Gap has placed their trust in Kanye West to save the brand. Haha
We have not completely digested the news when it came out last night. We thought we’d sleep on it. Kanye West for Gap greeted us this morning. Is there a nice ring to it? Yeezy Gap? Cheesy? But the name of the new partnership between the rapper-designer and one of America’s most recognised mass-market brands isn’t making us think. It is the aesthetic that he would bring to Gap that is provoking us to wonder: Will Kanye West be the right fit?
Gap issued a press release yesterday to say that Mr West “will develop the new line to deliver modern, elevated basics for men, women and kids at accessible price points.” Which means he won’t be involved in Gap itself. Gap hiring a separate designer to create “elevated basics” bears an uncanny resemblance to Uniqlo installing Christophe Lemaire’s as the artistic director of Uniqlo U, the Japanese label’s sub-brand—launched in 2016—that is designed in a specially set up Paris studio to “reimagine everyday clothing using innovative materials and contemporary silhouettes.”
Mr West tweeted a photograph (hashtagged #WESTDAYEVER) that hinted at what his Yeezy Gap might look like. Hoodie! And, surprisingly, colour. Nothing else to describe. There’s that oversized bag—similar to one from Uniqlo U’s past collection—with a message in the bottom right that reads “YZY Gap developed by Yeezy and 699 in Cody WY 062520”. We have no idea why Gap should be developed in Cody, Wyoming, basically Buffalo Bill country. Could Cody be where Yeezy Gap’s design studio is situated, just as Uniqlo U’s is in Paris? Oh, we forget: Cody is where the West family lives, in a a 4000-acre farm.
Yeezy sold US$1.3 billion worth of Adidas-backed sneakers last year. Such impressive figures were often quoted by the press, but similar numbers weren’t linked to his increasingly low-key fashion line
The Donald Trump supporter is a hometown-proud man. Calabasas, California, where he once lived and where the Kardashians still reside, was overweeningly featured in his collaboration with Adidas. Even the merchandise linked to his Sunday Service outputs one unabashed “Calabasas sweatpants”. It is not surprising that, for Gap, Cody is similarly given the spotlight. At the last Yeezy show, staged in Paris, attendees were told he was presenting “a little piece from our home in Cody, Wyoming”.
No matter where he designs from, Kanya West is, at least where footwear is concerned, a money maker. According to Forbes, Yeezy sold US$1.3 billion worth of Adidas-backed sneakers last year. Such impressive figures were often quoted by the press, but similar numbers weren’t linked to his increasingly low-key fashion line. Still the Yeezy brand is expanding. Last week, it was reported that Mr West filed a trademark for makeup and hair-care products (including, curiously, pine cones and aromatherapy pillows!), which led to the speculation that this meant billionaire beauty mogul in the making. It would be interesting to note that his wife Kim’s KKW beauty line has not yet made her a billionaire mogul. And his lip-kit queen sister-in-law Kylie Jenner had her billionaire status rescinded.
Gap also announced that they “are excited to welcome Kanye back to the Gap family as a creative visionary”. It is a return as Mr West had worked in a Gap store when he was a teenager (no mention of what he did there, but customer service was bandied about) and had sung about his experience that included pilferage (or suggested) in ‘Spaceship’ in the 2004 debut album College Dropout. How that is back-as-a-creative-visionary is not clear or imaginable. It is possible that Mr West was creative even back then, and to Gap, maker of T-shirts and chinos, a visionary now.
Sneak peek of Yeezy Gap. Photo: Ye/Twitter
But as with everything in fashion, “creative” is being re-defined. His pal Virgil Abloh is doing this re-defining at Louis Vuitton to startling effects on sales. In a radio interview last year, Mr West repeats his known dismay with Mr Abloh’s appointment: “I felt like it was supposed to be me. I was the Louis Vuitton Don”, referring to the sneaker he did in a collaboration with LV back in 2009, a sneaker no one remembers. In the same interview, he declared that he is “unquestionably, undoubtedly the greatest human artist of all time”.
It is ironic that, in the face of still-raging aspiration to design for a luxury house, Kanye West is going to Gap, known for its merchant-led product development, rather than design-led. It is, therefore, possible that the partnership—reported to be a ten-year deal (brand Kenya West will enjoy such longevity?)—might work as Mr West need not bring design to the table. Basics, however “elevated”, would be just that: basics. In the end, Gap is using a name to sell clothes, not design; it will maintain the status quo, not be elevated.
Gap also shared the official logo of Yeezy Gap, featuring Yeezy without the vowels using the condensed serif font of the Gap logotype, introduced in 1986, and often seen on the front of T-shirts and hoodies. This might be in keeping with the simplicity of the three-letter name that is Gap. To some observers, the choice of Mr West is just as simple. In the present, when diversity is expected, if not demanded, of fashion companies, they say Gap is woke to employ Mr West. But he is not the first black hire at the company. Patrick Robinson—the Armani alum greatly loved by Vogue—was with Gap from 2007 to 2011. It would need talent rather than race to turn Gap around.
Illustration: Just So