Can the little red dot stand shoulder to shoulder with the little black dress? A native islander and friends look at fashion (and such) in Singapore, and, occasionally, among her neighbours, and a little further afield
Kanye West is peeved again. And, he has attacked another business partner, anew. Unrequited love?
Nike must be so thankful that their pairing with Kanye West ended when it did. They must be reading with such relief the news of Mr West’s online berating of his current footwear production partner Adidas. The rap star asserted that the German company has been designing Yeezy products without his involvement. On Instagram two days ago, Mr West boomed: “”The fact (Adidas) felt they could color my shoes and name them without my approval is really wild. I really care about building something that changes the world and something I can leave to my kids. They tried to buy me out for 1 billion dollars. My royalties next year are 500 million dollars alone.”
A buyout! Has it really come to this? Was Mr West surprised that Adidas, producing Yeezy since 2013, is considering ending their partnership? That they had enough of his egomania? The Sunday denunciation was, of course, not his first levelled at the manufacturer of his Yeezys. In fact, since last Friday, his fingers have been hard at work, generating posts that suggested Adidas had done him great wrong, to the point that he threatened to “legally finish with you”, directing that at the brand’s top brass, in particular the senior vice-president Daniel Cherry III (who has not offered a public response).
To make things more complicated, the executive board of JP Morgan Chase was also dragged into the one-sided quarrel, with the angry rapper uploading screen shots of the bankers. JP Morgan Chase assisted Adidas in finding a buyer for Reebok in 2021. And on Monday, Mr West posted: “I need a shoe company like how Jamie Salter bought Reebok”. Mr Salter is the CEO of Authentic Brands Group (ABG), the company that acquired Reebok from Adidas. It is curious that ABG was mentioned. Was Mr West hoping Reebok would be the next Yeezy collaborator?
His palpable rage, of course, goes further back—to June, when he accused Adidas of copying his Yeezy slides after the former teased the release of their Adilette 22. And then came “Yeezy Day” in August—some pseudo-important occasion that Mr West called “made up” and claimed he did not agree to, nor the Yeezy sneakers that Adidas was allegedly going to drop. It is not clear why he did not take his displeasure or misgivings directly to Adidas instead of publicly declaiming, “I have no chill. It’s going to cost you billions to keep me, It’s going to cost you billions to let me go, Adidas.“
This is, of course, not surprising. Even Gap was attacked. A week ago, as he had a go at Adidas, he concurrently accused the other half of Yeezy Gap of conducting a meeting without him. He added that they had copied his designs (the ones “Engineered by Balenciaga”). Can a pattern of behaviour be discerned? Not hard. For Mr West, lines are not drawn, not demarcated. Professional and private lives have no borders. Everyone is fair game. Even people close to him—or once were—were not spared. He attacked his ex-wife on more than one occasion (who strangely did not seem too upset by it) and her (now) ex-boyfriend with not a vestige of regret. Does he care how he may appear to his children?
But it was Adidas that he seems to spurn most. In his latest IG fume-post, he even clarified that “billions” mean “2” if Adidas wants to free him from his obligations to them, and that includes the alleged “stealing” of his intellectual property. This and others were no blank rants, even, if in many cases, he would delete them. They have been effectual among his friends, with Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs just announcing on IG that, in support for his mate, he was “done wearing Adidas” after a Ye-like blast: “’Since the era of Run-DMC, @Adidas has always used Hip Hop to build its brand and make billions off of our culture. BUT WE ARE MORE THAN JUST CONSUMERS NOW, WE’RE THE OWNERS. @KanyeWest and YEEZY are the reason Adidas is relevant to culture. WE KNOW OUR VALUE!”
The Kanye West-steered sub-brand of the Gap has its own space in a Gap store at last. But there is no shelf, no table, no rack. Everything is placed in bulk bags. Like merchandise to be discarded, or incinerated
The Gap store in Times Square, New York
Kanye West is paving the way for the Gap, literally with bulk bags. At its inaugural IRL retail run, a “pop-up” inside the Gap in Times Square, the space dedicated to Mr West’s much-hyped partnership with America’s most recognisable mall brand is nothing like what you might expect. Outside, at the corner of Broadway and West 44th Street, the blue façade and its lighter blue box-logo are all unmistakably the Gap. On the roof, above the large three-letter name are two billboards—one of a dove in flight, the other, a still, dark spectre—that stand ominously. Inside, it is just as sinister: In a narrow space the width of a hospital corridor, it is all black and dimly lit (low-light ambience even Abercrombie and Fitch has abandoned), like an entryway to a secret lair. Only this is not an unremarkable passage. This is where the hottest and most anticipated collaboration is sold, shockingly in those typically one-ton (here, they seem more capacious) receptacle of polypropylene for packing and moving goods, all two dozens of them. This could be easily a receiving bay, if not a dump site.
