As expected, the majority of Ye’s newest collaborative drop sold out almost instantly—but what exactly are we buying?
In this day and age, it’s perfectly acceptable to have mixed feelings about the artist formerly known as Kanye West. If his politics and personal life have become increasingly cringeworthy over the course of his career, it’s equally true that his creative output remains difficult to turn away from; as a perpetually polarizing yet popular figure, Ye continues to give us all plenty to gawk at.
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
While much of his cachet arguably now lies in courting chaos, this week, Ye dropped not one, but two highly anticipated projects. On Tuesday, it was the controversial but nevertheless star-studded release of Donda 2. On Wednesday, Ye kept the momentum going with the second release in his 10-year partnership with Gap, Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga.
Designed in collaboration with that label’s creative director, fellow mononymous designer Demna (Gvasalia), the first eight garments of the reportedly two dozen reworked Gap staples ranged in price from $120 to $440—and predictably, almost immediately sold out. (Those items are now waitlisted, though as of the writing of this article, there were still $140 branded t-shirts and $180 fitted sweatpants available for purchase.)
“The first eight styles reflect timeless silhouettes translated through the lens of Ye and Demna’s shared vision of utilitarian design,” explained a press release obtained by People magazine about the garments, adding that they “pay tribute to Gap’s timeless American icons rendered anew in wash, hue and silhouette.”
“This is a very different challenge,” Demna told Vogue magazine as the drop debuted. “I’ve always appreciated the utilitarianism and the accessibility of Gap. I share some of the same sensibilities in my creative language. This project allowed me to join forces [with Ye] to create utilitarian fashion for all.”
“Utilitarian” would be one word for it. Accessible? Not so much—which is why it’s understandable if some are underwhelmed by the collaboration’s high-priced offerings. With the exception of the drop’s detailed and padded denim jacket (waitlisted $440), the designs are largely lacking the love-it-or-hate-it pop-cultural distinction of the primary-colored Yeezy Gap Round Jacket that instantly sold out last June and garnered a re-release this February. A flying dove motif on the back of Yeezy Gap x Balenciaga’s otherwise over-dyed and Gap logo-laden basics seems an attempt to circumvent that; while the brand’s press release claims the illustration “represents an unnamed hope for the future,” for many, it will likely just signal possession of a coveted big-name drop.
No doubt that’s what all three brands are banking on, because what exactly are we buying, anyway?
Granted, we are far from the first to be underwhelmed by Ye’s aesthetic—memorably, Ice-T compared his fellow rapper’s runway looks to “future slave gear.” But his aesthetic is exactly what is for sale. Given what Ye himself has come to represent, separating the art from the artist is irrelevant; he’s not asking us to. As recently noted by cultural critic Touré:
You may or may not consider Kanye a supervillain though he does seem to relish the role of the heel as if he longs to trigger us into disliking him. Some performers purposely try to piss off the audience. They dig themselves into a hole just to see if they can dig themselves out and win the audience back. This is what Kanye has done with his life in recent years, and it’s exhausting.
So as we consider Ye’s current and future drops, the question really might be: Do we want to wear the emperor’s new clothes? If so, the first eight looks in the Yeezy Gap x Balenciaga collection are currently available for purchase and waitlist on YeezyGap.com.
Maiysha Kai is Lifestyle Editor of theGrio, covering all things Black and beautiful. Her work is informed by two decades’ experience in fashion and entertainment, a love of great books and aesthetics, and the indomitable brilliance of Black culture. She is also a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and editor of the YA anthology Body (Words of Change series).
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