Yeezy x Gap is over. In dramatic fashion, and following months of complaints about the collaboration, rapper Kanye West announced he was cutting ties with the American mass retailer.
In an interview with CNBC on Sep. 15, West said he would go it alone and expressed he was frustrated with the way clothes were presented in Gap’s stores and by the slow rollout. Gap had also promised to open up to five stores dedicated to selling Yeezy x Gap products. West now plans to open his own Yeezy retail locations, starting in Atlanta first.
He later told Bloomberg “now it’s time for Ye to make the new industry. No more companies standing in between me and the audience.”
A move into the direct-to-consumer business would see him follow a model his ex-wife Kim Kardashian and the rest of her family have seen huge success with, thanks to their huge reality TV presence and social media followings. Her sister Kylie Jenner, the first of the Kardashian clan to achieve billionaire status, made her fortune with her cosmetics line, Kylie Beauty, by teasing it to her fans directly on Instagram. Although former spouse Kardashian does have some wholesale distribution for her shapewear label Skims such as selling through Nordstrom, most sales are powered through her own website.
In contrast, West’s adventures in fashion have been more reliant on big brand partners, which provides the advantage of large distribution for little additional outlay, but tends to sacrifice creative control.
West’s lucrative partnership with Adidas, the German sports giant, may be next to go. Although the partnership doesn’t expire until 2026, West, who is known for his volatile antics, has ramped up a litany of complaints about the athletic-wear maker. He has asserted that Adidas has started copying some of his designs for the company’s main line, and that it released unapproved colorways.
Kanye West is a billionaire, for now
The publication valued West at $2 billion this year, thanks in part to a stake in Skims, as well as real estate assets and his music career. However, Forbes estimates that the deal with Adidas is worth $1.5 billion over several years and if he were to sever ties with Adidas it would “knock his fortune to well below $1 billion.”
In 2021, Forbes valued West’s ex-wife Kardashian at $1 billion, amassed through her cosmetics line KKW Beauty, Skims, and numerous endorsement deals. This week, Kardashian announced she is creating a private equity firm to invest in consumer and media businesses.