Calling its years-long Yeezy partnership “one of the most successful collaborations in our industry’s history,” Adidas nevertheless said it’s reconsidering its deal with Kanye West, also known as Ye. Controversy surrounding disharmonious behavior from the fashion designer and hip hop artist in recent weeks flared on Monday when he wore a “White Lives Matter” T-shirt to his Paris fashion week show.
“Adidas has always been about creativity, innovation and supporting athletes and artists to achieve their vision,” the brand said in an emailed statement. “We are proud of our team that has worked tirelessly throughout our collaboration with Ye and the iconic products that were born from it. We also recognize that all successful partnerships are rooted in mutual respect and shared values. After repeated efforts to privately resolve the situation, we have taken the decision to place the partnership under review.”
In a since-deleted Instagram post, West declared “I am Adidas” and accused the brand of stealing his designs. West has lobbed various criticisms at Adidas and its executives in recent weeks, and claimed the brand offered him $1 billion to end their relationship.
Ye’s behavior often garners attention, both negative and positive. But by cozying up to polarizing figures like Tucker Carlson and Candace Owens (the latter was at his side in Paris wearing a version of the shirt), and, above all, embracing “White Lives Matter,” he crossed a line in many people’s eyes.
For fellow fashion and hip-hop mogul Sean Combs, also known as Diddy, the shirt shouldn’t be taken lightly by the fashion world. “Black Lives Matter” is a necessary stance because of the grave consequences of inequality in America, he said in a video posted to his Instagram page.
“I’ve always been there and I will always support my brother Kanye as a free thinker,” he said. “But the ‘White Lives Matter’ T-shirt, I don’t rock with it.”
Otherwise, though, in dealing with the corporate world and his partners within it, Ye’s rhetoric has been remarkably consistent. The Yeezy Adidas union is on the brink just after the messy breakup of the short-lived Yeezy Gap deal — and nine years after the Nike Yeezy collaboration crumpled.
Nike had released a couple of Yeezy sneakers before West took the brand to Adidas — the Air Yeezy in 2009 and Air Yeezy II a few years later. But West chafed against the powers that be at Nike, publicly criticizing its corporate culture and then-CEO Mark Parker. The interlude between the two relationships was also marked by turbulence, considering West’s 2016 song “Facts,” in which he says that Nike couldn’t even give its merchandise away, and that the athleticwear giant treats “employees just like slaves.”
“Tell Adidas that we need a million in production,” the song says.
Breaking up with Ye doesn’t erase post-production considerations, however. Nike Yeezy shoes now list for tens of thousands of dollars on sneaker resale sites, a testament to the Yeezy brand’s staying power. Adidas and Gap now find themselves in the awkward position of what to do with the Yeezy merchandise they still have. Pressure is building on social media for Gap Inc. to pull its remaining Yeezy Gap merchandise; the apparel conglomerate didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The draw of the Yeezy brand may be hard to resist.
In its statement Thursday, Adidas said that it “will continue to co-manage the current product” during the review period.