After two years of considerable hype, inconsistent drops, and online-only availability, the Yeezy Gap, presently “Engineered by Balenciaga”, retail space opened last Thursday to long queues. To avoid the possible crush, we visited the store on a Monday afternoon. It was not busy. But it was not the lack of a crowd that hit us immediately, like a slap (such as this one); it was the strange grimness. This is the highlight of summer shopping? This is the Gap? There is more cheer in a Yohji Yamamoto store. We knew there would be a predominance of black, but this drabness and gloominess? And what’s worse, those waist-high, black sacks on the floor! Walk into the store and they are on the right, placed in two rows, like oil drums, in the middle of the passage. It’s like visiting a wholesale market for secondhand clothes. You walk around the bags and look inside them to find what you want. And you have to rummage to find your size. This is worse than excavating a sales wagon at the OG Orchard closing down clearance.
Two rows of bulk bags in which you are encouraged to diginto
We were not the only ones shocked by the refuse point. One Black guy was heard saying to his buddy, who looked like he stepped out of the rooftop billboard: “Are they kidding? Trash bags?” Our photographer, who visited the store earlier said, “it was very unnerving for me to see the black bags in the black surroundings. Can you imagine what it would be like for the tourists?” The containers already looked a mess when we approached, even when there were six staffers folding the clothes and arranging, and returning them to the rightful vessel, tagged with images of the garment that reside in it and the price, after customers have finished with one and moved to the next. There was an unmistakable lack of allure, but since we were there, we thought we should just join the unconventional way of shopping for clothes and just dig, like everyone else. But, we kept thinking of meigancai (梅干菜, dried pickled Chinese mustard) in Albert Centre Wholesale Market. There is something menial about going through the clothes in this manner, too. No pleasure.
We looked at a mock turtleneck T-shirt with a surprisingly tiny white Gap logotype right in the centre, about 5 cm below the neckline. For some reason, the tees are made of very thick cotton jersey (and it was 28°C outside). A pile of, say, five of them is heavy to lift. A woman, frustrated by the hard work she had to do, muttered, “why is everything so fucking heavy?”. To see what what we were digging, we had to bend over the bags’ massive opening. After three minutes, it was too much. One of us decided to try a T-shirt, for the heck of it. At US$140 a piece (or more for other styles), they were rather hard to swallow. We picked the simplest: the mock turtleneck. The fabric was disturbingly thick. No one around us, we noticed, wore anything that heavy, except the staff. When we pulled the top down over our head, it was stuck; when we yanked harder, we thought we popped the stitching on the neckline! Why was it this tight?
Each bag is tagged with illustrations of the style of the garment as well as a number—the price
When we managed to remove the T-shirt, we noted that the neck was ribbed, but why was there the poor “stretch and recovery”, to borrow from production speak? The problem, it appeared to us, was technical: Somehow, Mr West and his team decided on this heavy fabric, and the rib on the neck had no Spandex in it. With possibly mis-calibrated knitting tension, the rib is limp and won’t stretch sufficiently. When we brought this up with a former Gap merchandiser, he was surprised that that could happen. “Is this the Gap we’re talking about here? They do the neck stretch test there (they invented it!), even for children’s clothes!” As for the heavy jersey, one designer told us that this has been the fabric choice—the dry-touch compact jersey that is rather ’70s—for many brands wanting to appear “luxe”, but “luxe,” he added, “does not need to be heavy.”
We did not want to look into the other bags—they were all equally uninviting. There is so much you’d wish to do if the Gap made you feel like you’re at a quartermaster’s retrieving uniforms. It is possible that Mr West wanted to create uniforms for his tribe of eager followers and, in due course, improve the sagging fortunes of the Gap. But these clothes are not the one-time uniforms of teens craving the Gap’s ubiquitous jeans and graphic tees. A far cry from what the Times Square website describes on it pages: “clean, classic and comfortable clothing”. When we first saw the pieces on the Yeezy Gap website, it is clear the line is aesthetically apart from the 52-year-old American brand to which it owes half its name. The Gap has lost its mojo for so long that even fans do not remember when they last brought anything from them (all Gap stores here closed in 2018). The brand needed a life buoy and it was tossed one. Kanye West could, apparently, be to the Gap what Alessandro Michele is to Gucci. So he got the job.
