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Will Kanye West make Gap interesting again?

Gap has a lot to gain from this partnership. But what about Yeezy?

Will Kanye West make Gap interesting again?
Kanye West [Photo: courtesy Gap Inc]

As a teenager, Kanye West worked at the Gap in his hometown of Chicago. Now, he’s inked a 10-year deal to bring his streetwear brand Yeezy to Gap.

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The line will be an affordable collection of basics for men, women, and kids that will exist separately from his high-end line, which is available on his website Yeezy Supply. The first Yeezy Gap items will launch in the first half of 2021, and under the terms of the partnership, West will receive royalties and potential equity based on sales, according to a joint statement from the brands.

[Image: courtesy Gap Inc]
The partnership makes sense for Gap, the 51-year-old San Francisco brand that’s been flailing for years. It hasn’t had a strong identity since the ’90s, when it was well-known for its array of khakis. Due to declining revenues, it has been forced to shutter more than 100 stores in recent years. And all of that was before the coronavirus arrived, forcing the brand to temporarily shutter its remaining stores.

Bringing on the Yeezy brand has the potential to make Gap interesting again. Yeezy also focuses on basics, but under West’s creative direction, garments are far more elevated. He’s known for his muted color palettes and layered looks. A runway outfit might feature work boots, utility pants, and an oversize trench coat over a hoodie, all in the caramel shade.  He loves playing with textures as well. A recent season featured models wearing white puffer coats with leggings and slides, all of which had a fuzzy, woolly exterior. If West brings his own unique take on basics to this new collaboration, it could breathe much needed life into a dying brand. Investors certainly believe there’s potential here: When news of the partnership was announced, Gap’s stock soared by 30%.

The question is what does West have to gain, or lose, from this partnership? West is the sole owner of Yeezy, which is valued at $2.9 billion. The brand has been thriving since he launched it a decade ago. This isn’t the first partnership for Yeezy: Since 2013, it has partnered with Adidas on a successful sneaker line. Yeezy products come at an elevated price point, with shoes that cost upwards of $300 and garments that can cost several thousand. It’s possible that creating clothes at Gap’s price point, which averages less than $50, could dilute the Yeezy brand.

On the other hand, Gap gives Yeezy access to millions more customers around the world, and could turn it into a household name. So don’t be surprised if your dad comes home with a sick Yeezy Gap hoodie the next time he stops by the mall to refill his khaki drawer.

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About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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