Rafael Joseph faces an expensive dilemma. Normally, he wouldn’t think twice before lacing up one of his eight pairs of Yeezy sneakers — the much-hyped partnership between Adidas and Kanye West, also known as Ye.
But following the rapper’s recent anti-Semitic rants on social media and a podcast, Joseph – who is Jewish – is considering whether to give his prized collection the boot.
“I love wearing them, you know? And I found myself in a position where my entire collection was destroyed.” [his] statement,” Joseph said.
He’s one of millions of sneaker collectors and music fans now wondering if they can separate West’s controversial views and actions from his creations.
In a TikTok video explaining his mixed feelings, Joseph urged the rapper to apologize — saying it’s the only way he can wear his Yeezy collection again.
“I’m not telling all Jews to stop wearing Yeezys. That’s a personal thing,” Joseph told CBC News from his home in London, England.
“I have a personal problem with wearing designer clothes where I’m promoting someone who is actually causing trouble for my people.”
But where Joseph has a problem, plenty of others see opportunity in West’s fall from grace.
Adidas split fuels the Yeezy hype
After Adidas severed ties with West on Tuesday, halted production and ordered authorized retailers such as Foot Locker to remove Yeezy products from stores, the resale market kicked into hyperdrive.
Most Adidas Yeezys sold for $200-$300 at original retail, but could fetch hundreds more when resold.
This week, resale prices jumped as sneakerheads rushed to buy the sought-after shoes, which were made more exclusive than ever thanks to the discontinuation of the Adidas brand.
As of Monday, Yeezy sneakers and sandals make up seven of the 10 best-selling shoes on retail giant StockX.
“As long as there’s a demand for it and people keep coming to us and are willing to pay three or four times the price, then there’s no point in us not selling it, right?” asked Richard Chang, co-owner of online retailer Sneaker Source Toronto, which stocks about 100 pairs of Yeezys.
Unlike major retailers, Chang and his business partner Shawn Alonto can’t afford not to sell their remaining stock — despite their own concern over West’s recent antics.
“To say stop selling, I can’t promise you that,” Alonto said. “But right now I’m wearing the product, yeah, it’s too fresh to stunt in some Yeezys.”
In any case, many of the pairs still floating around on the resale market will likely never hit the pavement: with price tags ranging from the low hundreds to several thousand dollars a pair, they are considered collectibles whose value in a year of years.
“A lot of people who had a bunch of stuff in their closet that they probably wore one day and maybe sold, now they’re probably going to keep it forever,” says Andrei Zelenine, co-owner of the Toronto sneaker. the Kenshi store, which has seen its own onslaught of Yeezy hunters this week.
“Most people who buy them don’t seem to care what’s going on [with West]. They just like them because they’re good shoes… They’re just sneakers, at the end of the day. The bot doesn’t have its own voice.”
Dragging to playlists resistant to Ye
Even companies with no ties to West’s business ventures have been quick to distance themselves from the rapper — including stores, restaurants and gyms that are now removing his music from their playlists.
A “major retailer” in Canada was among hundreds of companies to remove West’s tracks from their rotation in the past week, along with major restaurants and hotel groups in Australia and the US, says Ola Sars, CEO of Soundtrack Your Brand, which provides music for about 22 000 businesses worldwide. Sars declined to name the companies involved.
Major labels were particularly interested in customer perception, which is likely to lead to more excitement for West’s music, said Melanie Fulker, chief customer officer of Startle Music, a competitor of Sars’ company.
“In an extreme case, all it takes is one customer to hear a song and be upset about it, and that’s a lasting association they’ll have with that brand,” Fulker said.
“In many cases, businesses want to talk about problems, but they also [to] err on the side of caution and make sure they protect themselves.”
Fitness giants Peloton and Equinox are among the brands that have confirmed they will no longer use West’s music in their classes. Major Canadian gym chains, including GoodLife Fitness and Fitness World, declined to comment.
All it takes, in an extreme case, is one customer to hear a song and get upset about it, and that’s the lasting association they’ll have with that brand.– Melanie Fulker, Startle Music, on major labels pulling West’s music from playlists
Winnipeg spin instructor Hannah Pratt decided Monday to no longer play West’s songs during her Wheelhouse Cycle Club classes, which include a hip-hop-themed ride on Sunday mornings.
“My role as an indoor cycling instructor [involves] creating playlists that attempt to bring positivity, joy, connectivity, motivation and inspiration to the people who walk through those doors,” said Pratt, who is also the studio’s director of marketing.
“By playing for Kanye West, I was going to not do those things — especially if there were people in the Jewish community who are on my rides.”
While Adidas hasn’t said what it plans to do with its inventory of unsold Yeezys, sneaker insiders and fans hope the sports giant will continue to produce the same iconic designs — West aside.
As Joseph waits for an apology that may never come, he’s torn about what to do with his eight pairs of Yeezy kicks: Keep them in the closet? Sell them to one of the many collectors who want to buy them? Or you need to donate to a good cause.
“They were expensive shoes,” he said. “I’m not going to lie, I really don’t want to lose them.
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