Kanye West said he intends to prematurely end his 10-year contract with apparel chain Gap Inc. and he announced on social media that he plans to open a chain of Yeezy stores in Atlanta and expand across the U.S. and the world.
In August, West criticize Gap for allegedly copying his designs and cutting him out of the creative process, Wall Street Journal reported. In a video clip posted on Instagram, he told Gap executives, “You have to really give me the position to be Ye and let me do what I’m thinking, or I have to do the thinking somewhere else.”
A letter from West’s lawyers said Gap breached the agreement by not releasing apparel and opening retail stores as planned. In the letter, West formally notified Gap Inc. that his Yeezy LLC fashion brand was ending the partnership.
Gap Inc. suggested it was a mutual decision, saying it is winding down the partnership with West and that they are “not aligned” in how they work together, according to a memo seen by The Wall Street Journal.
West claims that the Gap did not meet the terms of its agreement to sell 40 percent of the Yeezy Gap clothing in brick-and-mortar stores during the second half of 2021, according to a letter signed by Nicholas Gravante Jr., a partner with Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP.
Gap president Mark Breitbart said “that throughout this partnership, we have upheld our commitments.”
Twitter users opined about what went wrong.
“In the streets, in fashion, Gap was an iconic yet old brand,” tweeted @DLH106. “The Gap wasn’t cool, the youth wasn’t wearing Gap. Kanye made Gap popular again. I’m not sure why they didn’t let Kanye create and push his products throughout every Gap store in America.”
A CNBC interviewer asked West if he thought Gap could ever regain its cool again. “They have one individual on the planet that can save the Gap,” West replied. “Sometimes the answer is sitting right in front of you. Don’t bring a leader in and have them not lead.”
Gap Inc. has a $3.317 billion market cap and its “annual dividend yields handsomely, However, its dividend payouts have been declining over the past few years,” according to Entrepreneur.com. It sells apparel, accessories, and personal care products under the Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, and Athleta brands.
West, whose Forbes net worth is $2 billion, told CNBC, “I’m not going to argue with people that are broker than me about money.”
The first Yeezy Gap item, a hoodie, went on sale in the fall of 2021, but was available only on Gap’s website.
It wasn’t until the French luxury house Balenciaga got involved that products under the name Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga made their debut in stores in July 2022, WSJ reported.
New Yeezy Gap products are scheduled to arrive in stores for the fall and holiday season, according to the company, priced less than $100, compared to the more expensive Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga products.
The Gap still plans to release upcoming Yeezy Gap items in the pipeline, according to a Breitbard memo sent to employees.
West has long held ambitions to affect fashion the way he did music, WSJ reported. In 2009, he interned at the Italian fashion house Fendi. He had hoped to become artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear, but his friend Virgil Abloh go the job. Abloh died of cancer in November.
West talked on Instagram in August about opening his own retail stores worldwide, starting in Atlanta.
In a recent Forbes interview, he described plans to regain control of his creations and sell affordable clothing to the masses, focusing “his light and fire.”
For example, he said he wants to sell his highly-anticipated YZY SHDZ glasses for $20 at his Ye Supply store.
“When it’s sold in America, it’ll be made in America, and when it’s sold in China, it’ll be manufactured in China,” West said. “So the glasses will cost $20, and everything in the Ye Supply store will be $20. And, we’re working on how to make clothing free. Because life is free.”
In a CNBC interview, West said that he had originally wanted his Gap pieces to be sold for $20, but Gap priced them between $60 and $300, HypeBeast reported.