Quite a sea of clothes dumped in those bulk bags
But in the first 18 months of the collab, just two products—one puffer and one hoodie—were made available and only online. Compounding that, the e-retail model was troubled by missed datelines, low stocks, and late deliveries. Mr West seemed to need a life buoy too. So pal Demna Gvasalia came to the rescue and became co-conspirator, an unsurprising turn as the two desire to dominate the fashion world with their oversized, body/face-obscuring clothes. Additionally, Mr West announced on social media not too long ago that he had already spent US$4 million at Balenciaga so far this year (how much more before this is unknown. The former wife’s and daughter’s bill were not tallied either). Why not allow Balenciaga to make more by getting them to “engineer” Yeezy Gap? Speaking to The New York Times recently, Mr Gvasalia revealed that he wanted “to create a solid foundation for Ye’s aesthetic on which they can now build”. The paper also reported that Mr Gvasalia was “engineering the prototypes in the Balenciaga studios in Paris and Zurich”. Most of us already knew the clothes were based on Balenciaga blocks.
Kanye West might have been too busy to see Yeezy Gap through. After the partnership was announced, he ran for the US presidency, saved his marriage (tried to), insulted his ex’s boyfriend, and put out the album Donda, whose overall visual was co-conceived with Demna Gvasalia. Was he too busy to handle Yeezy Gap on his own unaided? Or was he, as the rumours flew, really unschooled in fashion design for a mass brand? According to the photographer Nick Knight, who also spoke to NYT, “if he wants to spend a year looking into the colour blue, we’ll spend a year looking into the colour blue, which is extremely inspiring when so often schedules take priority over creativity. He doesn’t see himself in any way constrained by deadlines or seasons. I don’t think he would even use the word ‘collection’ for what he is doing.” Mr West, in other words, marches to his very own Roland drum beat.
Digital screens to welcome you: The Yeezy Gap metaverse that apparently is taken from a related computer game
Moving to the back of the dedicated space for Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga, we saw that provision was made for the line that was expected to form at the cashier’s counter, which was just as black as the rest of the store. The rear wall, where a video screen was installed, was dark this afternoon (another two screens to the left of the entrance were aglow with some sky-like background, in front of which two avatars were dancing/spinning in mid-air). We stood comfortably in the quieter rear and sized up the near-monochromatic tableau before us. The shoppers were mostly male, dressed unmistakably in what Mr West desires them to: oversized tops and bottoms. Many gravitated to the T-shirts, with which they could probably at last enter the expensive world of Balenciaga, whose very temple of cool is about 1.5 kilometres away on Madison Avenue. This was far more accessible, and the clothes could be binned when desire, for some reason, was not aroused.
As we were leaving the store, more people dashed in excitedly, like they were approaching some concert merchandise. Would they leave as disappointed as we did? Stepping out into the afternoon warmth, we thought of that thick jersey T-shirt again. For the higher-than-the-Gap prices that Yeezy Gap charges, what incredible experience did the store offer or was it just the letdown that was indelible? It was hard to imagine that this would be how the Gap intends to move forward or ensnare the unconverted. One Singaporean working in New York later told us that he was “completely turned off by the experience” and that he could see a “stark disconnect with mainstream Gap”. When we asked him if it could be just some high concept that escaped him, he replied, with palpable disdain, “high concept, my pantat!”
Yeezy Gap is at the Gap, 1514 Broadway, New York City. Photos: HL See for SOTD
Kanye West claims the German brand has ripped him off with the soon-to-release slide Adidas Adilette 22. Well…
Yeezy is big, powerful, and untouchable. Adidas can’t be unaware of that. It is a monster brand that they partly created. Yet, somehow, they managed to step on Kanye West’s toes, with the coming-soon pair of slides, the all-foam Adilette 22 (above). In a totally unpunctuated Instagram rant-post that is now deleted, Mr West wrote to a “Kasper” (believed to be Adidas’s Danish CEO Kasper Rørsted) that he is “not standing for this blatant copying no more”. The accompanying photo is that of the Adilette 22, which Mr West called “a fake Yeezy”. It was quickly assumed that the rapper/designer was comparing the slide to his ‘Pure’ footwear sold under Adidas Yeezy.
This accusation, coming in the wake of Adidas suing Nike over alleged infringement on certain tech the latter uses, seems rather ironic. But it is really more curious on the part of Mr West as brand and man have been partners since 2013. Without Adidas, there would be no Yeezy (remember Mr West decamped the Swoosh to the Three Stipes?). Moreover, we, like so many others, do not see the similarity between the two slides in question. One has a discernibly textured surface and a flat sole while the other is very smooth (so much so that it could be called ‘Pure’) and has a zig-zagged sole. Shape-wise, they are different too. Both are easily identifiable as slides, but it would be a challenge to say they come from the same design mind.
