Kanye West (or currently known as ‘Ye’) is a Chicago rapper and producer, who partnered with Nike in 2007 to come up with the Nike Air Yeezy brand. West has been known for his flair in fashion and this was a good opportunity for him to take his career in clothing to the next level. This was the first collaboration produced by Nike that was not in partnership with an athlete.
The rapper, together with Nike’s Creative Director at the time, Mark Smith, designed the Nike Air Yeezy from 2007 to 2009. The Nike Air Yeezy is considered to be the most popular shoe in the sneaker world due to its limited availability and association with a famous figure. The design process was long, inspired by the Nike shoes including some Jordan models. For instance, Zen Gray’s sole adapted Jordan 3, originally released in 1988. The first Yeezy all-black shoe was released in the 2008 Grammy Awards during West’s performance and its buzz started immediately. Surprisingly, the public wasn’t aware of Nike collaboration with Kanye West until then.
The shoe initially sold at $215 with the price skyrocketing to thousands. In fact, the all-black Nike Air Yeezy that West wore to the 2008 Grammy Awards is selling at $250,000 today. The shoe incorporates Nike Air Technology, is very comfortable and can be worn all day. According to some reviewers, the shoe’s unique design was never seen before and this contributed to its great demand. It features three colorways; Nike Air Yeezy Zen Gray, Nike Air Yeezy Black/Pink and Nike Air Yeezy Net/Tan.
The Air Yeezy was so successful that Air Yeezy 2 was introduced in 2012, designed by the rapper and Nathan Vanhook. This was more popular and sold more than its predecessor at $4000 from an initial retail price of $245.
Nike Air Yeezy 2 was to be created from the several designs left over from Air Yeezy design process. However, that wasn’t the case. The shoe features more animalistic design inspiration. It sports a ridged reptile inspired heel counter and snake skin design on the quarters. The design also shows keen attention to detail. Some people praised its spiky heel counter’s material provided excellent aid when wearing the kick. Like its predecessor, Nike Air Yeezy 2 features three colorways; Nike Air Yeezy II Black/Solar Red, Nike Air Yeezy II Pure Platinum and Nike Air Yeezy II Red October.
Unfortunately, West parted ways with Nike in 2014 and joined Adidas the following year. Although West was deeply grateful to Nike for giving him a shot, he expressed his frustrations as well. He lamented the reasons for his departure were Nike’s unwillingness to change and that it wasn’t giving him an opportunity to express his creativity. According to West, Nike didn’t give him royalties for his own shoes. The brand wanted the proceeds to be paid to a charity of his choice. It is also rumored that Nike kept on pushing the release dates for the Red October so as to drive more sales and hype, which caused the end of the partnership with the rapper.