campaign is taking shape. Earlier this week, word started trickling out that downtown models and art world-adjacent micro-influencers—the type who can always get a table at Lucien—were receiving DMs from young Yeezy Gap employees, inviting them to participate in a photo shoot for the new “Yzy Shdz.” You’ve probably seen the shades, metallic shield-like sunglasses that resemble OSHA-approved eyewear from outer space, on Instagram already: Ye launched the design with a Nick Knight-lensed portfolio featuring a bald-headed Candice Swanepoel.
The latest thrust of the Shdz rollout appears to be focused on the underground creatives who populate downtown NYC. According to two such participants, those who accepted the DM invite were given a time and the address of a photo studio in the West Village. Upon arrival, they were invited to style themselves in the sunglasses and dark-hued Yeezy Gap clothing, and then sent to the selfie cube—a silvery box erected in the center of the room. Inside, they were handed an iPad and had about 30 minutes to take as many selfies as they wanted. According to the employees manning the cube, Ye would review the flicks and pick his favorite. As recently as Tuesday, in the midst of a few New York Fashion Week appearances, Ye was personally inviting people to hop in the cube (Anna Wintour and Chris Rock among them).
The Yzy Shds effort says a lot about Ye’s brilliant instincts for how to harness social media to fulfill his creative goals. He wants to make products for everyone, and he’s making the idea—if not the reality—feel real by engineering a campaign starring scenesters you probably have mutual followers with. It’s an approach that reflects the enduring influence of Demna on Ye’s process. Remember when Balenciaga’s Instagram was turned into a conceptual art project, populated by the scariest people you’ve seen at Clandestino? One of the participants I spoke to, who asked to remain anonymous, said that some models with big followings were tapped for the campaign, but that most others were low-key cool kids who don’t scream “influencer.” (The gig is unpaid, and participants signed NDAs.) It also represents the sometimes conflicting aims of Ye’s grandiose visions and granular obsessions. Just days before going on CNBC to publicly spurn Gap, he was flicking through iPad selfies taken by models with a few thousand Instagram followers…for the Gap.
In the wake of Ye and the Gap’s split, the Times reported that the brand will continue to sell Yeezy Gap products that have already been created. It’s unclear if the Shdz will be among the offerings, or if Ye will attempt to take the design—and the campaign—to an independent venture. (A representative for Yeezy Gap didn’t immediately return a request for comment.) Toward the end of the week, activity in the selfie cube seems to have died down. And the participants I spoke to had yet to receive their Ye-approved selfies.
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