Yeezy, Gap, Balenciaga Pact Reflects Reality That Designer Partnerships are in Style Right Now


As any good cook will tell you, the best dishes often evolve after a few ingredients in an existing recipe are changed. The magic, the thinking goes, lies within the tinkering.

This logic of trying new things, of experimenting with something known in hopes of making it better, is very much alive and on display in retail circles right now.

While the existing billion dollar, 10-year deal between Gap and singer, designer and entrepreneur Kanye West’s Yeezy line is only 18 months and two product launches deep, the tinkering of that recipe has already begun.

In announcing their new three-way tie-up via a mix of social media posts and a terse 75-word press release late last week, the Yeezy-Gap-Balenciaga trio burst onto the scene, garnering a mix attention from a disparate flocks of followers who were interested in the partnership — and its potentialities — for very different reasons.

Although the details of the deal are sparse, the message it sends is clear; partnerships and design collaborations may be the season’s hot new fashion trend, as in, why go it alone and bear all the risk of a product launch by yourself when a bilateral — or trilateral — solution can spread the risk?

Three Heads are Better Than One

In this case, the tie-up warrants analysis of the three players involved and what each brings to the table.

On the Yeezy front, it’s easy. Anything Kanye West (who now goes by “Ye,” the second syllable of his first name) touches, says or does garners a paparazzi response that immediately connects with hundreds of millions of followers and fans, as well as with even a half-interested but socially-connected audience.

There are also legions of street wear fashion aficionados who closely monitor and follow West’s styling cues. Taken together, West’s current ability to generate attention and buzz and ultimately consumer demand is second to none. That said, as PYMNTS recently reported, celebrity endorsements may usually work well but the narrowness of their nature creates a disproportionate exposure linked to the continued good behavior of a single individual.

For Gap, the 50+ year-old diversified apparel retailer, the new partnership marks the latest milestone in a growing list of joint ventures that are bringing fresh products into its own online portfolio and 4,000 stores as well as those of its partners.

It is worth noting that the Gap Home collection with Walmart that was announced eight months ago has already gone through one round of tinkering and expansion in its short lift as the two retailers look to deepen their relationship and sales.

Lastly, there is 100-year-old Spanish designer Balenciaga, a high-fashion label owned by retail holding company Kering, which has a stable of a dozen luxury brands, including Gucci. While Balenciaga will attract attention in design circles, its pairing with a massive mall-based retail chain and a charismatic American pop cultural icon will give it unprecedented scale and global brand recognition.

Interestingly, the three-way pact is referred to as “Yeezy Gap engineered by Balenciaga” with the latter’s creative director Demna Gvasalia also being flagged in the release as “the most influential designer of his generation.”

Although the two-way Yeezy Gap pact has so far only produced a puffy blue down jacket and a line of hoodies, the lofty aspirations of the new trio promise new creative explorations, peerless vision and a commitment utilitarian design for all.

What that actually looks like remains to be seen, as the group said only that its new merchandise will be “available globally in 2022.”