Today, Kanye West took a break from shilling for the alt-light to produce a bunch of tweets about his other great love: his Yeezy apparel business. Kanye started out hot, saying Yeezy was the second-fastest growing business in history; he remained hot by claiming that it was on its way to becoming a decacorn, a horrible real word used by Silicon Valley types to describe companies that are worth $10 billion; and then tossed up a heat-check by insisting that he’s currently the highest-paid person in footwear—above even Michael Jordan.
And while it’s impossible to verify every claim about Kanye’s Yeezy business, since its financial information is baked into both the overall Adidas business and West’s own corporation, we went on a quest to find the kernels of truth in Kanye’s tweets. This is the Yeezy fact-check.
CLAIM: “I hired the head of supply chain from the Gap.”
TRUE? Pretty much!
According to LinkedIn, Yeezy hired Deborah Palmer Keiser as its Chief Supply Chain Officer two months ago. Congrats on the new gig, Deborah.
From 2004 to 2006, Keiser was the vice president of sourcing services at The Gap. In those 12 years between The Gap and Yeezy, Keiser bounced around from Williams Sonoma to All Saints to Sundance, but this mostly checks out.
The last time Kanye spoke about Yeezy quantities it was in a Harper’s Bazaar interview in 2016: “What designer on the planet can sell, consistently, 40,000 shoes. In two minutes?” If these new numbers are correct, it means Kanye multiplied the amount of Yeezys put out into the world tenfold. We don’t doubt Kanye could sell galactic numbers of shoes, but what makes his Yeezys so valuable are that they exist only in very limited numbers. Adidas declined to confirm these numbers.
CLAIM: “I am currently the single highest paid person in footwear. That means I make more money on shoes than Michael Jordan.”
TRUE? Almost definitely not.
In 2017, Jordan Brand alone brought in revenue of $3.1 billion and it was only last year that Adidas as an entire company was able to overtake Jumpman in U.S. market share. I asked John Kernan, a retail analyst who covers Adidas for Cowen, if somehow it was possible that Kanye was making more than Jordan, he replied bluntly: “No.” Then added, “I'm not sure what the economics are for [Jordan] at Nike, and I don't know what Kanye's economics are but it's hard for me to believe it's anywhere near what Nike's on the hook for with Jordan.”
CLAIM: “Yeezy will hit a billion dollars this year… It is a unicorn on its way to becoming a decacorn.”
TRUE? Unlikely—but not impossible.
With Yeezy apparel’s high price points (from $120 for a tee to $1400 for a military coat) and a footwear business model based on scarcity, it’s hard to imagine the company bringing in enough money to be valued at $10 billion. Kernan says that to reach decacorn status, Yeezy would need to pull $3 billion in sales annually—which would mean it counts for almost eight percent of Adidas’ entire global business. “I find it hard to believe its generating over a billion in sales,” says Kernan.
Let’s say we take Kanye’s numbers at face value, though. 400,000 Yeezy 350s at $220 a pop comes to $88,000,000—a sum so massive that Kanye would only have to do 12 shoe drops over the course of the year to hit a billion dollars in sales. To reach decacorn status, Kanye would have to do 34 shoe drops with those numbers to hit the required $3 billion in sales. So...not impossible!
CLAIM: “We have 160 positions to fill by the end of the year.”
TRUE? Update your LinkedIN, 'Ye.
There are currently only two open jobs on the Adidas site listed for Yeezy. That would mean 158 jobs are strictly for Yeezy’s non-footwear arm. Feels like a lot!
CLAIM: “I follow the shade room. Please never try to play Ye.”
TRUE? Probably not
Unless he’s got a separate, private Twitter or Instagram account, Kanye still follows only one person: Kim Kardashian-West.
CLAIM: “People magazine. Watch how you speak my name. You would love a pair of Yeezys.”
TRUE? We are anxiously awaiting comment.