Will Kanye’s Controversy Impact Yeezy Gap Engineered By Balenciaga In China?

What Happened: On September 23, the Yeezy Gap Engineered By Balenciaga collection officially launched in China at the Shanghai Gap Flagship store on Nanjing West Road. The 22-piece line of outerwear, knits, and other accessible ready-to-wear was made available for three days until September 26.

Even though the Yeezy x Gap partnership came to an abrupt end just a week earlier due to Kanye’s very public discontentment, the pre-organized drop still went ahead. Gap CEO Mark Breitbard said in a statement, “While we share a vision of bringing high-quality, trend-forward utilitarian design to all people through unique omni experiences with Yeezy Gap, how we work together to deliver this vision is not aligned.”

It’s fortunate, to say the least, that Gap parted ways with Yeezy prior to his recent, immediately-notorious Spring 2023 collection — presenting controversial “White Lives Matter” T-shirts, worn by Kanye himself, models, and the likes of conservative mouthpiece Candace Owens. 

Though this is just the latest in the star’s line of contentious exploits, there’s no doubt as to the viral power of his celebrity clout. Days earlier, the Yeezy Gap Engineered By Balenciaga arrived in China, causing long queues outside Shanghai’s Gap stores. And all of Kanye’s behavior has proven to have zero influence on the future releases that are predicted for Fall 2023.

Shots from the Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga release. Photo: 闵行古大乐 on Weibo

The Jing Take: In terms of social engagement, the Weibo hashtag #yeezy x gap# received 545,000 views, picking up from September 24. Over on Xiaohongshu, the related post “Yeezy x Gap” counts over 2,700 UGC instances. When it came to the sales impact at the Nanjing West Road store, the hype was apparent. Videos circulating across multiple local platforms show waiting lines of hundreds of meters surrounding the mall. This marks a significant change. The American retail giant, despite securing several high-profile central locations in Chinese cities, has struggled to gain its expected traction within the domestic market.

The response to this drop makes sense: a crystal in the Kering crown, Balenciaga is a huge hit among China’s Gen Z and millennial consumer base. According to the latest financial results, Balenciaga’s Chinese subsidiary made more than $298 million (2 billion RMB) in revenue sales excluding taxes, and the Asia-Pacific region invoiced nearly $53 million (379 million RMB). Any chance to shop this label easily, at a fraction of the usual price, is going to win China’s luxury streetwear customers over. On top of that, Kanye is still PR gold (and buyers here less sensitive to his controversies than in the US), plus Gap has powerful mass distribution channels. 

Many people have taken to social media to post their outfits from the collection, photos of the long queues, and the strange in-store arrangement that resembles a pile of trash. Shoppers had to literally rifle through a pile of clothes to find their sizes (similar to the US drops) — a novelty that certainly upticked online engagement.

A Weibo user shows off her purchase from the sought-after Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga launch. Photo: 一土佩

A Weibo user shows off her purchase from the sought-after Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga launch. Photo: 一土佩

Stocking the collab at a single retailer is an instant way of fueling exclusivity, and Kanye’s decision to present the clothes in a messy, anti-fashion manner sure produced a photo opportunity. Seeing as Chinese social media has not displayed the same distaste toward the White Lives Matter T-shirts as in the west, the next launch is predicted to perform just as well as (if not better than) the last ever drop featuring these three significant names. 

In the long-term, it’s the mainland identity of Gap that will probably benefit the most from this. Previously, it was considered to be lesser-known, and not particularly “cool” among streetwear fanatics. That’s the golden touch of Ye.

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.

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