Same or not: Adidas vs Yeezy. (Top) Adidas Adilette 22 and (bottom) Adidas Yeezy ‘Pure’ slides. Product photos: Adidas
Frankly the Adilette 22 looks 3-D printed, while the Yeezy’s own appeared to be blown into molds, the way PU foam shoes are usually made. Both slides seem to have the same foam for their entire sole unit, tread, and mid-sole, and in one colour. And perhaps it’s the chromatic similarity that had Mr West’s boxers in a knot. One name, ‘Sulfur’, appears on the Adilette, and this is also the moniker used in the Yeezy Foam RNNR ‘Sulfur’ (although also foam footwear isn’t quite a pair of slides, as in pool slides). It isn’t known if this ‘Sulphur’ is, in fact, already part of Adidas’s in-house palate of colours or a name Mr West came up with. The colour sulphur that is popular known is usually brighter than that (those who go camping regularly and use sulphur to repel snakes would be familiar with the shade). To quibble over the name of a colour seems trivial.
The summer of the West is also know as “slide season”, similar to our all-year “slipper season”. It is understandable that Mr West would want his Yeezy to reign, to be seen on the streets, now that Yeezy footwear is not quite the hit as it was before. Given the publicity leading to the launch of the Adidas Adilette 22, the slides are destined to be a massive hit. And now this Kanye West rant. Is it possibly a strategy between both to stir up the hype necessary to make any footwear a much bigger hit? Kanye West helping Adidas? It is clear to many that the Adilette 22 will now be in even greater, crazier demand. Following the accusation, foam slides—not just those by Adidas or Yeezy—will definitely be the footwear to covet.
Kanye West’s use of Instagram was disallowed for 24 hours after he posted something racially insensitive. That, regretfully, won’t coax him into speaking with some vestige of grace
The Instagram ban of Kanye West for a mere full day, won’t cause the rapper to suffer much, if he suffered at all. That 24-hour ban is expired now. Mr West is probably planning his next textual attack, never mind that he was already told that what he posted about his estranged wife (they are not divorced yet!) was harassment and her boyfriend Pete Davidson, cyber bullying. And one of the persons who pointed those out, The Daily Show host Trevor Noah, was hit back with a racial slur, which prompted IG to put in place that brief, hardly-a-deterrent ban, even if that post was quickly deleted by the author. Why would a mere day’s suspension of his favourite social media be enough to encourage good online behaviour for a fellow who does not care about such things, in the least?
Online, as on the streets, some people are just more entitled than others. Celebrities, especially so, as they are often given no limit to bad behaviour, online or off. Kanye West can be nasty at the Grammy’s, but who remembers? If they do, they recall with fondness. Despite his repeated attacks on not just the two major targets of the present, many fans still consider him “great”. “Great for Gap”, went one fervid support. While it is true that the disapproval of Mr West’s abusiveness has been expressed on the Gap social media pages, there are also many—far more—who ask the clothier to continue to support him: “Don’t cancel Ye”, “da best thing that ever happened to yu (sic)”, “here for Ye”, “Ye is harmless man always like that when y’all will understand him?”, the simple “we love Kanye” and the adoring “Kanye is King”.
Should Gap budge? They probably won’t. Ditto for Adidas and Balenciaga, whose Demna Gvasalia is so chummy with Mr West that it is unlikely the designer would call the rapper out for his deplorable ways, or stop dressing him. Any fashion label linked to Kanye West has only fared well despite past transgressions. Just because they didn’t involve his now-single wife (they are not divorced yet!) does not mean there was no harassment targeted at women. Or, could it be possible that, in Mr West’s case, badness is good for business? Because in that package of wrongs, is an amalgam of talents? As he once said (on Sway In The Morning Radio Show, 2013), “I am Warhol! I am the number one most impactful artist of our generation. I am Shakespeare in the flesh. Walt Disney, Nike, Google.”
Delusional, some may call that, but Mr West believes in his own greatness and strengths, and has displayed them in full public view, augmenting his self-importance. All that publicness can’t escape scrutiny and being talked about, whether audibly or not. A big part of his success is that he’s discussed, whether flatteringly or otherwise. The multi-channel/platform chatter in its unfiltered, antagonistic glory is, perhaps, what Gap wants, even craves. In as much as we are living in the grasp of what author/Harvard professor Shoshana Zuboff calls “surveillance capitalism”, we are also in the grip of scrutinised social existence. Kanye West may say as he pleases and get away with it, but Gap—and the rest—may not merely associate with who they please and not account for their deliberate action. Either way, we are watching. Fashion deserves better.
Update (21 March 2022, 9am): The Los Angeles Times reported that “Kanye West has been pulled off the performance lineup for the upcoming Grammy Awards due to his recent erratic online behavior”. Trevor Noah Twittered, “I said counsel Kanye not cancel Kanye.” Even the leader of his own Sunday Service needs counselling
If you can’t afford the threads Kanye West wears to look ominously wrapped up, Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga has similar sinister options for you
Gap will, for the first time in their 53-year existence embrace the look of a dark lord—whether of the Sith or Mordor, or Hidden Hills, you choose. Their offshoot brand Yeezy Gap headed by the all-dominant Kanye West is now in a collaborative arrangement with Balenciaga, specifically the equally powerful Demna Gvasalia. The sub-brand of that sub-brand, Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga (another long name to add to the club of long names or text in a logo), has released images of the so-far 8-piece capsule that comprises way more that what Mr West has produced since his appointment in 2020, when he signed an unimaginable 10-year deal with The Gap Inc, reported to be “worth as much as $970 million”, according to estimates later provided by UBS.
