Over the past couple of weeks, ‘Yeezy x Gap, engineered by Balenciaga’ has been the most discussed trio in the Hypebeast suburbs. Yeezy x Gap, the Rebel and the Corporate in a tormented collab: a slow start, the rumors begin, Demna joining the couple, the announcement of an “open engineer-ship”, and finally the collection’s birth…
It truly has been Popcorn time for fashion soap opera lovers!
When it comes to Ye, you can expect nothing but the unconventional. But what happens when such genius and recklessness meet the corporate systemic structure of Gap Inc.?
More than mere rumors, the interviews made by the fashion gurus Friedman, Testa, and Maheshwari for The New York Times seem to confirm that Yeezy x Gap has been an ‘arranged marriage’. And Demna? The spice that lit up the spark.
The fashion industry is already questioning the marketing objectives of a 10-year-secured, unusual partnership. After all, everyone is asking… How the hell did it happen?
Yeezy x Gap: The Unusual Engagement
It was 2020, and the corporation Gap Inc – the parent company of Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy and Athleta- was sailing in troubled waters: a long-lasting downtrend in the company’s finance and the premature departure of its chief executive was causing the boat to leak. Just so you have an idea, the same year Gap Inc. announced that they would close around 350 Gap and Banana Republic stores in North America in 4 years. Business-wise, the company needed a long-term twist!
Picture this: Some centuries ago in some remote land far far away, tradition saw any suitor negotiating the dowry with the bride-to-be’s family. Sort of halfway between courtship and a commercial agreement. “I’ll take care of her, pay for her bills and love her forever. In exchange for….”
Well.. that’s more or less how I could imagine a negotiation between Gap and Kayne in an 1800s novel version. But the fact remains that Yeezy x Gap collab was meant to bring $1 billion dollar in Gap’s annual sales. Or at least, those were the premises when in June 2020 a 10-years-engagement between the parties was announced.
Gap’s objective was to raise sales through Ye’s popularity and influence… And that’s a quite self-evident strategy. But hype lovers had to wait almost a year for a couple of Yeezy x Gap drops online. Needless to say, they sold out in less than a breath!
The first Yeezy x Gap piece, the Round Jacket, was launched in June 2021. A bunch of months later, a cotton hoodie followed up. Though, the considerable delay suggested that something was going on in the Yeezy x Gap house.
Because it brought together two opposite approaches. Kayne is an eclectic talent and profile, that embraces multiple creative processes. On the other hand, Gap is a big corporation, with strict hierarchies, SKUs, and calendars.
It was a hazardous bet to make those two worlds co-work. Just in that period, Kayne’s socials swung from a presidential candidacy to his personal problems with the Kardashian Goddess, passing through the outing on his bipolar disorder, while the corporate side was struggling to find a way to cut their losses.
Ye Demna Gap: The Epic Threeway
We can say that Gap wasn’t all that ‘happy’ about Kayne missing deadlines. I can guess his perfectionism and experimentations implied a series of unusual delays in the corporate schedule. In the end, between the two drops, Gap hired the chief executive Leonardo Lawson, to mediate between the corporate and the creative approach.
But by that time, Ye had already texted Demna.
The affinity between the two talents is worldwide knowledge since 2015 when they worked together on the first Yeezy collection in Season 1. In this round, in march 2021, Demna was called to bring structure to the brand, with his innovative view on experimentation, atelier culture and patternmaking.
In other words, Demna was called to light the spark and to make that relationship work. Was that the beginning of a couple’s therapy?
The creative director of Balenciaga isn’t definitely new to the unconventional and unusual. Just think about the revolution he set off in haute couture. We all know he was the perfect fit to make things work!
Demna and Ye started engineering the prototypes in the Balenciaga studios in Paris and Zurich. Once ready for the launch, the Gap team industrialized them. With the three-way partnership new formula, the ball started rolling.
The first Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga designs were dropped online in late February 2022. In May, a second collection was released and sold out on the GAP website. And then came July.
A New, ‘Engineered‘ Birth
July’s headlines were crowded with the mantra Yeezy-Gap-Balenciaga. In New York Square, the first physical Yeezy Gap store opened its doors to the hype lovers. The second collection has also been restocked on the Balenciaga website, while a virtual game experience was developed for online users and in-store customers.
Finally, the collab has been bearing fruits.
The collection was meant to reflect Gap’s “timeless silhouettes translated through the lens of Ye and Demna’s vision of utilitarian design”. But actually, the unique touch and approach of the Ye+Demna combo have been quite evident. Among the pieces presented, is the iconic Round Jacket: which comes in black and skilfully redefined by Demna, has become a signature piece in Kayne’s portfolio.
Stripped to basic and naked form, the first Yeezy x Gap physical space is a dystopic environment that literally screams “KAYNE” in its essence. Black walls and long industrial tables were the perfect frames to present the collection. In black-duty refuse sacks no less. A unique environment, that heavily defines the identity of the brand: utilitarian, essential, and unconventional.
Yeezy x Gap after Balenciaga
So, now that the relationship seems to be on the right pathway, it is time for Demna to leave. What’s going to happen?
Time will tell… After all, who is really able to predict Ye’s next steps?
“This was just step No. 1. He needed a starting point, and that was my challenge: to give him the starting point. But he is still miles and miles away from where he wants this to go.” commented Demna.
On the Gap gaze, the ‘enginereed’ formula has assembled structure for new collaborations. And the premises for an open, fluid ‘relationship’. ‘Fluid’ is the proper word used by Mr. Lawson to define the whole collab with Kayne.” [It ] has been about being fluid,” and “creating new ways of doing things”. But one should wonder whether such fluidity will meet profits. Skepticism around Gap-Kayne’s long-term benefits has been raised among industry experts and analysts.
But what is sure is that fans and hypebeasts… are already belting on the next love triangle.