When people think about the trendiest streetwear brands in today’s era, the two that will first come to their mind are Supreme and Yeezy. Despite being a relatively new brand in the fashion and sneaker industry, Kanye West’s Yeezy brand has already taken the world by storm, as it is reported that Yeezy had a total of $1.7 billion in annual revenue in 2020.
While most streetwear fanatics are familiar with how popular the Yeezy brand is today and how high the resell market is for the oldest Adidas Yeezy model, the 750, and also for the newest model, the Adidas Yeezy Foam Runner, they didn’t know the struggles that Kanye West went through in trying to make a name in the world of fashion. Here is a brief history of the Yeezy brand, from West’s early collaboration with Nike up to his newest designs for Adidas.
Kanye West and Nike
Before the partnership between Kanye West and Adidas was created, the renowned rapper from Atlanta, Georgia, first collaborated with Nike and two signature models, which were named the Nike Air Yeezy I and the Nike Air Yeezy II. According to Nike and West, the Nike Air Yeezy I was inspired by three popular models designed by Nike, the Air Jordan III, the Air Jordan IV, and the Nike Air Tech Challenge II.
The first colorway of the Yeezy I, the “Zen Grey,” was released on April 4, 2009. This colorway was designed by both West and Nike Creative Director Mark Smith, while the second colorway that was released on May 4, the “Black/Pink,” was Smith’s idea. In just a few days, all the colorways of the Nike Air Yeezy I sold out, even though it has a suggested retail price of $215, a price tag that is quite expensive during the late 2000s.
Following the success of the first shoe, Kanye West and Nike immediately started to work on the follow-up model that will have a better look and better features than the first model. And, true to that statement, the Nike Air Yeezy II is indeed the more popular model out of the two, and all of its colorways are fetching higher prices on the resell market compared to the Nike Air Yeezy I.
The first two colorways of the Yeezy II dubbed the Solar Red (Black and Red) and the Pure Platinum (White and Red), released on June 9, 2012, with a retail price of $245. With only 5000 of each colorway released, the Yeezy II sold out in just a few minutes. The most notorious and most expensive colorway for the model, the “Red Octobers,” had a surprise release through the Nike website on February 9, 2014. Because of the rarity of the Red Octobers, it is going for $12,000 to $23,000 on the resell market as of 2021.
Kanye’s Partnership with Adidas
Right after the release of the Yeezy II Red October, the collaboration between West and Nike fell through. According to Kanye West, he was willing to continue working with Nike, but the well-known shoe brand refused to pay him royalties for his designs. Instead of giving West his royalties, Nike offered to give some of the profits they got from the Yeezy line to a charity that is chosen by West. The offer left a sour taste in West’s mouth, and this eventually led to him contacting Adidas to offer a partnership.
As Adidas was struggling back then to compete with Nike, the brand accepted West’s offer in order to raise its popularity in the industry. Under the contract signed by Adidas and West, the rapper will have 100% ownership of the Yeezy brand while also having royalties and full creative control on the designs of the products he will release.
The first shoe that the Adidas Yeezy brand released is the Yeezy Boost 750, a high-top sneaker that features a suede upper and a Boost midsole, which was Adidas’s current and most comfortable cushioning system for their shoes. With only releasing 9000 pairs on February 21, 2015, the 750 sold out in just 10 minutes on the US Adidas online store. The low-top version of the 750 called the Yeezy Boost 350 was released on June 27, 2015. The second version of the 350, named the Yeezy Boost 350 v2, features a horizontal stripe and is arguably the most popular model for the brand.
After a year of preparation, Kanye West successfully launched the first clothing line in the brand called “Yeezy Season 1” on October 29, 2015. The collection was a big departure from Kanye’s eccentric and colorful style during the 2000s, as it features clothes in flesh-tone colors that have a military and utilitarian style to them. Alongside the clothing line, Adidas and Kanye West also released the Yeezy 950, a pair of military duck boots that go well with the clothing designed by West.
West then experimented on a retro line by releasing the Yeezy Powerphase Calabasas, a classic leather sneaker that is inspired by an Adidas trainer that was popular in the 1980s. After West abandoned the retro line and moved on to designing utilitarian shoes that are cheap and functional, Adidas rebranded the Powerphase line without the Yeezy branding. The trendiness of the retro style eventually encouraged Adidas to re-release some of their older models, mainly the Forum 84 and the Pro Model.
The two most recent shoes designed and released through the Yeezy brand are the Yeezy Boost 380, a streamlined version of the Yeezy 350 with a thicker midsole, and the Yeezy Foam Runner, a pair of rubber slippers that has a futuristic and peculiar design. Despite its odd appearance, the Yeezy Foam Runner became a success for the brand, and its fame accidentally helped rubber slipper manufacturers like Crocs to become trendy again.