Kanye West and Adidas: How misconduct broke a lucrative partnership

Kanye West and Adidas: How misconduct broke a lucrative partnership

Adidas employees quickly realized that Mr. West was full of ideas. They also discovered that he acted differently from everyone else they had encountered.

He can be enthusiastic to the extent of creating chaos. At the beginning, he unexpectedly arrived at Adidas’s New York office with Ms. Kardashian and thousands of dollars worth of sewing machines. It was so disruptive that he was moved to a studio across town. Once immersed in the design work, he became so obsessed with every detail that it became difficult to complete anything.

And when disappointed, he would immediately become angry. Before the deadline for the first Yeezy fashion show in February 2015, he attacked Rachel Muscat – a rare female manager in a male-dominated industry – and other Adidas employees using sexually explicit language. According to several team members, some complained to senior Adidas executives about the verbal abuse. (Like some other current and former employees of Adidas and Mr. West who were interviewed for this article, they spoke only on condition of anonymity because they are bound by nondisclosure agreements.)

However, attention immediately turned to the show, where the shoes drew praise. Performing that night, Mr. West, Travis Scott and other rappers wore the new Yeezys, a preview of the promotion that the artist and the high-profile people around him could generate for Adidas.

Released in a limited run over the next few months, the shoes sold out within hours, causing servers to crash and prices on resale sites to skyrocket. They attracted sneakerheads, fashionistas, and even athletes who had endorsement deals with Adidas rivals.

First came a suede high-top, followed by yeezy boost 350 – A sleek sneaker inspired by Nike’s Roche Run and nicknamed “The Roche Killer” inside Adidas. It had a flat front, not the standard rolled toe that Mr. West had despised. It put a Yeezy spin on Adidas innovations: Boost foam, a new cushioning technology in the sole, and a patterned knit fabric on the upper. The shoe was not suitable for running or sports, but complemented the athletic apparel that was coming into fashion.

Nick Galway, top Adidas designer, said, “He challenges everything but he puts all the energy into challenging and you see the results.” Said in a 2015 interview,

The 350 won top honors at the industry’s annual awards ceremony that year, considered the “shoe Oscars”.

Taking the stage with Mr. Wexler, Ms. Muscat and Arthur Hold, a top Adidas executive, Mr. West acknowledged that he could be a difficult partner. “It feels good to be here with the three guys I yelled at the most last year,” he said with a smile.

Changing his tone, he later said, “John basically saved my life.”

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