November 21, 2013 BY John Kim
An alluring discussion surrounding hip-hop and style icon Kanye West and the state of his partnership with athletic outfitter Nike has risen rather abruptly. Things between Yeezy and the Swoosh seemed to be rather copacetic, but it turns out that the relationship, based on what’s been going on recently with the Yeezus tour and West’s public appearances and radio interviews, is much rockier than initially perceived. Kanye revealed in an interview with Philadelphia’s WIRED 96.5 radio station that he signed a deal with a major company that would allow him a much broader line of footwear that would be more accessible, and a complete apparel line to boot. Basically, the deal gives Kanye much more control than what Nike ever offered him, and sadly to say, we may be near the end of the Nike Air Yeezy. But is that as unfortunate as it sounds?
The first Air Yeezy debuted in April of 2009. The sneaker was instantly one of the most coveted sneakers in recent memory amidst a string of lackluster Nike Basketball signature shoes and the like; it took the Beaverton brand on an unexplored tangent into the realm of non-athlete signature sneakers, and managed to hook the single most influential figure in pop culture. Without question, Nike has been the brand of choice for style icons for decades, but it had never completed an actual signature or even an endorsed shoe of Yeezy status with a non-athlete, so green-lighting the Air Yeezy, despite its high probability of success, was not the easiest of decisions for the Swoosh to make.
Kanye’s recent rants prove that notion; he claims to have had very little creative control with Nike and wasn’t given much opportunity beyond the Air Yeezy shoe, and even notes that Nike CEO Mark Parker could not understand why the shoe was such a popular item. But Nike’s success has always been (and continues to be) driven by functional innovation and next-level design, and the truth is that Air Yeezy owns only one of those key descriptions; it’s an incredible shoe that never found a place on an athletic platform. With that thought it mind, it may be possible that Nike put an expiration date on the Air Yeezy line when it moved forward with the concept. Was it more of a fun experiment rather than the start of a new an “innovative style” category, regardless of success or fail?
What we do know is that Kanye, as he mentioned in the interview, signed a deal with a major company that would allow him to produce footwear as well as a line of apparel, and we obviously know that company is not Nike. Rumors have adidas coming into the fray (specifically under the Y-3 label) – a brand partnership that actually makes sense considering the German brand (and Nike’s primary global competitor) has depended on the help of hip-hop celebrities (Big Sean, A$AP Rocky, etc.) and designers (James Bond, Rick Owens, Mark McNairy, etc.) alike. West certainly is a complete mix of both, and with adidas struggling against Nike in American markets, adding him on the design route rather than the celebrity co-sign would give both parties what they individually want, and would be rather fruitful once production hits the markets.
But let’s keep things a bit more current. Kanye’s Yeezus Tour, which has gripped the music world, has had a titillating sub-plot – the Red Air Yeezy 2. Rumors upon rumors of the release have proven to be untrue, but various circles have tied it to the the tour on some level. While nothing’s surfaced yet, we do know that Kanye has chosen not to wear the Red Air Yeezy 2 in recent dates, although we don’t know if that’s a deliberate choice rather than going with something more suitable for the stage set. He’s been openly critical of Nike and its handling of his Yeezy line, claiming it wanted to keep it as small as possible, but clearly he’s airing out his displeasure in the biggest way possible.
Let’s also not forget that Kanye, generally speaking, will not react well to demands, and based on his unhappiness with the Oregon brand, he was likely told “no” on a few occasions. Is Kanye getting the final word by leaving Nike and potentially jumping ship to adidas? What if in some wild scenario, Kanye held a deal with both companies at the same time? We’ll keep you updated once official word rises (and that should be soon, according to West), but let’s hear your thoughts on the idea of Kanye and Nike parting ways.
Image: Daily News
In this interview with Philadelphia’s WIRED 96.5, Kanye West reveals that he has signed a deal with a major company that will allow him a lot more creative control with footwear and apparel. (Jump to 1:30)–
During last night’s Yeezus show at the Barclay’s Center, Kanye West confirms the deal and states “Mark Parker (Nike CEO) talking s***.” (Jump to 7:00)
Filed under: Air Yeezy