Kanye’s new deal with Adidas is the biggest deal ever between a sportswear company and a non-athlete. It gives ‘Ye the capacity to go full-Yeezus and take control of a brand that will produce not only lifestyle product, but a whole new range of activewear, sold in new retail stores also overseen by Mr. West. By any metric of success, Kanye has made it. But will this be enough to satisfy him?
Kanye has undeniable influence and reach, rivaled only by his wife. Despite that, and this history-making Adidas partnership, his sold-out fashion show at Madison Square Garden, the incredible sales of his Yeezy sneakers, and the legions of fans—celebrity and otherwise—who wear his clothing designs, Kanye still relishes in painting himself as something of an outsider in high fashion.
“Now it’s up to you [fashion people] to choose whether or not I’m chic enough to sit at your dinner table,” he told Dirk Standen in a Vogue interview from 2015. “And I could give a f**k about your dinner table, by the way. I’ve got my own petrified Rick Owens table in my house. Is that chic enough?” That quote is a prime example of Kanye's dueling personal narrative when it comes to his relationship with fashion: He think he's the best, but he wants you to tell him that he's the best, too.
At his MSG show, he spoke about his desire to work with luxury fashion brands. “I told this to Anna [Wintour] backstage, my dream is to be the creative director of Hermès," he said. After the debut of his first stab at high fashion—his namesake women’s collection—came and went with only a handful of shoes available for sale at Colette, Kanye went back to the drawing board. The result was Yeezy Season 1, which, while expensive, wasn’t quite designer-level. The sneakers were instantly popular; the clothing was received with tepid reviews. The new Adidas deal greatly expands his ability to create activewear, in line with his sneakers. But, Kanye making good on his high-end aspirations appears to remain elusive for the time being.
“This partnership illustrates that anyone with a dream can dream without limitations,” West is quoted as saying in a press release about today's Adidas announcement. The problem, and the beauty, of West is that he has always dreamed without limits—and that doesn’t show signs of stopping, even as he’s greeted with tremendous success.
Even throughout his relatively short tenure with Adidas before today, Kanye has thirsted for more. During an interview with Style.com following his very first fashion show with Adidas, he was already talking about how he wanted to “be the Steve Jobs of the Gap.”
Kanye is like a great athlete who keeps a chip securely on his shoulder and can get fired up by anything. It's possible that being embraced by mainstream fashion, without quite breaking over into the high-end world, will only fuel his desire to prove the upscale fashion world wrong even more. He may be temporarily sated by this tremendous news, but, if history is any indication, he won't be fully satisfied.
His fans, though, probably will. The new activewear line Kanye and Adidas are creating should bring prices down to what his fans can afford; as much as Kanye’s followers love him, that love is tested when they're faced with a +$2,000 destroyed sweater. And if there’s a dedicated retail space, it’s safe to assume that the store will have to be stocked every day—hopefully lowering the barrier of entry for fans who constantly complain that they can't get their hands on any product on Yeezy release day. It’s presumably going to drastically help Kanye deliver on his promises: Yeezys for all, and lower prices.
While fans rejoice and stock up, will Kanye still look for the stamp of approval from luxury conglomerates like LVHM and Kering, the companies who run Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Balenciaga? Maybe, or maybe he'll enjoy his status as an outsider forever: Hèrmes is independently owned, after all.