Perpetual controversy machine Kanye West defended the rollout of his new Balenciaga-engineered Yeezy Gap collection Thursday after an Instagram post and a distinctive store floor strategy had some accusing the rapper-turned designer of fetishizing homelessness.
The now-notorious giant black bags that some dubbed “trash bags” and which Ye—the Grammy-winning artist legally changed his name in October—insists are actually “construction bags,” first debuted four weeks ago when Gap unveiled its new Yeezy collection at its Times Square flagship.
Pictures from the event show the new line—items include hoodies, tees, tanks, overalls, a parka and a bodysuit—piled into large, black bags rather than hung up on racks or stacked on shelves. In the weeks since, Gap has rolled the collection and its accompanying bags out to dozens of other brick-and-mortar locations.
The bizarre strategy became a particular point of derision this week after a tweet depicting the setup gained traction on social media. The post has racked up more than 65,000 likes and been quote tweeted more than 5,600 times since Monday.
“This is how they are selling Yeezy GAP,” Twitter user @owen_lang wrote. “The sales associate said Ye got mad when he saw they had it on hangers and this is how he wanted it. They won’t help you find ur [sic] size too, you just have to just dig through everything.”
Others, however, have shared less dramatic experiences. According to one Twitter user, items were neatly folded at the store they visited and employees there helped shoppers find the right size.
This week’s bag brouhaha came on the heels of a cryptic Instagram post in which the “Donda” hitmaker encouraged his followers to “Look to the children. Look to the homeless As the biggest inspiration for all design.” Shared last Friday, the post was quickly deleted, like all Ye’s Instagram posts. As images of the Yeezy Gap bags spread this week, some on social media began to interpret the post in the context of Ye’s latest Yeezy Gap release.
“Balenciaga & Kanye’s fetish with the homeless as ‘fashion muses’ it’s everything that is wrong with billionaires…they no longer see the plight of people, they don’t see humans that are suffering, they see opportunities to be ‘edgy’ and profit from it…it’s disgusting,” one Twitter user wrote Tuesday in a reply to @owen_lang’s viral tweet.
Ye addressed the controversy Thursday on Fox News. “I’m an innovator, and I’m not here to sit up and apologize about my ideas,” the performer said. He went on to suggest his message is being misrepresented and misunderstood. The bags, he reportedly said, were intended to allow shoppers to informally reach in and grab what they want to buy. His goal was to make life easier and informal, he added.
Ye further insisted that the bags are not actually “trash bags” as some have taken to calling them, but “construction bags.” The quibble, though possibly fair, appears neither here nor there given Yeezy Gap hosted pop-up activations in July where product was piled into bins that look a lot like dumpsters.
“The whole point of why I came to The Gap was to make egalitarian clothing,” Ye said. “I remember times being in the [Dominican Republic], going to a store and seeing clothes in bins and just seeing people be happy to have a moment of discovery, to think like children.”
Ye’s new collection ranges in price from $40 for a keychain to $340 for a parka. A black hoodie with “GAP” printed on the front and the image of a dove on the back costs $240. Tees are priced at $120 and $140.
Ye also fired back at those who say he is mocking homeless people. “I’m up here literally working on homeless shelters,” he told Fox News. The rapper attempted to build wooden domes for homeless people to live in on his California property in 2019, but Los Angeles County destroyed the structures for violating building codes.
“There’s documentation of it where the city came and tore down my creations while I was doing it,” Ye added. “So no one can tell me I’m insensitive when that’s stuff that I think about every single day and actually have put my mind and innovation to.”
A day after Ye posted on Instagram about looking to the homeless, TMZ reported that the Los Angeles Mission, an L.A. organization dedicated to tackling the homelessness crisis, had grown “frustrated” with the performer for not following through on his promise to help the unhoused get jobs and housing. TMZ said it had been told that the Mission has attempted to contact Ye several times since last November. Troy Vaughn, president and CEO of Los Angeles Mission later told TMZ the group is “extremely optimistic that Ye will be an instrumental force” in an upcoming project.
Meanwhile, Gap Inc. reports second-quarter results on Thursday and will host its first earnings call since Sonia Syngal exited her role as CEO earlier this summer.