The Tao of the Yeezy Gap x Balenciaga project
The marriage of fashion and music, streetwear and luxury, mass and elite is about to reach its final frontier. The widespread collaboration between mononyms of power, cultural influencers and best friends Ye (formerly Kanye West) and Demna (formerly Demna Gvasalia, the creative director of Balenciaga) came to fruition with the January 7 announcement of a new joint project: “Yeezy Gap designed by Balenciaga. “
Exactly what this means is not yet clear. The press release described it as “a new creative exploration” and said it would continue “Ye’s commitment” to “realizing his vision of utilitarian design for all.” The only design element that has been revealed is a slightly twisted version of the Yeezy Gap logo with the YZY branding on a black rectangle, although this time around the corners have been rounded and the whole thing oozes slightly off-center. A spokeswoman for Gap said the first examples of anything would be unveiled in June.
It could be clothes! It could be something completely different! Who knows.
What the project generally means, however, is simpler to analyze: a collective collapse between hypebeasts and big-name designers and good things for Gap, which is in the news again before the actual products have even gone. been revealed. (You might not have done a lot in the first year and a half of his 10-year deal with Gap, but he made a lot of marketing noise, which may be worth the investment.)
Ye and Demna have both been geniuses at creating and cultivating their own notions of community, breaking down old silos and stereotypes, and what they stand for together will be more than the sum of their parts. The potential variety of who will buy in their world is huge, and if the cost of citizenship is a T-shirt or a carry bag, well… expect it to sell. The real object is almost irrelevant. What matters is what it represents in terms of the value system as adopted by the creators, and their ability to crystallize a moment of social evolution. Every object is a potential artifact.
A precedent has already been set by the two pieces Ye has produced for Gap so far – a puffer jacket that looks like a cross between a giant pillow and a garbage bag, and a hoodie that looks like a cute sweatshirt. generic hoodie – and through their earlier collaboration on Ye’s “Donda” listening events in Atlanta and Chicago, which Demna ran (using her vacation to do so, he told me last year) . Each created an outsized buzz and garnered the kind of attention that, taken out of context or examined objectively, can seem almost inexplicable.
As you might expect from the mind of the designer who grew up in Georgia in the former Soviet Union, immigrated with his family to Europe and found himself atop one of France’s most famous heritage houses. most famous and the Chicago rapper who briefly ran for president. But they are clearly fangirls of each other’s work. (Another rumor was that Ye bought just about an entire Balenciaga stock store last year, and his ex-wife Kim Kardashian now wears almost exclusively Balenciaga.)
Additionally, both have a vested creative interest in uplifting the everyday, although Demna focuses on reinventing the basics with the most extreme high fashion techniques and Ye’s pushing high fashion ideas to the mass market. Both are increasingly interested in scale and spectacle. And both have the will to question just about every type of convention received that unites them in artistic harmony. At least that’s what Demna told me when I spoke to her at the end of last year.
The two have known each other for six or seven years but, said Demna, “have had a very intense creative exchange for about two years,” usually via text and WhatsApp.
To be precise, Demna said, “With Ye I have something that I don’t really have with other people I know, where anything is possible. Sky is the limit. He’s so out of the box. Everything we know is uninteresting. What’s the next thing? He always thinks and talks about the future, and it’s very motivating. It’s like, ‘Hey, what about the buttons? Do you like buttons? ‘ We spent about 2.5 hours talking about pimples. She’s the only person I know who goes that far in questioning things.
“Packaging. Why do we need packaging? Why can’t we just roll up a T-shirt and send it? Why the logo on the chest? Because you have buttons! mark in the middle of the garment.
“For me, talking with him is like stepping back in time to an 8-year-old who doesn’t have all these barriers and filters. And these kinds of conversations help me grow as a designer because I’m like, “Yeah, why? Why do we do it like this? I had never thought of it before. It makes me a better designer. Sometimes that doesn’t get me anywhere, but sometimes it triggers a thought that causes me to change the way I conceive. I think it’s the same with him – he feels he needs to share things with me and see what I’m thinking.
“We don’t have ego issues either. Very often for two creatives to have this exchange, ego can be an issue. We don’t have that.
Demna also said that the experience of creating sets for “Donda” was thrilling for him – as thrilling as fashion design – and opened up new creative possibilities. “The other night I woke up and I had all these ideas to write on the phone about the set design,” he said. “I woke up at five o’clock and couldn’t sleep after that. I would like to achieve them.
So maybe the “Yeezy Gap designed by Balenciaga” project will have something to do with it. Maybe Demna will design every Gap store. It might be a game. It might be a carrying bag. Whatever it is, though, and as much as it feels like it’s pulling our leg, they’ll probably have a lot of fun doing it. And it will be something to think about, not just to see.