As Kim Kardashian and Kanye West reportedly file for divorce, we look back at the impact their union had on Yeezy.
This week the internet was set alight with rumors that Kim Kardashian West filed for divorce from her husband, rapper and artist Kanye West. The duo, who have been married for six years and together for eight, are arguably one of the world’s most famous couples.
Since the early noughties, Kimye’s influence as individuals has been far-reaching, but pales in comparison to the sway they hold together. From Kanye’s unending musical references to Kim to their children becoming some of the world’s youngest celebrities, the duo have come to epitomize 21st-century popular culture.
Where the couple reaped the most traction, and likely profit, however, is what their union meant for fashion.
2009 marked West’s first fashion collaboration, birthing the Air Yeezys 1 and 2 with Nike. Although the shoes were commercially successful, the partnership ended shortly afterwards, when West claimed that the company refused to pay him royalties on the sales, leading to a public feud. In 2011, West hosted the first show for his eponymous brand, Kanye West, a commercial line that was met with little enthusiasm. Fashion journalist and industry veteran Tim Blanks wrote at the time, “It’s frustrating that someone who seems to almost effortlessly realize his vaulting musical ambitions comes up short elsewhere.” West followed up with another collection for Fall 2012, but dropped the line altogether after a myriad of mediocre reviews.
This, of course, predated West’s relationship with Ms. Kardashian. Kimye got together in 2012, had their first child a year later, and were married in 2014. The following year, West attempted to carve his place in the fashion industry once more, this time in the form of a collaboration with Adidas. The designer presented Yeezy Season 1: a delightfully minimalist, neutral toned, hole-ridden line complete with futuristic sneakers that would soon become some of the most highly coveted shoes of the decade.
Since that atmospheric New York show in October 2015, the Yeezy brand (which Kanye now design’s independently, collaborating with Adidas’ solely on the sneakers) has gone from strength to strength, with its segue into mainstream culture appearing to correlate directly with the Kardashian-Jenners’ involvement. The youngest member of the family, Kylie Jenner, walked in several Yeezy shows beginning with Season 2, while the rest of the clan perched on the front row decked out in the brand. Yeezy rapidly became Kim’s uniform on both Keeping up with the Kardashians and her 198-million-follower-strong Instagram account, and eventually found its place on the feet of the family’s entire outer circle. In terms of official advertising, Yeezy’s 2018 campaign came in the form of a (viral) faux paparazzi shot photoshoot, featuring Paris Hilton dressed as Kim Kardashian in head-to-toe Yeezy.
However, the pair’s clout gifting goes both ways. Prior to Kim and Kanye’s union, and that infamous wardrobe makeover at the hands of West, the Kardashians, in their garish jewels and embellished neon — were seen as the antithesis of high fashion. The entire family was reportedly banned from attending the Met Gala by Anna Wintour, and Kim didn’t see a Vogue cover until 2014 – when she and Kanye appeared as a couple. Now, Kim’s influence in the high fashion sphere is unquestionable; designers are fighting to dress her, and she’s welcomed up the steps of the Met with open arms. She’s even started her own brand, Skims, an underwear line that bears a striking resemblance to Yeezy.
From a business standpoint, Kim and Kanye’s relationship is (was?) mutually beneficial. Kanye’s links to industry veterans and penchant for minimalism rose his wife’s profile in the industry, whilst Kim’s ubiquity on social media helped Yeezy become the cultural marker that it is. Whether or not their divorce – and a hypothetical reduction of Kardashian support – will lead to the dwindling of the brand, is yet to be seen.