This collection, compared to Yeezy (the fashion label), is another planet. We have to go back to the past since Mr West has only created two items—a puffer and a hoodie—for Yeezy Gap. While Yeezy (fate not yet known) was mostly sensuous and body-loving, the Yeezy Gap tie-up is moody, oversized stuff that members of the Abnegation (or, perhaps, off-duty folks of Dauntless) of Divergent Chicago would wear. But the pieces click with Mr West’s preference for basics that are sufficiently tweaked for the pieces to look outré, but not so much that the kids of Calabasas or the fans in not-yet-dystopian Chicago would find them hard to accept. This time, the merchandise—apparently ready to retail three months earlier than planned—is a grand selection of one hoodie, four tees (one long-sleeved, three with a blurred dove image on the back), a pair of track pants, one torn denim trucker and jeans to match.
While the clothes may not arouse zeal, the pricing would spark shock. The cheapest item, one of the four T-shirts, is S$180 a pop (S$210 if the logo on the chest is larger)! For Gap? Yeezy? That makes Comme des Garçons’s madly popular made-in-Japan Play tees, at S$100 a piece (or S$110 for the men’s sizes), alluringly cheap. Is Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga expensive because, other than the luxury-brand association, they are MAGA-proudly “made in the USA”? Or is this a Gap-backed Balenciaga diffusion line to infuse the fashion and pop world with baggy bombast? A venture to better propagate the increasingly bleak, individual-erasing aesthetic of the Ye-Demna pairing, already seen in so much visually associated with Mr West’s Donda album release, activities, and publicity?
Mr Gvasalia told Vogue, “This is a very different challenge. I’ve always appreciated the utilitarianism and the accessibility of Gap. This project allowed me to join forces (with Ye) to create utilitarian fashion for all.” Reaching out to this many is ambitious. The thought is pretty scary too, when you consider seeing before you, the hordes dressed as if to attend Kanye West’s Sunday Service, to worship at the alter presided by a polymath-proteus-egoist. Even if you stop outside the moving doors of this church/cult (which one it is, it’s hard to say), it does not mean you would not witness the many adopters for whom the two one-names behind Yeezy Gap’s latest offerings could do no wrong. Are there really that many wishing for this creepy uniformity?
Oh, do also note: on the Yeezy Gap website, there’s no button that says ‘add to cart’, but a brief line that urges you to ‘JOIN WAITLIST’. Yes, in all caps, just like Kanye West’s rant-Tweets.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5.
Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga is available online at Yeezy Gap and Farfetch. Photos: Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga
Kanye West demands a public apology for Travis Scott from Billie Eilish. Who does Ye think he is?
By Lester Fang
Kanye West is truly admirable. I think so; I do. No role he has played is too much, too bold, too absurd. He has styled himself as the arbiter of taste and the barometer of the zeitgeist, on top of whatever else he does in music. Oh, that is the wannabe president of the United States as well. Now, he’s a demander of apologies too. Not for himself, as you might expect, but for his presumed pal Travis Scott, the fellow now laying low after the Astroworld Festival tragedy. If you have not availed yourself to the entertainment (and entertaining) news of the week, it goes like this.
Billie Eilish was singing during a concert in Atlanta when she spotted someone in the crowd struggling to breathe. She paused her performance, and drew the attention of the crew to assist the person. (Ms Eilish, it should be said, is known to stop mid-performance during her shows to check on fans seeming unwell.) In videos shared on social media, Ms Eilish was seen pointing to the crowd with a hand holding a bottle of water and heard saying, “Do you need an inhaler?” And she did not go right back to singing. Wearing a baggy T-shirt and cycle shorts, she told the audience, “Guys, give it some time. Don’t crowd. Relax, relax, it’s okay… We’re taking care of people. I wait for people to be okay before I keep going.”
