New York: Kanye West knows how to attract attention. Just not always the kind from adoring fans.
Yeezy Mafia, an unofficial social media account that tracks news of West’s sneaker brand, posted a photograph of the latest style in the singer’s Yeezy line. It wasn’t the white shoes’ first appearance on the internet; West’s daughter North was seen on Instagram in June wearing a child-sized prototype.
But this time the chattering cognoscenti of social media had plenty to say. Not much of it was nice.
One person compared the shoes to a plastic colander. Another said they looked like hospital shoe covers. Many others compared them to Crocs, the foam clogs favoured by chefs and gardeners. “King of Country Crocs,” one Twitter user wrote.
Soon after, news outlets began sharing their hot takes, and they were no more forgiving. “Run away as fast as you can,” read an article on Cosmopolitan’s website. “This shoe might be worse than the high-heeled Crocs that were on sale last July.”
The new shoes are set to debut at the end of the year and will be called the Yeezy Foam Runner, according to an email from Yeezy confirming the shoe’s release. Beyond that, the company did not comment. It was unclear how much the shoes might cost, but other Yeezys sell for hundreds of dollars, and sometimes more than $1,000 (Dh3,672) on the resale market.
Still, the new shoes’ poor reception signalled a potential challenge for West. “You don’t want to have negative buzz,” said Matt Powell, a senior analyst with NPD Group, a research firm. “It doesn’t mean it won’t sell. But you don’t want people taking pot shots at you so soon.”
To be fair, critics have been taking potshots at Yeezy shoes since they debuted four years ago. In 2017, GQ wrote in a headline, “Yeezy Boosts Are the Coolest Shoes on the Planet — That Look Good on No One.” (The article called them “the least wearable.”)
Despite that, West’s collaboration with Adidas, the German sportswear brand, has been successful. The Adidas Yeezy 750 Boost in grey debuted in 2015 and was an instant best-seller, in part because his shoes are released in small numbers and are typically hard to find. Having celebrities like Justin Bieber and Jay-Z wear them didn’t hurt, either. And Footwear News named them ‘Shoe of the Year.’
According to a recent article in The New York Times, West earns 5 per cent royalties on net sales of shoes and apparel sold under the Yeezy brand, with sales of more than $1.3 billion expected this year. In addition to making West richer, the collaboration has given Adidas a new cultural relevance.
West acts as his own pitchman for the brand, which can be complicated. Once, the singer showed a reporter from Forbes all the prototypes of his shoes for Yeezy. They were on view in a parking lot. When the reporter asked how many there were — it was nearly 1,000 — West seemed offended. “You can’t calculate love,” West said. Last year, fans of West threatened to sell their shoes because of favourable comments he had made about President Donald Trump.
Powell said Adidas and West would probably dole out the new shoes to consumers in small batches to keep supply scarce and prices high on the resale market. “That’s how they do things,” he said.