Balenciaga’s one-named creative director and WWD’s 2021 Newsmaker of the Year, Demna has unveiled his first surprise of the new year: A collaboration with Yeezy Gap that’s sure to make hype beasts hyperventilate.
The first release of products under the Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga label are set for a global release in June, with a second drop following later in the year.
Kanye West has a proven track record with Gap so far.
The first Yeezy Gap product, a $200 round puffer jacket, launched June 8, 2021, sold briskly and now commands a steep premium on resale sites. The second, a $90 sweatshirt launched Sept. 29, 2021, delivered the most sales in a single day in the retailer’s 52-year history, with 70 percent of customers new to the brand, according to Gap.
In a brief statement on Friday, Yeezy Gap said “this first-of-its-kind launch sees Ye’s peerless vision bring together the most influential designer of his generation, Demna, with iconic American brand, Gap.” (Ye is Kanye West’s new name since October.)
Yeezy Gap also unveiled a new logo for the collaboration, grounded in black with the letters YZY in caps.
West, who worked at Gap as a teenager in Chicago, signed a 10-year deal with the retailer in 2020, which raised some eyebrows considering his past erratic behavior, including pledging his support for president Donald Trump on Twitter, visiting him at Trump Tower, and wearing a Make America Great Again cap, to which many fans objected.
In July 2020, he announced his own candidacy for president, calling for support of the environment and arts, as well as police reform, among other things. But across the 12 states where his name appeared on ballots, he won fewer than 60,000 votes. He’s teased that he may run again in 2024.
Last year he continued to be in the headlines after wife Kim Kardashian West filed for divorce, and he made statements about getting back together with her, even as she moved on with “Saturday Night Live” star Pete Davidson.
In the last week, West has moved on himself and started seeing “Uncut Gems” actress Julia Fox. The two have been spotted together in New York City, reportedly trailed by a photographer hired by West.
On Thursday night, Interview Magazine published a series of arty photos and a first-person account by Fox detailing her date night with the rapper, including him stocking her hotel room with designer clothing, Cinderella-style. (West was also an early architect of Kardashian’s fashion.) While out on the town, the two attended “Slave Play” and dined at Carbone.
In other West news, it was revealed that he will headline the next Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April, along with Billie Eilish. If the festival is not canceled by COVID-19, as it has been the past two years, the timing should add more buzz to the Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga collaboration launching in June. (West has been a fixture at Coachella for years, including hosting his popular Sunday Service at the event in Indio, Calif., on Easter Sunday in 2019.)
The Gap Balenciaga project suggests unexpected collaborations are still very much in vogue, including ones between designer and mass brands — this 18 years after Karl Lagerfeld stunned the industry by unveiling a one-off collection with H&M.
It also underlines the budding friendship between the American music superstar and the Georgian fashion designer, who share a Margiela-esque penchant for obscuring their faces with fabric.
Back in July, when they were still known as Kanye West and Demna Gvasalia, West parachuted into Paris to witness Gvasalia’s couture debut for Balenciaga, which marketed its return to the high-fashion calendar after a 53-year absence.
Demna soon after went on to act as creative director of release events for West’s latest album, “Donda.”
Those spectacles involved austere, yet majestic staging and lighting, dancers with black fabric covering their faces, and West donning a black Balenciaga bomber jacket festooned with sinister spikes.
Demna, who revealed in a WWD interview in December that he maps out collections as much as a year ahead of time, may have teased the collaboration with his fall 2021 effort for Balenciaga, unveiled last April.
Among the men’s looks was a hoodie stamped with the signature lettering of the famous American casual brand with one letter changed: Gay, and the word Pride written smaller underneath.
Shares in Gap Inc. shot up in June when the company revealed that West’s Yeezy design studio would create a line of basics for men, women and kids at “accessible price points” for its stores and website. Nigerian-born Central Saint Martins graduate Mowalola Ogunlesi was named design director for the line, whose ambition is to deliver Ye’s vision of utilitarian design for all.
Last March, Bloomberg reported that Gap expects the Yeezy line to reach $150 million in sales in its first full year, and it is anticipated that it could evolve into a billion-dollar brand.
The introduction of Yeezy is just one of the big changes underway at Gap, which has trimmed its store base and is viewing itself as more of a brand than a retailer, including debuting a home collection at Walmart. Even so, the retailer reported lower-than-expected earnings for the third quarter of 2021.
For the three-month period ending Oct. 30, total company revenues fell 1 percent to $3.94 billion, down from $3.99 billion a year earlier, mostly due to supply chain headwinds.
Still, Sonia Syngal, chief executive officer of Gap Inc., was upbeat about Yeezy. “We’re unlocking a new audience for Gap,” she said.
Meanwhile, Balenciaga continues to add pop-culture projects alongside its designer ready-to-wear and rarified couture, having unfurled a bespoke episode of “The Simpsons” alongside its Red Carpet Collection during Paris Fashion Week in October, alongside multiple tie-ups with Crocs.
Demna shuns the term collaborations, but last year teamed with Kering stablemate Alessandro Michele of Gucci for a “hacking project” that saw each designer pilfer brand iconography from each other for capsule product lines.