It sounds to me that Ms Eilish was explaining to the excited many who have come to watch her perform what the hold up was about. But Mr West read that very differently. On social media, he wrote in full caps, sans punctuation, as if barking: “COME ON BILLIE WE LOVE YOU PLEASE APOLOGIZE TO TRAV AND TO THE FAMILIES OF THE PEOPLE WHO LOST THEIR LIVES NO ONE INTENDED THIS TO HAPPEN TRAV DIDN’T HAVE ANY IDEA OF WHAT WAS HAPPENING WHEN HE WAS ON STAGE AND WAS VERY HURT BY WHAT HAPPENED…”
In response to Mr West’s post and demand, Ms Eilish wrote on IG somewhat conciliatorily, “Literally never said a thing about Travis. Was just helping a fan,” So, what in Donda‘s name was he thinking? According to some reports, Mr West was reacting to one RapseaTV news report that ran the headline “Billie Eilish dissed Travis Scott at her concert after she stopped the show to give her fan an inhaler!” on IG (the post is removed now). And he bought it? This is irony in its highest order when Mr West had attacked journalists, mid-concert, in a 2014 show in New Jersey. “Write that motherfxxxxxg headline when you try to make me look like a maniac or an animal,” he admonished. That was not the only time, of course. Some people suggested that his present fragile state is due to problems with his ex-wife. And Ms Eilish conveniently becomes another target of his easily-triggered acrimony, just as Taylor Swift was once before?
It is tempting to treat Mr West’s demand as facetious—just like his presidential bid—but he has threatened to pull out of the Coachella Music Festival. Should the organisers be intimidated? He and Ms Eilish are slated to be the festival’s headline acts. And Mr West did say on that IG post, “TRAV WILL BE WITH ME AT COACHELLA BUT NOW I NEED BILLIE TO APOLOGIZE BEFORE I PERFORM”. Did he, therefore, think that Ms Eilish had spoilt Travis Scott’s comeback bid while La Flame is still thick in lawsuits worth billions of dollars filed by the victims (and their families) of the Astroworld tragedy? Would Coachella really be worse off without eruptive Kanye West?
The estranged husband’s reaction is not surprising, even for someone whose ninth studio album is titled Jesus is King. Outbursts are almost synonymous with the star and designer. He rants as often and as passionately as he raps. But why, I wonder, is a 44-year-old censuring a woman of 20, doing nothing more than getting someone the help they need, not bullying? Or, are we to believe, like so many of his supporters do, including the many, many brands eagerly aligned with him, that the face stocking-wearing Sunday Service leader Kanye West can really do no wrong?
With the new track fromKanye West’s Donda, the line is clearly blurred
Kanye West, er, Ye (since last October, we keep forgetting) has a new single from the 27-track Donda album, called Heaven and Hell. Between those poles, he has put out a music video two days ago that is quite unlike any seen on his YouTube channel. This is not awash with the most amazing video effects or full of sensational fashion, or elephantine footwear. At about two half minutes long, Heaven and Hell is a rather short track. The accompany video is dark, gloomy, and dystopian-looking, more hell than heaven, with many people in it, all looking rather like Ye has this past Balenciaga-enabled year: facially obscured, mysterious, and inaccessible. Even zombies have more expression.
We see only silhouettes of the indistinct people. They seem to be monks—just men. Maybe the gender is incorporeal, inconsequential. Maybe they are non-binary. Just single beings, single units, single entities, looking from the shadows towards the abode of the Almighty. The singularity is rather odd for a proudly cisgender Ye, more so when he reminds us in the new song, “women producing, men go work” (taken from 20th Century Steel Band’s 1965 track Heaven and Hell on Earth). Were the faceless men working as they go about slow-mo in what looks like a housing estate? In the stills towards the end of the video, the hordes seem to be in battle. The end of days?
Could they be angels? One thing is for certain, all of them are outfitted in a black hoodie of one design. And at the end of the video, we learned, at the sight of the familiar blue logo, that the top was from Yeezy Gap. Not likely the trousers since the Gap and Yeezy partnership has only released one hoodie and one puffer jacket, so far. Is the MV sponsored by Gap then, or is this part of the marketing exercise of the two names coming together? If there were to be roles/talents/characters in the video, the people would need clothes. But Gap (traditionally) takes pride in the many colours of one style that they could merchandise. It is, therefore, unclear how this gloomy video could augment the (still) fading glory of Gap, even if it was announced that Balenciaga would “engineer“ something with Yeezy Gap. Or, is it just the black similitude that the brand sees as the way forward?
As with most of Ye’s music in recent years, Heaven and Earth is a sharing of the power of the Christian God and a show of the rapper’s evangelical flair. This, like all of Donda, doubles as soundtrack for his popular Sunday service. It isn’t known how Ye—now, a monosyllabic moniker, like God—reconciles the materialism, swagger and self-absorption of fashion with the values of religious dogma. “Save my people through the music,” Ye raps, but not once does he plead, through clothes (instead, “no more logos“), even when he has used fashion merchandise to preach, such as as his label Yeezy Sunday Service, sold through the Coachella pop-up Church Clothes. Despite acknowledging the part that image and clothing play, Ye is still unwavering in his devotional bent, sing-preaching/suggesting more good than goods; more God than Gap.
