Friday, September 16, 2022

Gap and Kanye West break up - on the difficulty of working with "geniuses"

A long long time ago, I was working at a magazine's office, and open on the company's PC among my other files was Meebo. Meebo was a system which allowed you to chat on different systems at once - yahoo, aol, google, etc... Then suddenly a beautiful melody started going. I had no idea from where. Until I noticed the bar at the bottom of my Meebo page which was playing "heartless" by Kanye West.

Now, just to be clear, I am not a big fan of Kanye West (now called Ye), but goes without saying some of his work is really good. I do not own anything he designed (or his label designed) as the "oversized" esthetics do not work for me. I was interested in one of his shoes - the simple Yeezy crepe sneaker in black - but by the time I decided the size was gone.

Ye currently has two major partnerships. One with sporting giant Adidas, the other with struggling retailer Gap. As of today, the Gap went down the drain. Mind you, when Virgil Abloh was appointed as men's designer for Louis Vuitton, Ye was very vocal that the position was originally his. The man who, in a 10-year partnership with Gap, took forever to come up with basic items, apparently thought that a giant like LVMH would appoint him on the cash-cow that Louis Vuitton is which basically produces several collections a year and is a well-oiled easily-running machine.

But if I am writing this, it is because the creative industry is full of people like Ye, who - rightly or wrongly - believe they are geniuses, and who - truth be told - may have been so at some point. Breaking down boundaries and coming up with oblique answers to old questions. Not only have I worked in the creative industry for a very long time, but I also have taught at universities long-enough. Sure, sometimes you spot a talent and you are in awe of their potential. You know that such people are destined for something big - whether inside the confines of the industry or outside of it. A brilliant person I know, after working for a short while in advertising, is now working in mosaics, the result of his work often leaves me short of breath so much it is beautiful.

Am I digressing? No. Honestly I am not. But again, with all due respect for Ye who apparently had a major issue with his former wife Kim Kardashian because in her opening monologue in Saturday Night Live she referred to him as "rapper" (his issue what that he much more than that), sometimes talent has its limits across industries.

Yet a lot of people see themselves as "multi-hyphenate". Ye included. Sure, Ye drives the sales of his items with hype. He has a very loyal audience. Those who can snag his items at retail price often do so just to resell them at - a usually hefty - profit on platforms such as StockX. Now, design-wise are they interesting enough? The Ye-fans seem to think so. Mind you Ye also dabbled in a failed presidential election campaign, wanted to built houses for the homeless (mind you his relationship to the homeless is very muddy, latest example of which is putting his Gap gear in large plastic bag - some referred to them as trash bag while he said they were "construction bags" - and customers had to delve in them the way homeless people pick at garbage bins to be able to shell out the model they wanted and the size they wanted), and many other ventures.

So where does this leave us? It leaves us with students telling me "ma fhemt 3alaye" (you did not understand my concept), when said-concept is either too boring, too lame, too unsellable, or too off-brief. There is a joke about people who overestimate their own talent - "buy them at the price they are worth, and sell them at the price they think think they are worth". Of course, Kanye now has an immense fortune, he is not waiting for my opinion.

But after a failed deal with Nike, a small patch designing shoes for Louis Vuitton, the Pastelle brand which never took off, and now the dead partnership with Gap while his Adidas long-term collaboration hangs by a thread (Ye is diagnosed a manic-depressive or bipolar, so only very recently, within the same outbursts he shot over social media on Gap, he also posted - then erased - many other posts on the Adidas management) one can legitimately wonder if he is an individual worth working with considering how difficult he has proven to be.

As I said, I have encountered such people in the creative industry, the jury is still out on this one. But from all previous experience, and no matter how much money these people have (Ye is one of those) eventually they end up being their worst enemy - sidelining the people who really believed in them, those who nurtured them and wanted to push their talents to the fore.

But then again, "ma fhemt 3laye".