Yeezy-Gap: The collaboration that might just be a trap

So if you have been reading the news lately, Kanye West announced that he was partnering with GAP. The Yeezy-Gap collaboration, on paper, looks like a healthy, mutually-beneficial relationship: West can tap into a diversified customer base and GAP can take advantage of Yeezy’s notoriety to boost them back to their 90s fame.

But why could this be a trap? It has to do with how the power has shifted from the brand to the influencer. But let’s rewind a little. Fashion has mainly been segmented by price point and quality since commercialized fashion came around. Generally, there are two ends to the fashion spectrum.

On one side you have your fast fashion brands such as Gap, H&M and Zara. On the other end you have premium brands such as Prada, Gucci and Yeezys.

The idea here is that West is trying to get the best of both worlds by using Yeezy’s fame and GAP’s large customer base, in unison. But there’s a hitch: both brands come from completely opposite ends of the spectrum. Invariably, despite the combined resources of both brands, there will be a drop in Yeezy’s typical quality in order to make the products accessible for mass consumers. This also effectively ties Yeezy  to a decade long fast fashion experiment.

Price Differentiation

The difficulties in succeeding in the game of fast fashion and high fashion has to do with creating enough price differentiation. Price differentiation is a concept that manufacturers use by trying to offer the same product to different price segments. Take a smartphone for example: companies offer the same product but at different storage capacities so that customers get the same experience but can pay more without the manufacturer having to change much about the core product.

With apparel this is much harder to do as there are less tangible components that go into each clothing product; to name a few: packaging, materials and artwork. Any combination of these can devalue a brand and the experience it provides to its customers. 

Shifting online

J. Clement, Statista, 2020

GAP’s performance in recent years tells us that they need this more than Yeezy does. Fast fashion apparel is shifting to e-commerce-first strategy faster than ever as there is less of a need to offset the costs of brick and mortar. GAP is one of these fast fashion brands that has been on a steady decline since 2015, so much so that they have had to close nearly 230 stores in the past year. The ongoing pandemic has made this point even further with the closing of a number of fast fashion brands such as Forever 21 and Aeropostale. 

So getting an online sales strategy is so important. That’s where influencers come in: they have the power to convince large groups of people to buy certain products through endorsements and collaborations. Realizing this, brands have shifted to relying on influencers in order to reach these people. This is why GAP views the partnership with Yeezy as a saving grace: a way to catapult their growth in time where others might be shutting down.

However this comes at a cost: influencers have the majority of the power and can will brands into doing anything they want.  In GAP’s case it creates a strong tether with Yeezy that will be hard to break should the line not perform well. Furthermore, a failure in the partnership would have a negative effect on both brands: West for failing to make his products more accessible and GAP for burning through cash for a failed experiment trying to appeal to a customer base with a whole new style.

And say for whatever reason the deal does succeed, GAP’s position at the negotiation table ends up becoming weaker when it is time to renew their partnership.

Industry affected

Deals like this have a negative effect on the industry as well, particularly with respect to the added pressure on boutiques, young brands. Remember that spectrum we were talking about earlier? Here is where it comes into play. Before, these boutique, young brands might have been competing with one end of the spectrum but with deals like this, they now have to face pressure from both sides: providing a product that can compete with the resources of West and GAP combined. It ends up creating an unhealthy vacuum of power. 

We would love to hear your thoughts! Will Yeezy help them walk on water, or is GAP heading into fashion’s venus fly trap? 

Let us know what you think!

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