‘He’s a star, Gap is benefiting from that’: will Kanye West save the clothing giant?

Lifestyle

The Gap has released the second item from its collaboration with Kanye West’s Yeezy label. A black puffer called a “go round” jacket, which the rapper wore at the Balenciaga couture show, follows the electric blue puffer jacket which went on sale in June.

Insiders are hoping that the collaboration will reverse the fortunes of the retail giant and the signs are positive. The home of khaki lost $62m (£45m) in the third quarter of last year, according to Women’s Wear Daily, and confirmed plans to close all 81 of its physical stores in the UK and Ireland. But after news of West’s collaboration with the firm, which was announced in June 2020, Gap’s share price surged by as much as 40%, according to CNBC, adding $700m in value to the brand. Last week, the financial services company Wells Fargo told CNBC that the collaboration could net the company $1bn in its first year of sales.

The Yeezy X Gap will sell menswear, womenswear and kidswear but it is West’s hoodies that insiders believe will be the jewel in the crown of the collaboration.

“The good thing for Gap is that Kanye still has enough fans for hoodies to drive sales,” says author and associate editor of Rap Pages, Ronda Racha Penrice. In the link-up, Yeezy, a label known for its elevated hoodies, will reap the benefits of the pandemic-led boom in comfortwear such as velour tracksuits and sweatpants. Before the pandemic, West told the Wall Street Journal: “The hoodie is arguably the most important piece of apparel of the last decade.”

The collaboration could also allow the entrepreneur to release his mainstream fashion dreams. In that same interview he said he believed, “Yeezy is the McDonald’s and the Apple of apparel.”

“Kanye has always wanted a big mainstream platform to work on,” says Jeff Carvalho, executive editor of streetwear website Highsnobiety. “Gap is about as mainstream as it gets in hitting the malls, and accessibility to the product has long been a mantra of his. Being mainstream is the new cool when it comes to lifestyle brands.”

Arby Li, editor in chief of men’s fashion website Hypebeast says that it “shouldn’t diminish” the value of Yeezy. “When his footwear line first launched he stated that everyone who wanted to get a pair would eventually be able to do so and that statement became true, which is very interesting in a culture that’s fixated on limited releases,” he says.

It will benefit Gap, too, which recently announced a homewear line, to be stocked by Walmart. “There’s already a payoff for Gap from a PR perspective,” says Racha Penrice. Despite his pro-Trump allegiances and his controversial slavery comments, both of which alienated fans, she believes this won’t affect Yeezy X Gap sales. “He’s still a star and now Gap is benefiting from that,” she says. “We are talking about Gap here and it’s been mentioned quite a bit on social media, not to mention by influential publications, so this looks like a promising partnership.”

Indeed, West is determined to make the collaboration, products from which are set to be released this year, work. “I spoke to Yeezy and he’s very, very focused on this incredible opportunity,” Sonia Syngal, Gap’s chief executive, told the Business of Fashion.

“[It will] provide balance for them both,” says Racha Penrice. “With Yeezy becoming slightly more approachable while also giving Gap an edge it has been missing for some time now.”