Is Kanye West’s zipperless puffer the start of Gap’s revival?

The Yeezy Gap “round jacket.”
The Yeezy Gap “round jacket.”
Image: Yeezy Gap
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Gap and Kanye West have revealed the first item from their partnership: a sky-blue puffer jacket costing $200, made from shiny, recycled nylon. The jacket is constructed so the shoulders descend in an unbroken slope from the collar, and the bottom hem curves upward, creating a rounded silhouette, hence its given name, “round jacket.” The overall effect is reminiscent of a cheerful, hulking bubble. Conspicuously absent from the product images is a zipper or any other method of fastening the front closed.

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It’s unclear how representative the jacket will be of the items to follow. It appears to draw influence from classic couture works by Charles James and Cristobal Balenciaga. (West has been known to borrow ideas from favorite designers such as Helmut Lang.) Either way, it’s a bold introduction to a mass-market collection Gap is expecting to help revitalize its flagging brand and expects to be worth $1 billion in annual sales within eight years, if not sooner.

A side view of the Yeezy Gap round jacket
No shoulder seam.
Image: Yeezy Gap

For comparison, Gap’s total global sales last year amounted to $3.4 billion (pdf). The pandemic was responsible for a substantial part of the drop in sales from the year prior, when they totaled $4.6 billion. But Gap has also been watching its business decline for years at this point. While it may be the namesake brand of Gap Inc., which also owns labels such as Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Athleta, it hasn’t been the strongest label in that portfolio for some time. That title belongs to Old Navy. Gap, meanwhile, has seemed unable to halt its slide.

Yeezy’s importance to Gap’s turnaround efforts

The company is in the midst of trying to change that. In March 2020, Gap Inc. named a new CEO, Sonia Syngal, who previously led the company’s Old Navy business. That June, the Gap brand announced its collaboration with Kanye West, called Yeezy Gap, and last month revealed a new home goods line for Walmart.

The projects are examples of how the company is “breathing a lot of life into Gap,” Syngal has said in presentations to investors and analysts. On an earnings call in May, she said the creativity of the tie-up with West is “through the roof, and it’s spilling over to the brand. And it’s inspiring our teams more broadly.” At a conference this week, she also noted how much they’re seeing the Gap logo on TikTok, attributing the success to their collaborations.

Gap hasn’t said much about how it will release the collection. It’s unclear, for example, whether Gap will sell the rest of the line in one-off releases, like the round jacket, or whether it will distribute larger collections. Gap previously told Quartz the line would release to “millions of customers” but didn’t provide further detail.

The round jacket launched as a pre-order item with expected delivery this fall, which explains why Gap decided to sell outerwear when it’s nearly summer in the US, where it gets the vast bulk of its sales. The checkout process showed an estimated ship date of Oct. 14.

West has been successful selling sneakers, but has never matched that success with his clothes. Gap needs his new puffer jacket to change that.