An American gangster and convicted murderer spurred one of the year’s biggest merch drops.
On the heels of his coming out as Demna, the Vetements co-founder and Balenciaga creative director formerly known as Demna Gvasalia teamed with Kanye West-turned-Ye on a limited-edition line of apparel calling attention to the case of Larry Hoover, the Chicago gang leader serving six life sentences in Colorado for a litany of offenses including murder, extortion and money laundering.
Fans at Ye’s Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum benefit concert Thursday night—where longtime foe Drake put his beef with the “College Dropout” rapper aside to make a special appearance—got the first chance to snap up the “Free Hoover” merch, including a bull denim hat “engineered by Balenciaga” going for $60 and a sky-blue fleece hoodie priced at $200.
Amazon, whose Music app, Music Twitch channel, and Prime Video streamed the star-studded event, is carrying the merch on its Fashion platform. For a 72-hour period that started Thursday night, consumers could pre-order items beginning with the hoodie, baseball and long T-shirts, and hat. A jumpsuit, and several pairs of “pre-owned” light-wash Levi’s jeans round out Ye and Demna’s exclusive Made-in-the-USA collection. Prices top out at $400 and the “Free Hoover” mantra features prominently in graphic black or white typeface throughout.
Ye has been instrumental in elevating the art of concert merch from low-priced goods to luxury-status fashion. His “Jesus Is King” Sunday Service-era collection drew lengthy lines for items including $50 socks and $225 sweatshirts.
And the Gap collaborator and former presidential candidate isn’t new to Hoover’s plight. Two tracks on Ye’s polarizing “Donda” album incorporate recorded messages of the prisoner’s son, Larry Hoover Jr., opining on the impact his father’s incarceration had on the family and the need for prison reform.
Meanwhile, the soon-to-be-ex husband of Kim Kardashian West has made headlines for more than one reason this week.
An unconfirmed rumor published by The Sun Wednesday suggests Ye may soon be working for another fashion heavyweight—Louis Vuitton.
The report’s author said he has “learned [Ye] is being tipped” to replace the late Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton after his longtime friend’s sudden death last week. According to the British tabloid, the pair “masterminded the move” together. The article did not name or describe any of its sources. Louis Vuitton did not respond to a request for comment.
Louis Vuitton appointed Abloh artistic director of men’s collections in March 2018. During his more than three years at the luxury fashion house, the Off-White founder mixed high fashion, street style and collaborations with other brands, opening the brand up to the younger, millennial market.
Abloh first began working for Ye as his creative consultant in 2002. Seven years later, the pair traveled to Rome, picking up the ins and outs of the fashion industry as interns at Fendi. Abloh’s first business, Pyrex Vision, launched a few years later in 2012, but soon shuttered. In 2013, he introduced Off-White, the vehicle that would eventually bring the designer mainstream success—and his job at Louis Vuitton.
According to a profile published by The Wall Street Journal last year, Ye was “rocked” by Abloh getting the job he had aspired to. The rapper claimed he had had his own chance to work with LVMH—the company reportedly offered to back Yeezy apparel after its first season showing in New York—but the deal fell through before anything was signed. Ye told The Wall Street Journal the experience was “devastating.”