Gap brand CEO tells staff the Kanye West partnership is over

Ye tried to work through his issues with Gap management, but they were not able to reconcile. PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK - Gap will end its relationship with Kanye West and his Yeezy label after a public spat in which the rapper and designer criticised his corporate partner, culminating in a letter Thursday accusing Gap of breaking the terms of its deal and saying he is terminating the contract.

In a memo sent to employees, Gap's top executive said the company would terminate the Yeezy Gap partnership and move on from West, who now goes by Ye.

"Simply put, while we share a vision of bringing high-quality, trend-forward, utilitarian design to all people through unique omni experiences with Yeezy Gap, how we work together to deliver this vision is not aligned," Mr Mark Breitbard, president and chief executive officer of Gap brand, said in the memo. "And we are deciding to wind down the partnership."

Under the terms of the agreement, Gap will continue to sell its existing Yeezy Gap products in both Gap stores and its website into the first half of 2023, according to a person familiar with the matter. That includes multiple product releases this fall and a holiday collection, said the person, who asked not to be named because the information is private.

'Like I was on mute'

"We are moving forward incredibly proud of what we've built and the team that's made it happen," Mr Breitbard told his staff. "And our pursuit to fortify Gap as an icon at the intersection of fashion, music and culture does not end here, it's just the beginning."

Ye's lawyers said earlier Thursday Ye tried to work through his issues with Gap management, but they were not able to reconcile and would, therefore, move to end the agreement.

"Gap left Ye no choice but to terminate their collaboration agreement because of Gap's substantial noncompliance," Mr Nicholas Gravante Jr, a partner at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, said in an e-mail.

In an interview with Bloomberg prior to the breakup, Ye said he was fed up with his corporate partners and would branch out on his own.

He said the relationship with Gap was "frustrating and disheartening".

"Sometimes I would talk to the guys, the leaders, and it would be like I was on mute or something," he said.

The Gap collection, a combination of grey and black long- and short-sleeve shirts, parkas, bodysuits and more, currently ranges from US$60 (S$84) to more than US$300 on the retailer's site.

Ye said he was unable to set the prices on the items. He wanted pieces to be available at US$20, but Gap priced them much higher than their typical collections. He even said Gap ripped off a design and sold it for US$19.

"Our agenda wasn't aligned," he said.

'Time to go it alone'

Standing in his way were his long-term deals with Adidas for sneakers and Gap for apparel. The Gap split gets him out of a 10-year agreement that was set to expire in 2030.

"It's time for me to go it alone," said Ye. "No more companies in-between me and the audience."

With both sides eager to call it quits, a two-year experiment comes to an end that Gap had hoped would drive sales and attract new shoppers. It had billion-dollar ambitions for the tie-up, and Ye was set to collect stock warrants as the line hit sales targets as high as US$700 million, according to a securities filing. BLOOMBERG

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