Kanye West is nothing if not tenacious when it comes to breaking into the fashion industry. His latest strategy? Telling Gap that he should be the company’s new creative director or – to use a recurring West metaphor – “I’d like to be the Steve Jobs of the Gap”.
“When I say Steve Jobs of the Gap,” he told Style.com, “as I talk to the people at the Gap right now, I’m not talking about a capsule. I’m talking about full Hedi Slimane creative control of the Gap is what I would like to do. And I can say this because it doesn’t conflict with my Adidas contract.”
This isn’t West’s first overture to Gap – in 2013 he approached them but “couldn’t get past the politics”. What is tantalising, this time, is that in theory it could actually happen. West has just launched a collection for Adidas, receiving a tentative critical thumbs up. The ailing Gap is currently short of a creative director, having cut ties with Rebekka Bay last month. Bay – the woman who successfully launched Cos – was hired two years previously to bring fashion nous to the US chain, but her nuanced approach did not work on a multinational scale. A West-helmed Gap, though, could be genius. Here’s why:
1. A brave new look
Judging by his collection for Adidas, West’s Gap would involve sportswear and hosiery. Specifically, an apocalyptic Flashdance vibe with Prada-influenced wrinkly knees on tights. There is not enough of this on the high street.
2. The references
West would be unafraid to pay clear homage to fellow designers rather than resorting to the usual esoteric designer cliches. “You know my fucking influences,” he told Style.com: “You see Raf Simons right there, you see Helmut [Lang], you see [Martin] Margiela, you see Vanessa [Beecroft], you see Katharine Hamnett. It’s blatantly right there. I’m not going to try and act like I was influenced by a fucking dog walking down the street that broke its ankle that I had a heartfelt discussion with. I had a heartfelt discussion with all of these fucking Helmut Lang images that I stared at for so many years. I had a heartfelt discussion with my Tumblr.”
3. Mediocrity? Nah
There are normal clothes and there is aspirational faux-normal fashion – a distinction West understands. He cannot abide mediocrity, saying: “I just feel like we’ve been hit with this barrage of extreme medium. And you never go and ask, “Hey, can I get an extreme medium?” Gap, on the other hand, was pilloried for its “dress normal” advertising campaign, which attempted to capitalise on the “normcore” trend for understated dressing in a series of adverts that made even Anjelica Huston look a bit boring. As in actually boring, not fashion boring. Got it?
4. He used to work in Gap
In 2004’s Spaceship, West spoke of working at Gap. “Let’s go back, back to the Gap/Look at my check, wasn’t no scratch/So if I stole, wasn’t my fault/Yeah I stole, never got caught/They take me to the back and pat me/Askin’ me about some khakis/But let some black people walk in/I bet they show off their token blackie/Oh now they love Kanye, let’s put him all in the front of the store … So I quit, y’all welcome.” Clearly it didn’t go brilliantly, but West knows his subject.
5. Democratic design
Having courted the rarefied side of fashion – that critically panned Paris fashion week collection in 2011; his work with APC in 2013 – West’s current stance is to focus on the mainstream: “I’m only concerned with making beautiful products available to as many people as possible,” he told Style.com. “Everyone should have the good life … I hate the concept of limited edition completely. I hate the concept of separatism. Elitism. Classism. We’re all equal.” That last bit could be a Gap advertising tagline. All that and the ability to conjure up the most powerful of front rows (above), plus 11.3 million Twitter followers? Come on Gap. Make the call.