When Kanye West’s clandestine 10-year deal with Gap for an ongoing Yeezy collaboration (which was reportedly years in the making) was announced last week, it seemed like a match made in overpriced basics heaven. The fact that Nigerian-British female designer Mowalola Ogunlesi is onboard as design director of the upcoming Yeezy Gap line (due out in 2021) is an additional high point, but what we didn’t know is that another, already postponed Black designer collab might be permanently derailed in the process.
As Dazed reports, indie designer and 2020 Glow Up 50 honoree Telfar Clemens was due to launch a collaboration with the fast fashion brand for Fall/Winter 2020, with the collection announced during a Paris Fashion Week party in January with samples on display. However, the debut, like so many other anticipated events, was derailed by the COVID-19 outbreak, with no further word on when fans of both brands could expect to see it.
While we’re not sure if one partnership canceled the other, the announcement of Yeezy Gap suspiciously coincided with the announcement that Telfar’s collab was indeed canceled (h/t Business of Fashion); a disappointment to those of us eager to see the 2017 CFDA/Fashion Fund Award winner’s vision for the legacy brand.
The good news? Despite early speculation to the contrary, the designer will still be paid in full for the effort. “While we’ve chosen not to move forward with the Gap x Telfar partnership at this time, we’re making whole on our payment regardless and have only respect and appreciation for Telfar’s time and vision,” said the brand in a statement.
The bad news? At a time when Black Lives Matter is well past trending, Gap has chosen to cancel its collaboration with a designer who literally placed BLM at the center of one of his 2019 shows—while inking a deal with an avowed Trump supporter.
Gap gave no further reason for ending the partnership, but since they’ll be paying up anyway, we sincerely hope Telfar’s collaboration wasn’t a casualty of Kanye’s ego or a condition of the Yeezy deal. Admittedly, the optics aren’t great, especially as Diet Prada reported that Gap “ghosted” Telfar, who once claimed to be “obsessed” with the mall staple, captioning an Instagram post:
In a March 18 email, Gap told Telfar that the collab was being pushed to 2021, and contracts readjusted accordingly. Two days later, they offered 25% of the design fee as an advance for work completed prior to the postponement, but that was the last reply. Follow up e-mails from Telfar regarding payment status remain unanswered.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Gap is on WRC’s recent list of brands that won’t commit to pay suppliers for COVID-cancelled work. Factories are likely sitting on raw materials and no orders, garment workers without pay. Gap’s image has historically been more inclusive than many mass retailers, but they seem to have trouble putting their money where their mouth is. In fact, where’d they get the money for Ye?
Furthermore, on Saturday, Hypebeast reported that a source close to Telfar confirmed that Gap “entirely ceased communication in mid-March...the source confirmed that the Telfar team was entirely in the dark about the YEEZY x Gap partnership. A Gap representative declined to give a comment on the issue to Hypebeast, but reports are that the brand will be keeping the samples produced.
Again, not a good look, especially considering the current climate and demand for big brands to refocus efforts to include Black creatives. Are we really supposed to believe there was only room for one on Gap’s shelves? Or could it be that that they were forced to choose? Again, we really hope not—but if so, in the words of their new collaborator: “No one man should have all that power.”
Because when it comes to Black designers, the more the merrier.