Will Adidas Make More Yeezys Without Ye?

Adidas CEO Bjørn Gulden on the future of Yeezys, Sambas, Superstars, and more.

Kanye West wearing a Balenciaga mouth guard outside outside Givenchy, during Paris Fashion Week in October 2022
Even after dropping Kanye West, Adidas still owns the rights to his sneakers. Via Edward Berthelot / GC Images
Kanye West wearing a Balenciaga mouth guard outside outside Givenchy, during Paris Fashion Week in October 2022

Adidas Yeezys are back, sort of. Adidas is again selling its collaboration with Kanye West, who now goes by Ye, by releasing leftover sneakers from the line that it had developed before dropping him.

The brand terminated its partnership with Ye in October 2022 and distanced itself from him after the artist made and doubled down on antisemitic remarks, all while publicly antagonizing Adidas.

After Adidas ended the Yeezy deal last year, the brand made clear that it owned the rights to the sneakers from Ye’s line. Adidas CFO Harm Ohlmeyer said in November 2022 that it intended to “make use of those rights” by 2023. So might Adidas continue to produce new Yeezys in the future without Ye? Adidas execs were asked that question on Thursday during the company’s Q2 2023 earnings call.

“No plans of taking Yeezy designs and transferring them to Adi,” said CEO Bjørn Gulden. “Yes, legally we could, but I think that would be the wrong timing.”

His statement does not eliminate the possibility that Adidas might one day make Yeezys under a different name, but confirms that it has no plans to do so for now. This week’s releases consist of shoes like the Yeezy 350 Boost V2 “Cream” and the Yeezy 500 “Bone White,” which were already in the works before the dramatic collapse of the Yeezy deal.

Adidas leadership spoke positively on the call about the decision to move forward with selling the outstanding Yeezy stock and donating some of the revenue generated to charity. The brand arrived at that decision after months of consideration. In the wake of Ye’s antisemitic remarks, selling products tied to him came with a potential for backlash.

“Six months ago, people said we should burn, destroy the product,” Gulden said, “and now we have found ways of selling it and we can use part of that revenue to actually do something good in society.”

Adidas reported that revenue for Q2 2023 was nearly flat, declining 5 percent to €5.343 billion in the quarter, compared to €5.596 billion for the second quarter of 2022. Adidas’ revenue through the first half of fiscal 2023 stands at €10.617 billion.

On the earnings call, Gulden touched on about the brand’s shortcomings in the basketball sneaker market. He predicted that if Adidas can successfully connect to teenage NBA fans in America, it will benefit sales for not only Adidas’ performance basketball shoes but also its retro models.

“We know we have not performed the way you would expect and also the way we should,” Gulden said on Adidas’ basketball business.

He pointed to the coming launch of the Fear of God line, Adidas’ roster of signature athletes, and its new design office in Los Angeles as factors that can help Adidas be more impactful in basketball footwear.

How will Adidas generate buzz around product without the significant hype of the Yeezy line? On the call, Gulden spoke to Adidas’ strategy around popular lifestyle sneakers like the Samba and the Superstar, both of which will be a focus going forward.

He said that while Adidas originally planned to keep the Samba a relatively limited shoe in 2023, the brand decided to scale up the number of pairs it was producing after it recognized the demand for the classic indoor soccer shoe in January and February.

“You will start to see Sambas also on the shelf, so you can actually buy it because I think in most markets, they have always been sold out,” said Gulden.

Adidas execs said the brand’s approach to lifestyle sneakers next year will include a focus on '70s running silhouettes—think shoes like the SL 72—which Adidas wants to scale into the second half of 2024.

In the longer term, Adidas sees the Superstar as a trending sneaker in fashion circles and is working on “cleaning up” the market. Gulden said the brand wants to get the sneaker out of the areas where there are high volumes of Superstars in order to help reset the shoe. This plan to revitalize the Superstar will take place over the next two years.

“Going into 2025, you should not be surprised if Superstar will be a hot shoe again,” he said. “So we will start to heat that shoe up in the higher end of the market and do collabs with it.”