Having the eminence of Kanye West has its perks. After only 2 booming releases, Ye has brought his trusted creative partner and prolific Balenciaga creative director, Denma Gvasalia, into the Yeezy Gap cosmos.

Kanye West (Credit: Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott)

Officially captioned as “Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga”, the pair will be working together on a collection of apparel while giving the mass-market retailer all of the glory. Announced on January 7th, the press release goes on to explain that the prolific designer will be contributing to Yeezy Gap’s uniform-centred vogue by bringing Ye’s “vision of utilitarian design” to fruition. 

Yeezy Gap Hoodie, Image Courtesy of GapInc

Inked back in 2020, the 10-year creative partnership has been a financial chef-d’oeuvre so far, despite the limited offerings. Bringing to life Ye’s line on his 2004 debut The College Dropout: “Let’s go back, back to the Gap/Look at my check—wasn’t no scratch”. Both the genderless nylon puffer jacket and sturdy cotton sweatshirt have reached substantial profits on resale platforms such as Stock X, while the hoodie boasted the single-day highest sales for a single item in the mall retailer’s history. The colossal Ye clout mixed with the affordable retail price point undoubtedly plays a large part in the collection’s success, however, the understated style of the partnership cannot be ignored. Each of the 2 garments contains zero branding besides a Yeezy Gap styled tag and are available only in basic primary colours; allowing the functionality and silhouettes of the collections to speak for themselves. The aforementioned “utilitarian design” has arguably been honoured up to this point, which poses the question: how does Balenciaga fit into the picture?

Yeezy Gap Round Jacket, Image Courtesy of GapInc

Those who are well into the Yeezy verse will remember Denma Gvasalia from this summer when Ye began his predictably chaotic album rollout for DONDA. Gvaslia – who goes by his first name to separate the art from the artist much like his Yeezy Gap partner – manned the helm as creative director for the exotic performance hosted at the Mercedez-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. However Ye’s interest in Denma’s capabilities goes much further than that. According to GQ, rumour has it that Ye owns one of every single piece from Denmas collections that he keeps hobbled up in a Californian warehouse. This yarn seems sound given the frequency that Ye has been stopping at Balenciaga stores over the last couple of months. This admiration boarding on obsession comes across as standard hyper-focused Ye, but not unwarranted. Ye clearly understands the genius that Denma possesses that he’s displayed not only with Balenciaga but from his tenure in the fashion industry, and is strategically looking to inject a bit of that into his creative partnership. 

Denma Gvasalia (Credit: Willy Vanderperre)

There is no one more plugged into the contemporary fashion climate than Denma. The ex-soviet is using the Spanish luxury fashion house as his vessel in a crusade to leave no stone unturned: couture, deepfakes, Fortnite collaborations, Simpsons episodes. Denma recognizes that the zeitgeist has shifted to no longer uphold the ostracizing nature of luxury fashion, but rather expand it into every nook and cranny possible. This no holds barred demeanour is perhaps an extension of a mindset cultivated before Denma’s Balenciaga takeover and after his stint and Louis Vuitton, during a ubiquitous fashion takeover known as Vetements. It was during that time at the archetypal brand that he co-founded where Denma began to become a household name among fashion sommeliers. 2016 was undoubtedly Vetement’s year, with their ready-to-wear spring-summer offering; a sewn-off oversized collection that screamed anti-establishment at top speeds. In an interview with retailer Ssense Denma explained his one for all, all for one thinking with regards to the fashion industry: “We are doing it for an end customer, whether it happens to be a fashion editor or some girl in Austin who digs our aesthetic.”. What better way to keep this energy of product-orientated fashion alive than with a partnership with a large retailer such as the Gap. 

Not to mention that the Gap could sure use the surge in popularity. The retailer has been struggling to keep afloat in recent years, and the pandemic was almost the nail in the coffin. Since 2019’s fiscal third quarter, they have been forced to shut down 190 different locations. Just this October, the organization released their third-quarter reports of 2021; where global sales for the Gap sat at $1 million, slighted by their sister company Old Navy which boasted $2.1 billion in global sales. However, the organization is heading towards the light at the end of the tunnel, coming 1% shy of reaching their 2019 net sales pre-pandemic levels per the organization’s 2021 financial report. Despite the partnership almost being cancelled in 2020 during the notorious Ye presidential run after he complained about not being on the board, the 10-year deal is a necessary dose of fuel for the memorable American organization. Ye working with the “most influential designer of his generation” has the potential to be a design milestone for the artist, as well as a turning point for the retailer.