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Is Yeezy getting outmoded?

In 2019, the fame of Kanye's sneaker was eclipsed by Travis Scott's

Is Yeezy getting outmoded? In 2019, the fame of Kanye's sneaker was eclipsed by Travis Scott's

Kanye West has practically invented the collaboration sneakers as we know them. His Jasper Sneakers co-signed with Louis Vuitton in 2009 are among the most expensive in the entire resell landscape, followed by some models from his Air Yeezy collections for Nike. Kanye, however, took a step beyond the collaborations by founding Yeezy in 2015 and started an operation that, with its ups and downs, started from music and fashion to expand to all fields of creativity to become one of the most recognizable and ubiquitous names on the contemporary cultural scene. His dominance seemed unchallenged at least until Nike and Travis Scott started their own partnership – a partnership that in a short time led Scott to become one of the most influential figures in the sneaker game, rivalling in visibility and virality with the Yeezy's production, which in 2019 appeared weak.

Although the productions of the two rappers can’t be compared, what can be compared is their actual weight on the current sneaker game. If until two years ago Travis Scott had a great influence but did not enjoy the same following as Kanye, 2019 has shuffled the cards on the table. In the year that Yeezy produced slippers and endless replicas of the Yeezy 350 model, recording a slight decline in sales in the third quarter of 2019, Travis Scott co-signed with Nike sneakers that were instant-cult like the Air Force 1 with the customisable Swoosh or the “Cactus Jack” with their patchwork upper, the Air Jordan 1 with the inverted Swoosh, the Air Jordan 4 and the Air Jordan 33. The issue also involved the distribution field. While Travis Scott and Nike received an official appeal from fans protesting the extreme scarcity of releases, adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted admitted that they had to slow down Yeezy's production to keep its exclusivity intact. 

The question of exclusivity is thorny. The whole hype mechanism revolves around the concept of limited release and product rarity. Yeezy's first drop in 2015 was very limited and sparked a strong hype. But Kanye said to Ryan Seacrest for the occasion

I want to apologize to all the kids and all the parents that can’t get the shoes currently, because there’s only 9,000, and also because they’re $350, if they’re out of anyone’s price range…. I just want everyone to be safe and patient. I know you can run up on this 14-year-old kid and take his Yeezys, but just be patient because we’ll make more Yeezys”.

The democratization of fashion has always been part of Kanye's plans, inscribing himself in the rapper's greatest vocation to social problems that led him, for example, to create academies for young creatives and homes for the homeless. The risk that you may run into, commercially, is the saturation of the market and the devaluation of the product, especially if you fall into repetition and don't propose enough novelties exciting to keep the public engaged.

It must be said, however, that despite design considerations and commercial data, Kanye remained the most credible "designer" of the two. Yeezy, regarded as a brand in its own right, was one of the cornerstones of modern sneaker culture and one of the brands that has been able to carve out a space on a scene usually foreclosed to new players, but which at the same time has been eclipsed by the hype raised by Travis Scott.  And although, between the Yeezy Clog and Slide, this year's production has been less relevant than that of the past, Kanye has still worked within a universe and an aesthetic that has spent the last five years cultivating while, although much more popular, the Travis Scott's sneakers haven't brought any major design innovation. It remains to be seen whether, in the case of the sneakers signed by Scott, the hype is the first sign of an actual cultural weight or just a reflection of a passing fame (although his recent inclusion in the lookbook of the collaboration between Nike and Dior suggests otherwise) and if this will be able to match Kanye West's work in importance. As in many other issues, the ultimate test will be that of time.