Gap’s longstanding partnership with Kanye West is under scrutiny and could be tainted in controversy after the designer and singer was temporarily suspended from Instagram after voicing a racial slur.
West, who now goes by the name Ye, regularly posts unfiltered ire towards ex wife Kim Kardashian and new partner actor Pete Davidson, before deleting them. Gap has seen a slew of negative comments on its own social media, particularly with users asking the brand to end its collaboration with Yeezy.
One comment on Gap’s recent post reads: “Oh hell yes I love dudes who very publicly harass the mother of their children! Sign me up!”
In fashion, image is everything
Gap will be keen to avoid a public relations issue that threatens to tarnish its image in the midst of a company turnaround. Gap has been plagued for years with underperforming store sales and lacklustre collections. Its partnership with Yeezy breathed new life into the high street brand, attracting a younger consumer and bringing relevancy to its fashion offer.
Yeezy Gap, which officially launched last year, is a 10-year agreement between Mr West’s Yeezy brand and Gap Inc, which also operates Banana Republic and Old Navy. Mr West has often expressed his desire to bring his designs to the masses, and was once quoted as saying he dreamed of being Gap’s Creative Director. Mr West is thought to earn a percentage of sales, which could potentially reach billions of dollars.
Mr West’s videos and comments on social media are being viewed as harassment toward Ms Kardashian, who to date has refrained from publicly commenting on their separation and subsequent fall out. Ms Kardashian, in turn, has managed to retain positive consumer sentiment for both herself and her brands, while Mr West has irked investors. It should be noted, however, that Ms Kardashian is launching a new swimwear category under her Skims label and is promoting the first season of the family’s reality series set to debut on Hulu in April. Her management team will be careful to spin a positive light from any personal drama.
The Yeezy Gap Balenciaga tie-up, a coup for Gap and the first three-way collaboration with a Kering-owned luxury brand, is threatening to be overshadowed by Mr West’s personal problems. As of Thursday Mr West’s Instagram account had all posts removed. Investors are keenly aware that Gap’s Yeezy contract is as fully tied to the creativity as it is to the persona that is Kanye West. Any association of negativity that tarnishes Mr West will reflect on Gap.