The reveal of the first Yeezy Gap jacket on June 8, a year after the partnership between Kanye West and the beleaguered maker of American basics was announced, went pretty much as expected.
First came the crazed excitement, the release of all that pent-up expectation: OMG! OMG! The future is finally here. And on Kanye’s birthday!
Then, when it was clear you could preorder the jacket, the rush to get there first was on. CNBC excitedly reported it had sold out! So fast! The news went viral. It turned out to be fake.
(Actually, the site crashed and is now back up. This is a preorder, not a limited edition drop. There is no finite number of sales because no actual jackets have yet been produced. You can keep buying for six more days.)
And finally, the backlash: Wait, the jacket, which is made of recycled blue nylon, actually looks sort of like a trash bag. Also a deflated balloon.
Now that 24 hours have elapsed and the dust has settled, perhaps it is time to step back and consider the jacket itself: Is it any good? And is it likely to do what it is supposed to do — what this whole partnership with Mr. West is supposed to do — which is wipe the slate clean, offer a new start and make Gap, which was struggling even before the pandemic, cool again?
A qualified maybe.
The jacket itself arrived like a puffer from another planet, suspended bodiless in the air of a Gap Instagram post or projected ghostlike against buildings in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, wafting slightly in the breeze. It is made from recycled nylon with a polyester fill (which one hopes is also recycled, though Gap did not specify; if it isn’t, that would be kind of … ahem). It is unisex and oversize with a squishy, tactile look and curving, tubular arms. There is a seam up the backbone and under each arm.
It has no closures or additions to material of any kind, which may be interesting from a conceptual point of view but slightly problematic from a functional one, especially if, say, your hands are full so you can’t clutch it shut, and there’s a big wind.
It also costs $200, which is pretty high for Gap, albeit lowish for Yeezy. It is named, in a Warhol way, the “round jacket,” because it looks, you know, round.
And it is apparently the next stage of Mr. West’s new aesthetic, which has to do with reduction and the stripping away of excess. (See his most recent Paris Fashion Week return, where he described his clothes as made for “the service industry,” though it was hard not to think the service industry he was talking about was located on planet Jakku of “Star Wars.”)
Mr. West himself had modeled his creation a few days earlier while out and about, and the brief appearance showed just how big and duvet-like the jacket, which swallowed his hands, actually is.
To a certain extent, of course, it doesn’t matter if the jacket is flattering, or pragmatic. It is a first, and this is a historic collaboration from both a business and cultural perspective, so it will serve as a sort of artifact, or totem. The deal between Mr. West and Gap is long-term and lucrative; both brands are, in their own ways, part of the story of our times. Those who rushed to preorder may get their jackets and find out that they don’t like them at all, but they will do just fine on the secondary market. There are no doubt many who, schooled in sneaker entrepreneurship, bought them expressly for resale.
That won’t affect Gap’s ability to boast about the sales figures of the jacket, though it may not set a reliable precedent when it comes to the next drops, and the drops after that. Gap is not a provider of limited resources, and limited resources are, of course, the most exciting ones. Though maybe the plan is to change all that.
It seemed that way at first because Gap wiped its entire Instagram history to show simply the jacket, as though it was Day 1, a move that is rarely taken by an established brand since it seems to repudiate everything its customers bought before. See when Hedi Slimane arrived at Celine.
And it also seemed that way because the jacket was apparently introduced and offered only in the United States.
It turns out, however, that an international rollout is imminent, though Gap would not say exactly when. So Yeezy fans outside America don’t have to plot how to get their hands on a jacket after all.
As for investors, Gap’s share price rose slightly on the day of the release but not in any unusual way. (At least it didn’t drop; maybe investors were relieved that Mr. West didn’t carry through on his threat to not make any product unless he got a Gap board seat.)
But here’s the thing: Cool and accessibility are antithetical concepts; the more accessible and omnipresent something becomes, the less cool. If Mr. West and Gap can change that, they will have changed a lot more than style and their own reputations; they will have changed how we think. The real test will come with a full collection.
Especially because Gap recently announced another new deal, for homewares — with Walmart.