Gap: Politics Vs. Morality

Before we get into it, it is important to note that I love the Gap. It is one of very few brands that I shopped as a kid and still shop today. Gap was named one of the best companies to work for in fashion. Some of my favorite faces in the industry started out working at Gap and I desperately wanted my first job to be there too. Unfortunately I was very entitled as a child and I didn’t have a real job until my second year of undergrad, but that’s a different story.

This past Friday Kanye West and Gap announced a 10 year partnership. This is a full circle moment for Kanye. In the past he has talked about how much the company inspired his passion for style and design and how he wanted to be the brands creative director.

Now, we get into the real tea. Gap is the United States largest specialty retailer. But like most brands who were successful before e-commerce, they had a hard time transitioning. They ended up closing 200 stores in the US. They have been squirming to find a way to gain a leveled head in this changing industry ever since. From pushing the sustainability agenda, to trying to bring back the 90’s, nothing was really working.

I can only imagine the impact Covid-19 had on the brand. With all brick and mortar shut down, and a weak online presence, the company had to have been in real financial trouble. Deciding to partner with Yeezy was the smartest financial move for the company.

Already, Gap Inc has seen a 42% surge in stock. The brand is hoping that this partnership will bring in $1 billion in annual sales. By working with an innovative brand like Yeezy that brought in $3 billion in sneaker sales last year, and has loyal customers, Gap is projected to bounce back from this slump they are in.

Not only did Kanye’s dream come true, but Mowalola Ogunlesi, a Nigerian-British Fashion designer, has been commissioned as the design director for the Yeezy and Gap partnership. A strategic move by Kanye in the midst of a race war. Many people are choosing to spend money in instances where black people are profiting. Often times, black designers get into high places in fashion and forget that they have a responsibility to bridge the gap between a white washed industry, to one that mirrors society.

With these monumental moves being made, It is hard to celebrate the victory of one black man when another was pushed to the wayside. In January 2020, it was announced that Telfar and Gap were going to be joining forces. It was really exciting to know that a one of the hottest new designers were making waves like this. The collaboration was put on hold due to the global pandemic which is justifiable.

When Kanye announced Yeezy Gap, consumers were confused as to why there were no updates on the Telfar collaboration. When would that collection drop? As of now, it won’t. Gap has shelved the collaboration indefinitely. Claims were made that Telfar didn’t receive any payment, not even a postponement fee.

It is well known that this industry is very selective when it comes to the black faces that are chosen to be seen. This situation draws light to that. Without knowing all the details, it seems as if Gap dropped Telfar to get Kanye because he has a bigger name. As if it will only be convenient for them to be represented by one black face at a time. This begs the question, why can’t Telfar and Kanye work with the brand?

The fight for equality and systemic racism is very present in the fashion industry. We need to see more black faces. We are tired of the one token black model, black designer, black photographer. We can not allow the industry to pit black creatives against each other. We all deserve a seat at the table.

With all the world is facing right now, a global pandemic, a race war, businesses filing for bankruptcy left and right, Gap made a move that can potentially secure their future in this industry. It is highly unlikely that the Telfar Gap collection would be longer than a 1 year deal. Signing Yeezy to a 10 year deal will benefit the brand on a larger scale.

Politics and business aside, Gap made a horrible call by not properly communicating with Telfar that their collection would be put on hold, or nixed completely. It’s definitely upsetting me and my homegirls because we were looking forward to what Mr. Clemens was going to do with that Gap denim. It is irresponsible, negligent, and morally unjust to leave the brand hanging like this.

In the coming days, we hope to see Gap issue a statement explaining the debacle. While one side of this story seems tragic, it is still very exciting. To see Kanye accomplishing one of his goals, and for Mowalola to be heading the design team is even more memorable. Her work is phenomenal. It’s going to be interesting seeing how she showcases her design style while still implementing that signature Yeezy look.