For sneaker aficionado Manuel Cruz, shoes have always been much more than just something to wear.
Smart buys have translated into big sales for the collector: Cruz once sold dozens of pairs of sneakers, including some from Kanye West’s Yeezy brand, for $24,000. He used the proceeds to pay for his wedding and honeymoon in Hawaii.
Now, however, the side business is on hold — because Cruz’s collection includes 20 pairs of Yeezy sneakers totaling nearly $5,000, he said. And after West’s anti-Semitic remarks — and German sportswear company Adidas’ move to cut ties with him — the secondary market for Yeezy shoes and apparel is seeing a dramatic decline.
Anecdotal evidence and interviews with retail experts suggest sellers are slashing prices to shed West-related products while competing for a dwindling number of consumers interested in items tainted by the musician and designer’s anti-Semitism . Online resale platform Grailed, for example, had discounted many pairs of Yeezy shoes and clothing by 30% or more as of Tuesday afternoon. And on StockX, a competitor site, eight of the top 10 most popular Yeezy sneakers showed a drop in “last sale” price, meaning the dollar amount was down from the previous transaction.
The situation rocked Cruz.
“It’s very hard to know what to do,” said Cruz, 40, who works as a sales account manager for an auto parts store. “Because of the amount of money I spent on these shoes, I have to keep them. I’m just stuck on everything.”
In recent weeks, West has fueled the collapse of several high-profile companies by repeatedly voicing – in a series of interviews – a virulently anti-Semitic worldview. In a published Monday, West spoke of Jewish-controlled media and suggested that Jewish doctors mistakenly admitted him to the hospital for treatment for bipolar disorder and publicized his diagnosis.
Alongside losing the Adidas deal, high fashion house Balenciaga and Gap have ended partnerships with West. And he was dropped by talent agency CAA.
It’s resulting in a staggering self-inflicted loss of business, said Neil Saunders, a retail analyst at GlobalData.
“It’s quite extraordinary that so many partnerships have ended, and with such high-profile companies,” said Saunders. “These are huge brands. They had to end the partnerships with Ye because Ye’s comments are really unmoral.”
West, 45, who is also called Ye, did not respond to a request for comment.
The hip-hop musician and producer has long had an interest in fashion. West started out in apparel and footwear in the late 2000s, working with companies like A Bathing Ape, Louis Vuitton and Nike. He later forged the partnership with Adidas, which started producing Yeezy sneakers in 2013. West closed the Gap deal in 2020 to design adult and children’s clothing for the San Francisco-based clothing giant. The first items from the promotion were released in 2021 – and a $90 sweatshirt sold out within hours of its debut.
West’s fashion success proved lucrative: Prior to his recent comments, Forbes had put his net worth at $2 billion – with the publication attributing 75% of that valuation to the Adidas deal. But with the loss of that relationship, according to Forbes, West is no longer a billionaire.
For years, Yeezy sneakers have been coveted by fans who love their bulbous looks. The same goes for his clothes with their draped fits and modern silhouettes. A thriving secondary market has ensured that collectors who miss a limited-edition drop could buy the latest piece – at a hefty price. This paradigm was charged in the first year of the pandemic, as collectible sneakers and clothing exploded in value alongside other luxury goods, including watches, wine, art and cars.
Now the market for goods from West is trending down – steeply. Saunders said that “anyone holding Yeezy merchandise in hopes of making a coin out of it in the secondary market will be greatly disappointed.”
“The value of these things has gone down,” he said. “People don’t want to be associated with Kanye right now.”
This was evident at Cool Kicks, a shoe store and reseller in one of Los Angeles’ top sneaker marketplaces on Melrose Avenue. The store was a lot busier than usual on Tuesday, co-owner Adeel Shams said, and a lot of that had to do with Yeezys.
“People are panicking selling them,” said Shams, noting that 80% of shoes sold Tuesday were Yeezys. “Some of them are afraid to wear them in public and be judged.”
A popular online platform for selling Yeezy goods has decided to go out of business. RealReal, a clothing reseller, said Tuesday it would no longer allow the brand’s items to be listed. So far, however, competing services have not followed suit.
George Belch, chair of the marketing department at San Diego State University, said that in the current era — a time when companies are increasingly “responsive to the positions they take on social, political, and economic issues” — a lack of action to controversy in the west. could backfire.”
“In the minds of many people, saying nothing is the same as saying something,” he said. “When you remain silent on an issue, that silence sends a message.”
StockX, Grailed, GOAT Group, and eBay did not respond to requests for comment about the presence of Yeezy items on their sites.
There will almost certainly continue to be a market for Yeezy shoes and apparel – but its size is an open question. “The market is not going to go to zero,” Belch said. “Possibly people see this as an investment opportunity.”
Still, Saunders expected the rest of the anti-Semitism to cling to West, making it difficult to see a way forward for the brand.
“With Yeezy… it’s directly connected to him,” Saunders said. “So everything Yeezy wants to do now is clouded by these comments from Kanye. This makes it very difficult for the brand to grow or evolve. It is tarnished forever.”
For his part, Shams believes there may still be a market for Yeezy sneakers, although he warned it’s too early to say. He said the value of some models could skyrocket “now that Adidas and others will no longer carry them”.
“There will be two types of people,” Shams said. “The people who are panicking and trying to monetize them right now. And there will be holders. They’re going to buy them now and keep them for about a year because they think they’ll appreciate in value.”
For collectibles, ending production can drive up prices, Belch said.
“It’s the scarcity factor — people investing in these things play that card all the time,” he said. “They look at it as an investment. I suspect many of these people are no less interested in the controversy.”
At least on YouTube, some sneakerheads were undeterred by West’s anti-Semitism. Others saw an opportunity to buy cheap.
In the comments section of a popular YouTube video titled “No more Yeezys! Adidas ends Yeezy deal with Kanye West,” one commenter expressed displeasure less with the shoemaker’s decision and more with the timing.
“I wish they had just waited a week or so,” the commenter wrote. “Was hoping to get the 500 Utility Black for retail.”
https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2022-10-26/la-yeezy-resale Kanye West antisemitic remarks hurt Yeezy resale value