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The Real Lessons of Telfar, Kanye and the Gap

  • July 02, 2020

Late last week, when the embattled Gap brand announced, with great fanfare, that it was embarking on a 10-year partnership with Kanye West to create a new brand, Yeezy Gap, in an all-in bid for relevance and revitalization, a corner of the panting internet noticed one thing was amiss.

“What about Telfar?” people asked.

They were talking, of course, about Telfar Clemens, 35, a Black designer upending old ideas about gender, identity and community, who had been announced, to almost as much fanfare, as a Gap collaborator in January.

That same month there had even been a lavish party thrown by the Gap during Paris men’s fashion week in its store on rue Tronchet, attended by Kate Moss, Violet Chachki and Dev Hynes and covered in Vogue, W, Essence and Complex (among other publications) to herald the Gap x Telfar collection.

Now it looked as though the Gap, deep in financial trouble after the pandemic caused the closing of its stores and the furloughing of most of the North American retail staff; already suffering reputational damage after canceling many of its orders from factories in Bangladesh and elsewhere; being attacked on Instagram by disgruntled customers; and being sued for $66 million in nonpayment of rent by its landlord, Simon Property Group, had dropped one Black creative for a more famous one.

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