Now that we are going out more, I am also looking at things around me with greater keenness. Ugly’s trajectory, as I have been seeing, is not on the downward slide. Not even a bit. It is all around us like, what my mother would say, “bijan tumpah (spilled sesame seeds)”. Perhaps, I have spent too much time at home, avoiding Delta and its mutated siblings like some people would loanshark runners. Sure, as with most of you, I am vaccinated, but why court the unwelcome virus by throwing myself at crushing humanity? And, also like most of you, I can’t be holed up at home indefinitely. So out I went. To be certain, I do not dislike my own company within the four walls of my Sembawang flat. Yet, I can’t totally keep myself away from what has been amusing the world or fascinating many folks. Have things changed—or not—while I was ensconced at home?
One of the first trendy things I saw very recently, as we scramble into the holiday season, was the Yeezy Foam Runner. Okay, Kanye West’s alien-looking footwear, released last June, is not new, but I have not had an IRL view of it, just those boastful images shared on social media by Yeezy diehards who find anything Mr West puts out, including a very blah bubble jacket, attractive and desirable. These are still not as widely seen here as, say, Crocs, the first brand to make foam shoes so persistently ugly and crazily popular. So when I saw these bombastic Yeezys on actual moving feet, I had to go quite low to have a proper look at the rigid, masak-masak footwear. If they are worn and on a pavement, they can’t be toys, can they?
For sure, now one could miss those shoes. I don’t recall what the wearer looked like, but I remember his Yeezy Foam Runner. When he was still, his feet looked caged, as if restrained in a torture device or a chastity contraption. I wanted to ask him if they were comfortable, but I didn’t want to seem to doubt his happy feet. I wanted to know if the opening of his kicks is stretchy and if it was easy to push his feet through to rest inside the one-piece, but I did not want him to think that I thought that he, like many fashionistas, suffered for fashion. I wanted to know if the slip-on in the colour of oatmeal (Yeezy calls it “Ararat” in place of off-white) was easy to clean and if the many holes on the top and sides are dirt traps, but I resisted so that he would not mistake me for a germaphobe.
Kanye West seems to know what his fans want when it comes to footwear. Although so many unkind descriptions were thrown at the Yeezy Foam Runner, it continues to be in unimaginably high demand. Co-conceived with Yeezy’s design director Steven Smith, the monstrous shoe (it might be called a “Runner”, but we resist calling the bloated loaf a sneaker) was sold out within hours of its release last year. Who’d guess that ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam and some algae in a clog-like form could entrance that many shoe lovers and collectors? I thought I saw a silhouette that Zaha Hadid would have approved (look at those shoes she did with Lacoste in 2008). On that guy, the two sides of the Runner were dragged as if they were slippers. Pandemic or not, some things just don’t change.
Kanye West is partial to strange, bulky, indefinable shapes for his Yeezy line of footwear. To me, they often look like they are conceived to be worn by animals or, in the case of their weird Foam RNNR, some alien being. His latest, a pair of winter boots, is no exception. Padded, looking almost like a tree stump, with the stitches visible to create parallel curves, they appear to be more at home in elephantidae family than his group of ardent supporters, who considers Mr West a design god of sort. Called the YZY NSLTD BT (again, clearly a vowel-averse moniker. Yes, Yeezy Insulated Boot), it sports a mid-sole that looks like it was nicked from the Foam RNNR’s wavy, three-holes-to-the-side exo-skeleton support. Forgive the cliché: Kindred soles?
This BT is part of Yeezy Season 8, which was shown in Paris last March, if you still remember that. My memory is hazy, but I do recall now that the collection was not memorable. But, somehow, I am reminded of the perforamce of the designer’s daughter North West at the end of the show. Frankly, I don’t even know if Yeezy 8 was ever released (I checked with a New York contact, and he, too, has no idea). Still, here we are with a boot from that very season. The padded foot covering, likely in nylon, is itself not rewriting the aesthetic for those you pull on to trudge through snow. Margiela’s Puffer Snow Boots, for example, is Hulk-like, but is more discernible as footwear for human feet. But if Mr West’s current predilection for covering up and obscuring his body is any indication, he could also be keen on wearing boots that, from afar, might be mistaken for those of Yeti. Cool or crazy, I can’t say.
The YZY NSLTD BT “Khaki” is expected drop next month for USD250.Photo: Yeezy Mafia
It was a COVID-19 day. If the virus was indeed circulating in Orchard Road yesterday evening, outside the Foot Locker flagship at Orchard Gateway (the other half opposite 313@Orchard), they would have seen a delectable buffet. Such a shocking number of people (videos circulating online showed mostly kids) were crowding the entrance of the sneaker retailer that at some point, the police were called in. One SOTD reader who, was going to Uniqlo across the street, saw what he thought were personnel from the anti-riot Police Tactical Unit. Seriously? Apparently, even social distancing ambassadors could not manage the crowd. People didn’t care. Treasures and profiting were to be had inside Foot Locker. Coronaviruses, be damned.
