The Players Technology Newsletter 16.0 — 03/17/19


Virgil Abloh was recently designated as Fashions Biggest Star by the New Yorker Magazine, but the spotlight needs to be on the individual that has singlehandedly changed the direction of pop culture, Kanye West.

He’s currently not only the single highest paid person in footwear, which means that he makes more money on shoes than Michael Jordan, but he’s birthed the careers of all the hottest designers in fashion. 

That list includes:

  • Virgil Abloh - Kanye's former Creative Director and Men's Artistic Director at Louis Vuitton
  • Jerry Lorenzo - His former Creative Partner and Head of Yeezy tour merchandise; Founder of Fear of God
  • Samuel Ross - Current Nike collaborator and founder of the hot UK streetwear label A Cold Wall
  • Heron Preston - his former Art Director whose namesake label has collaborated with Nasa for Autumn/Winter 2018 and launched his first womenswear line
  • Matthew Williams - A rising star of Alyx Studios, also a Nike collaborator who was part of the rapper’s design agency, Donda

The 41-year-old rapper and fashion mogul partnered with Adidas in 2013, signing him away from rival Nike, and expanded the relationship in 2016 calling it "the most significant partnership ever created between a non-athlete and an athletic brand'. West suggested he made the jump to Adidas after Nike was unable to provide him creative freedom and royalties that were reserved for professional athletes such as Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Christian Ronaldo. Six years later, Kanye has completely shifted the athlete dominated footwear landscape to a new business thesis focused on lifestyle and music. 

Since he’s a major stakeholder, his personal net worth has reportedly also reached around a billion dollars. The Yeezy’s growth is a bonanza for Adidas, which now has its most prominent piece of market share in recent history. 

Not to be outdone, four of Nike’s top collaborators just happen to be Kanye’s former lieutenants, who are fueling their footwear sales. Virgil currently sells the most desirable sneaker collection in the world. Jerry Lorenzo’s Nike collaboration is presently the hottest sneaker on the market. Ross and Williams have recently launched a series of Nike footwear collections of their own. The current sneaker war features all of Mr. West’s influence. 

Mr. West has done his very best to turn off potential customers and longtime fans by crusading for a much-despised president, buddying up with toxic members of the conservative movement and suggesting women may lie about sexual assault. In spite of all that, Yeezy sales still multiplied six times over in the final quarter of 2018. At one point, Yeezy was the most desirable shoe in the world, until Virgil’s Nike collection hit the market. But Kanye's done something even more impressive now: GONE MASS. The only thing that had stopped people from buying Yeezys, was the shoes’ lack of availability. Expanding the stock led to a 500% increase in Yeezy sales, according to NPD’s Matt Powell, and vaulted Yeezy into the top 10 in sneaker sales worldwide. 

With new shoe companies like AllBirds worth $1.4B and the ever-growing sales and influence of Kanye West, what if he had started his own Direct-To-Consumer footwear brand, I wonder what it would be worth today. 



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“Before you find out who you are, you have to figure out who you aren't.”
- Iyanla Vanzant

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