After months of anticipation, Kanye West’s Yeezy-Gap collaboration arrived in a physical store Thursday, attracting hundreds of consumers.
A line about 130 deep Thursday morning wrapped around the block as shoppers lined up outside Gap’s Times Square flagship store, the first to sell the Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga collection at brick-at-mortar. Some said they had been waiting for more than an hour ahead of the store’s 10 a.m. opening.
Many seemed not so much waiting to buy a specific product from the collaboration with Balenciaga creative director Demna, but to finally be able to buy the merchandise in person for the first time.
One shopper said he didn’t know which products he’d find in the store, which the brand “reengineered and distilled to its most essential form” with a stripped-down black interior punctuated by the label’s dove motif. Another said he was simply hoping to get something that wasn’t already available online.
The aura around the headline-making hip-hop and fashion mogul succeeded in drawing traffic to Gap, especially when business needs it most. The specialty retailer just saw CEO Sonia Syngal step down as the company has struggled to engineer a turnaround.
Gap Inc., which also owns Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta, incurred a $162 million net loss in the first quarter, with net sales falling 13 percent to $3.5 billion. But in the company’s earnings call, Syngal mentioned that the Yeezy-Balenciaga pairing generated 6.6 billion in media impressions that quarter, illustrating the collaboration’s popularity and reach. Consumers “can expect the brand to expand across wholesale and marketplaces later this year,” she told investors.
Yeezy Gap confirmed the collection would be coming to additional U.S. Gap stores “soon.”
At this point, Gap might need to get the brand on shelves as quickly as it can. “Nobody goes to Gap, that’s the point of the partnership,” said a Yeezy fan waiting to enter the store.
His friend expanded on the point.
“We’re seeing this happen across these older Americana brands, where they partner with an industry leader. Another example would be New Balance and [creative director] Teddy Santis and his Aimé Leon Dore brand,” he said. “New Balance said they needed to recreate their brand to fit a Gen Z persona, so they’ll do collabs and generate hype. Now look around, a lot of people are wearing New Balance sneakers. That’s what’s happening with Kanye West and Gap.”
Another consumer said he was standing in line because a friend from Colorado informed him about the event, and asked him to attend.
“Maybe there’s some value in reselling, you know? I should sell my spot in line,” he said.
Wearing all-black signature T-shirts from the Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga line, including the Dove and Logo 3/4 Sleeve tees and the Dove and Logo No Seam shirts, employees darted in and out of the store instructing security teams to let 25 people in at a time.
The T-shirts appeared to be popular purchases given the 90-degree temperature in New York City Thursday, but one consumer did express interest in buying one of the collection’s hoodies. The Dove hoodie and the Dove Shrunken hoodie retail for $240. The tees range from $120 to $140, while the women’s Long-Sleeve Second Skin shirt is priced at $80.
One store employee walked down the queue asking if consumers had played the new mobile video game that ties into the Yeezy Gap collection. Interested players enter their email address, choose a male or female avatar—the same avatars featured in the collab’s lookbooks—adjust the skin tone and select one of seven looks from the collection. The game involves collecting doves when players tilt their phone left or right, and in-store displays allowed visitors to dabble with the digital experience on a larger scale.
A video posted to Yeezy Gap’s Instagram account showed shoppers in the Times Square store sifting through giant bags piled with product in a space seemingly devoid of clothing racks and shelves, yet another nod to the brand’s utilitarian bent. Eight items from the collab were available for purchase.
The Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga collection is also available at YeezyGap.com, Balenciaga and the luxury brand’s e-commerce partners Farfetch, MyTheresa and LuisaViaRoma. It’s unclear how long the Times Square takeover will last.
There’s also the possibility that consumers will be able to purchase the collection at stores separate from the mainline Gap brand, based on speculation stemming from new trademark filings. West’s June 29 application for ownership of the service mark “YZYSPLY” covers “retail stores, online ordering services and online retail store services.” The trademark is shorthand for Yeezy Supply, the name of his e-commerce site listing select Yeezy sneaker drops.
Additional reporting by Jessica Binns.