Over the last few months, the collaboration between Ye—the artist and fashion iconoclast formerly known as Kanye West—and the Gap seemed to find its creative and commercial footing. In July, the first of many long-promised Yeezy Gap stores opened in Times Square. Ye is a master of creating viral visual and social spectacles, and this was no exception: the mobs of customers who lined up outside to finally buy Yeezy Gap in person found that the clothes were stocked not on racks but in large heaping bags on the floor, like a by-the-pound thrift shop. Convenient? Maybe not. Cool and buzzy as hell? Totally. The drop was, even more excitingly, engineered by Balenciaga, in a novel arrangement with the house’s boundary-breaking creative director Demna.
Though the partnership between Ye and Gap has occasionally been rocky, here was Ye delivering on his promise. When was the last time teenagers lined up for blocks outside a Gap, or lusted on a celebrity’s Instagram for a pair of Gap sunglasses? But Ye isn’t easily satisfied—and it seems as if he still has some thoughts about where the ten year partnership struck last year needs to be going.
In a six-minute video posted to his Instagram on Wednesday, Ye addresses—in the same aspect ratio he watches Blade Runner in, for some reason—a group that appears to be the executive leadership team of Gap, with interim CEO and board chair Bob L. Martin front and center. The circumstances of the meeting aren’t entirely clear, and Gap did not return request for comment. The Yeezy Gap sunglasses social campaign is posted on walls around the room, so the clip was likely filmed within the last few weeks, and might represent the confab with Martin Ye demanded in an Instagram post in July.
“This is Sparta,” Ye says at the jump. Whatever the occasion of the meeting, Ye, in a tone that alternates between harsh and uplifting, like a quarterback pumping up his football team to glory, uses it to lay out the vision for his grand, populist fashion project.
Ye’s dream of democratizing fashion, which he’s chased for almost a decade, appears to be more rock solid than ever. As he says at the top of the video, which has been edited to splice several monologues together, “This is not celebrity marketing, this is not a collaboration, this is a life mission.” Ye then delivers an elevator pitch. The goal, he suggests, is to make clothes “that can hit that Old Navy price with the cut.” By cut, Ye probably means the slouchy, shrouding aesthetic of Yeezy Gap. Later, he’s more explicit: “How do we get [this T-shirt]… to $20? How do we go Costco, how do we go Old Navy prices?”
He goes on to suggest that, in order to get there, he’ll need to do something quite a bit more radical than bringing retail clothing off of racks: “We do TV commercials, we open up those stores, and we look at those stores, and we go through those racks and we look at the product, whatever, and put that other shit in the outlet. And put Ye’s shit in the front.” This, naturally, elicits some nervous laughter from the Gap execs. “Throughout every single Gap store,” Ye continues. “And let’s go take the JCPenney stores while we’re at it!” (JCPenney, unlike Old Navy, is not owned by Gap.)
Over the course of the video, Ye cites his own bankability when it comes to moving product—his unique ability to bring “energy” to a brand. He claims to have sold $7 million of merch when he performed Donda at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium last summer. (“And this is us capped at 50,000 seats—maybe we coulda went to 70,000 seats,” he adds.) Ye goes on to say he brought three million emails over from Adidas, possibly referring to the Adidas Yeezy mailing list. And, echoing a previous Instagrammed statement directed at Martin, Ye says they sold 14 million black Yeezy Gap hoodies, at $80, after running a “Life of the Party”-soundtracked commercial for the garment in May. (Previously, Ye said they sold $14 million worth of the hoodies, not 14 million units.)
There is something for everyone in the video. Fashion nerds can read into Ye’s dismay that he wasn’t cued into the surprise collaboration between Adidas and Balenciaga, two of his main collaborators outside Gap, until it was unveiled at the Balenciaga show in May: “I’m sitting next to Anna Wintour and [Balenciaga CEO] Cédric [Charbit] watching an Adidas collaboration I knew nothing about. That’s insane!” Financial analysts can read into his threat to turn his back on Gap: “You have to really give me the position to Ye and do what I’m thinking, or I’m going to have to do what I’m thinking somewhere else.” Ye superfans can read into his distress that Yeezy Gap has yet to hold a fashion show: “We never did a fashion show. That’s insane!” And anyone can try to imagine what Ye’s purported, seemingly undercover trips to factories must be like: “I’m there in factories with no heat. I’m there no security, no heat, no gold watch, no chains, learning, how do we get this to the high schools?”
Ye ends his pep talk on an inspiring note, and the executives, whose moods seem to shift between concerned, bemused, and anxious, appear to relax. “This is our football team,” Ye says, before comparing himself to Tom Brady. The video then cuts to the group clapping for what they perhaps assumed was a performance—just Ye being Ye. But Ye appears dead serious. “Don’t fucking clap!” he says, raising his voice and his hands. “You guys are either going to give me the position”—presumably, the position to Ye and do what he’s thinking, as he says—“or I’m gonna quit.”
The Gap team might not know exactly what to make of their Tom Brady, but Ye knows exactly what he wants. In a since-deleted follow up post, Ye encourages his followers to help him open Yeezy stores worldwide—independently. “Ima show you,” he wrote, “how to use social media.”