Balenciaga and the Yeezy Gap Collab: Just How Sustainable Will It Be?

balenciaga yeezy gap
Image courtesy Unsplash

Balenciaga designed with Kanye West and sold at Gap prices. Only one thing seems to be missing: sustainability.

You’ll have to wait until June to get your hands on the hottest fashion collaboration of 2022 so far—the Balenciaga x Kanye West Yeezy Gap drop.

The collection, officially dubbed Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga, builds on the success of the Gap’s Yeezy collection, launched last March with Kanye West. West now goes by “Ye.” It is estimated to earn $150 million in sales in its first year. In 2020, West signed a ten-year deal with Gap for the Yeezy line.

In a statement, Yeezy Gap said this first of its kind launch that sees West’s “peerless vision bring together the most influential designer of his generation, Demna [Gvasalia, creative director of Balenciaga] with iconic American brand, Gap.”

Yeezy Gap

So far only a handful of items have been released under the Yeezy Gap label, but the demand is proving profitable. Items initially retailing for $200, like the Round Jacket, can now be found at astronomical markups. The resale platform Goat.com lists one for $7,800, according to Vogue.

The launch will make Balenciaga more accessible with prices under $300.

“This is a very different challenge. I’ve always appreciated the utilitarianism and the accessibility of Gap. I share some of the same sensibilities in my creative language. This project allowed me to join forces [with West] to create utilitarian fashion for all,” Gvasalia, who now goes by “Demna”, told Vogue.

“There are very few people that I know, especially of Ye’s caliber, who really understand my work so well. He makes me come out of my comfort zone and be a better designer. There’s no ego when we collaborate, just a mutual drive to evolve and do something great and new.”

One of the most anticipated items in the first Yeezy Gap drop is a light blue jacket that retails for $200. It’s made from recycled nylon. So far, though, the brand hasn’t revealed what percentage of the jacket is recycled or whether the filling is also recycled or sustainable.

While sustainability is top of mind for a growing number of brands, Gap has been slow in delivering. It’s used a few eco-friendly materials in recent years, and set targets to reduce emissions, but its efforts are being outpaced by adjacent labels like Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. Even Calvin Klein recently began to prioritize more sustainable avenues for product launches.

The Yeezy consumer

Sustainability matters to the target consumer here—the Coachella-bound Millennials and Gen-Z, where West will be headlining alongside Billie Eilish, are willing and eager to pay more for sustainable options.

One study published recently found an overwhelming number of participants are seeking to support sustainable efforts; 89 percent of participants said they are somewhat, very, or extremely likely to support a company that uses products made from plants—plants being representative of sustainable and renewable practices.

A study published last October found more than a third of participants were willing to pay more for sustainable products, with 85 percent of participants saying they have become more sustainable with their purchases in recent years.

West has also spoken out about his interest in supporting sustainability initiatives. In 2019, the rapper talked about developing a “seed to sew” fabric. He also explored growing materials on his Wyoming farm property.

Image courtesy Yeezy x Gap

“We’re building farms here, because of the climate and because of the soil, that have hydroponic cotton, wheat, hemp,” West said in an interview that took place on his property in Wyoming  In an interview with Zane Lowe for Apple Music. “We’re developing our own fabrics and we’re gonna go from ‘seed to sew,’ from farm to table so we can see the entire process… We gotta sustain, right?”

Gvasalia, who founded the cult streetwear brand Vetements, took the helm at Balenciaga in 2015 after Alexander Wang exited, has also recently spoken about efforts to bring more sustainability to Balenciaga. He’s done entire collections with sustainable materials and, during the pandemic, turned his focus toward the less-is-more profundity of couture luxury.

“One of the most important things to us [on the team] was the idea of reducing, because it’s also something we’re facing now because of the pandemic. Do we need so many products?” Gvasalia asked last year. The designer says he wants to bring more sustainability to forthcoming collections.

Returning to haute couture fashion after half a century saw Balenciaga shoot to the top of luxury fashion lists. Lyst named it the hottest brand in Q3 of 2021. Last month, rapper Cardi B wore a sustainable corset made from re-tooled Balenciaga sneakers. The top was made by an Ohio designer who repurposes old shoes into new designs.

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