July 25, 2022

Kanye West, in addition to being a rapper and record producer, is a genius entrepreneur and fashion designer. He is one of the greatest and most influential hip-hop artists of all time. Some regard him as the greatest musician of his generation.

The Power of Kanye West’s Personal Brand
Source: Biography


His personal identity is so impactful that huge brands like Nike and Adidas collaborated with him and launched Yeezy sneakers. Adidas even launched a whole line of sneakers called Adidas Yeezy. These brands know how much revenue they can generate from collaborating with an artist like Kanye West. So, something worthy in his personal brand, Yeezy, must have led to these massive collaborations.

Nike Air Yeezy

Nike Air Yeezy, the sneaker collaboration between Nike and Kanye West, officially launched in 2009. It was Nike’s first full collaboration with a non-athlete celebrity. The project released two editions, Air Yeezy I in 2009 and Air Yeezy II in 2012 and 2014.

The collaboration was a massive success. Even after years of their initial release, the Air Yeezy 1 prototypes worn by Kanye West during his 2008 Grammy performance sold for a record USD 1.8 million. This sale beat the record of Nike Air Jordans 1s sold at USD 615,000. The Air Yeezy 1 prototypes were the first pair of sneakers to cross the $1 million sale mark. 


Industry leaders and analysts have praised West’s genius design and the Yeezy brand. Brahm Wachter, Sotheby’s head of streetwear and collectibles, stated that the sale “speaks volumes of Kanye’s legacy as one of the most influential clothing and sneaker designers of our time, and of the Yeezy franchise he has built which has become an industry titan.”


Adidas Yeezy

Adidas and Kanye West collaborated to launch the Adidas Yeezy streetwear. Adidas Yeezy is prominently known for its sneakers line. The Adidas and Kanye West collaboration also produces sneakers, slippers, slides, socks, shirts, jackets, track pants, women’s shoes and lingerie. 

What has made Adidas Yeezys such a sneakerhead favorite is their lineup and release strategy. The collaboration releases high-end limited edition colorways and also offers general releases under the Yeezy Boost lineup. This strategy creates hype for the limited editions among sneakerheads while catering to the general customer base. The first shoe model under the brand was Boost 750 which was released in Februrary 2015.


Kanye West: Making of a Sneaker King

Kanye West’s journey to becoming a sneaker design king started way before the Nike collaboration. Way back in 2006, he designed a shoe for Adidas but it was shelved. Kanye West’s first official sneakers collaboration was with Bape. Together they released the Bapesta “college dropout” shoes. The Bapestas are quite rare and have a high resale value. 


Kanye West also designed shoes for notable luxury brands Louis Vuitton and Giuseppe Zanotti. The American rapper’s collaboration with Nike is prominent in the sneaker world. The Air Yeezy collaboration lasted for five years and led to two of the most iconic sneakers in the world, the Air Yeezy 1 and 2.

Source: Adidas Group


After the release of “Red October” Air Yeezy 2s, Kanye West ended the collaboration. He described the break as “heartbreaking,” but he claimed that there was a dispute about royalty payments. So he reached out to Adidas. The German shoemaker agreed to give him royalties. Under the partnership, Kanye West retains 100% of his Yeezy brand and also has complete creative freedom over the products.


Adidas Yeezy debuted 15 months after the Adidas and Kanye West collaboration was confirmed. The “Yeezy Season 1” was highly anticipated as celebrities like Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and Dibby attended the show. Yeezy Season 2 and Season 3 also had huge success on their releases.


In 2016, West and Adidas announced the extension of the collaboration with the launch of a new Yeezy category.


From getting his initial design rejected by Adidas in 2006 to generating USD 1.7 billion in revenue for the brand in 2020, Kanye West has come a long way. The 2020 sales of Adidas Yeezy generated USD 191 million in royalties for Yeezy. 

Kanye West’s Design Philosophy

Like every artist, Kanye West is also inspired by different elements for his sneaker designs. In an interview with Forbes, Kanye West describes his creative process, “A lot of my creative friends, I tell them, the Bible is better than Pinterest. You can bring something into the space and time we exist in while reflecting thousands of years of truth,” he says. He also quotes a Biblical verse that speaks about not mixing different fabrics and substances. The rapper goes on to explain how this inspires him to design his shoes to be made of a singular fabric.

Childhood memories greatly impact us, and Kanye is no exception to the phenomenon. He states in the interview that the anime Akira and Lamborghini Countach both influence the physical and conceptual design of Yeezys. He says, “There’s a little bit of Lamborghini in everything I do.”


West describes his approach to design as a holistic one, striving to capture the “incalculable” feeling of loving a work of art. He goes on to explain, “It’s a painting, it’s a spirit that’s inside of it that’s now translated into these miniature vehicles...all of these shoes are inside of every single shoe. It all flows through,”.


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