Gap Makes Break Up With Kanye West Official

 

It’s an abrupt end to a tie-up envisioned as a billion-dollar opportunity to revitalise the Gap brand.

By guest author Marc Bain from Business of Fashion.

Caption courtesy by Gap

It was meant to last 10 years; it made it barely more than two.

On Thursday, Gap said it would end its partnership with Ye (the artist formerly known as Kanye West) in an internal email viewed by The Business of Fashion. It was sent just hours after the Wall Street Journal reported West’s lawyers had notified Gap that he wanted to terminate the deal.

“Simply put…while we share a vision of bringing high-quality, trend-forward, utilitarian design to all people through unique omni experiences with Yeezy Gap, how we work together to deliver this vision is not aligned,” said the email, which was sent to Gap Inc. employees by Mark Breitbard, president and chief executive of the Gap brand. “We are deciding to wind down the partnership.”

The move marks an abrupt end to a partnership with billion-dollar ambitions that was originally meant to last 10 years. Gap had hoped the tie-up could help revitalise its struggling brand. But the collaboration was slow to release products. In roughly the first year and a half after its launch in 2020, it yielded just two items: a puffer jacket and a hoodie that were only available online.

Earlier this year, Balenciaga teamed with Yeezy Gap on a bigger collection “engineered” by the luxury house. Those items were more widely distributed and rolled out to Gap stores, but the clothes and their merchandising felt jarringly disconnected from Gap’s core offering.

The partnership faced doubts from the start, with former Gap CEO Mickey Drexler saying the deal didn’t make sense. It was also marked by internal tensions, according to a report from The New York Times.

Lately West had been airing his frustrations about the Gap partnership, as well as his long-standing relationship with Adidas on social media.

The termination letter sent by West’s lawyers Thursday alleged that Gap breached the terms of the deal by not releasing apparel from the collaboration and failing to open retail stores. It stated that Gap was supposed to have begun selling 40 percent of the Yeezy Gap collection in physical stores in the second half of 2021. The letter also claimed that by July 2023 Gap is supposed to have opened as many as five stores focused on Yeezy Gap products, though it hasn’t opened any to date, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“Sometimes I would talk to the guys, the leaders, and it would just be like I was on mute or something,” West said during an interview with CNBC Thursday. “Our agenda, it wasn’t aligned.”

In his email to Gap employees, Breitbard indicated that the company would continue with the rest of the Yeezy Gap launches already in the company’s pipeline.

“We are truly grateful to our Yeezy Gap team members who have given so much to build this brand, and we will take the new, hyper-entrepreneurial ways of working we learned through this process with us as we move forward,” the email said. “We will focus on our strategies to strengthen the brand and continually push the boundaries of what Gap can deliver.”

But the failure of the deal is undoubtedly an unwelcome turn for Gap Inc., which despite its efforts has been unable to turn around its namesake brand.

“Kanye’s decision to terminate his partnership with Gap will come as a blow to the brand, which had pinned its hopes on Kanye’s magic to help revitalise interest in its ailing business,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of research firm GlobalData, in an emailed statement. “It is also an embarrassment for Gap which announced the deal with the iconic artist with much fanfare.”

Editor’s Note: This article was amended on Sept. 15, 2022, to add additional details and amend the duration of the partnership.

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