Where Kanye West goes, conflict seems to follow. When not embroiled in his feud with ex in-laws the Kardashians, the rapper can most likely be found calling out business partners past and present via his favourite mediums: Instagram and Twitter.
The most recent targets for Ye’s wrath have been adidas and GAP - two brands with which he was once harmoniously aligned. On September 15th, the Grammy award winner abruptly terminated his partnership with the latter, slamming the brand for failing to open dedicated Yeezy Gap stores as promised, and for ‘copying’ Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga designs in its mainline collection. Nothing if not outspoken, West told news channel CNBC ‘A king can’t live in someone else’s castle. A king has to make his own castle.’
Is it safe to assume this ‘King’s’ crusade includes the overthrow of ally-turned-enemy adidas? Creatively partnered since 2015, Ye and adidas’ once stable relationship started to sour upon the drop of the Adilette 22 slide back in June. In a later-deleted Instagram post, Kanye addressed the brand’s CEO Kasper Rørsted, writing ‘I’m not standing for this blatant copying no more… this shoe is a fake YEEZY made by adidas themselves.’
While the similarities between the Adilette 22 and the YEEZY Slide are pretty clear, the validity of Kanye’s perspective is a murkier affair. It’s common practice in sneaker business to hype up limited, collaborative styles with more accessible ‘inspired-by’ profiles from the same brand. At Jordan, for example, collaborators are reportedly assigned a certain model to reimagine, all for the express purpose of driving attention back to its non-limited formats. In fact, adidas has often followed up YEEZY drops with look-alike mainline iterations - arguably an effective way to rake in revenue while simultaneously making the Kanye-affiliated pairs even more sought after.
Ultimately, it seemed as though both parties had agreed to disagree on the ‘copying’ accusation, with the public relationship between the two mellowing to a tenuous neutral state. Nothing is ever as it appears with Ye, though; on August’s ‘YEEZY Day’ he reignited the feud via social media, claiming that the event occurred without his approval and launching a series of scathing personal callouts to the Three Stripes’ execs, including a ‘death’ announcement for Rørsted.
Despite being locked into a contract with adidas that doesn’t expire until 2026, Kanye’s already making moves to secure YEEZY’s independent future. Back in the summer, the first official YEEZY instagram account surfaced (blue tick and all), and plans for the first standalone YZYSPLY store in Atlanta were announced.
Contractual obligations appear to be small fry to Ye, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2016. After all, he terminated his GAP partnership just two years into a ten year deal, and is currently in the midsts of a $7million lawsuit over unpaid fees with production company Phantom Labs. In Kanye’s world, another day = another lawsuit, so it wouldn’t exactly come as a surprise if the hip-hop mogul decided to back out of his adidas contract a year or two (or three or four) early.
With each of Kanye’s promptly deleted tweets and posts, the future of the pairing that brought us iconic kicks like the 350 and 500 looks more and more uncertain. The ‘King’ is gearing up for combat, but with concerns growing for his mental state and accusations continuing to compromise the integrity of both parties, it seems as though this is going to be a war without any winners.