The said covetable shoe was the Adidas Yeezy Boost 350—released for the umpteenth time. Yesterday’s launch was the V2 Core Black/Core Black/Red (first released in 2017). The Adidas website had announced weeks earlier that the sneaker would be launched yesterday, and by Thursday morning, had declared on their Facebook page that their online ballot had closed and that “winning entrants” would have been notified by e-mail. “For those who were unsuccessful,” it added, “you may stand another chance to purchase—our Pacific Plaza store will be contacting unsuccessful balloters in the case of drop outs on collection day.” And if even that couldn’t help the Yeezer lover, “…fret not. We will also be launching the Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Core Black/Core Black/ Red on adidas.com.sg come 5 December, 12pm.” Adidas didn’t think there would be this many who love the Yeezy Boost so much and want to touch a pair so desperately, they’d risk falling sick—seriously sick—to jam a store front for that chance.
Back to the old normal: The unbelievable crowd outside Foot Locker. Photo: solesuperiorsg/Instagram
But the staggering and disturbing Orchard Road turnout was not the only one. Apparently, over at Foot Locker’s Jewel outlet, close to 200 people crowded the store this morning, hoping to cop what they could not last night. A cheerful but perplexed staff told us that by eight, there was already a long queue. “We told them we don’t have the shoe,” he said helpfully. “Many left, but some still hanged around.” Why did he think people were so crazy about this pair of kicks? “I don’t know; I don’t get it. I think most who buy are re-sellers. I don’t know how they knew we had the shoe (at the Orchard store). We didn’t announce it. When we told them the shoes were sold out, they insisted we still had them.” What spell did Kanye West and Adidas cast on this unsexy sheath of sneakers?
The guy at Foot Locker Jewel continued, understandably on the side of his employer, “Actually, the people who came, they were out of control. We did our best to tell the people to social distance, but no one bothered. Actually the space (including the kerb) that they were crowding did not belong to us. The mall security didn’t help us; they let us do everything ourselves.” When we said we understood, just as we know how hard it has been for F&B outlet operators to tell people not to enter their premises in groups larger than five and not to mingle, he added, “These shoppers didn’t think about those working in the store. When we were asked to close for ten days (as instructed by the authorities this afternoon), all those people would have no work. But our company did not stop them working. The staff were shared among other stores.” Whatever, happened last night, Foot Locker alone should not have to shoulder the blame solely. However much you covet a shoe—any shoe, do not let COVID-19 win. Yeezy Boost is not a talisman.
Are these related family names the most formidable in the industry? Bear witness to the influence of the two Ks
Kanye West has caused the stocks of Gap Inc to slide. Improbable, but it has happened. And he has not even officially joined the company. We assume that to be so since Mr West has threatened to take off from the deal. Trying to proof that he can be a president at a campaign rally in Charleston, South Carolina, he said, “risk or no risk of losing whatever deal possible, I am not on the board at Adidas. I am not on the board at Gap. And that has to change today or I walk away,” Can he do that? Still, that was deemed such a serious threat that Gap’s stocks fell, according to Forbes, by 6% on Monday.
This news is a little familiar to us. Back in February, 2018, Mr West’s sister-in-law, the former billionaire Kylie Jenner similarly caused another company’s shares to drop. In a Twitter post that responded to Snapchat’s update, Ms Jenner wrote, “sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad.” It didn’t take long for the social media company’s stock to tumble. As Reuters reported, Snapchat’s suffered a US$1.5 billion loss in market value. Things apparently did not improve for Snapchat a year later. According to Markets Insider, “shares have never really recovered.”
When it was revealed that Kanye West will collaborate with Gap to create a sub-brand called Yeezy Gap, Gap Inc’s stocks soared by as much as 42%! The surge is understandable since Mr West’s Yeezy brand is valued at US$1.3 billion, according to Forbes. Gap must have thought that the rapper is a walking money-printing machine. Then came the no-longer-a-shocker: Mr West will run for his nation’s top job. And people began wondering if Gap was embroiled in a bad 10-year deal. Would Kanye West have time to design clothing? And, as we wondered, what kind of designing president would he make?
That Mr West’s words and possible moves are so influential boggles the mind. When it was announced that Raf Simons will join Prada, there was no news about a shock-spike in Prada’s stock. And Mr Simons is a lauded designer with haute couture credentials. How did we get to this point in the evolution of fashion, when celebrities with debatable talents could send the stocks of established companies (in the case of Gap, they are eight years older than Mr West) tumbling? Or, has fan adulation inadvertently handed over the reigns of power to celebrities who sit on the throne called social media?
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.