For sneaker lover Manuel Cruz, shoes have always been more than something to wear.
Smart shopping has led to big sales for the collector: Cruz has already sold dozens of pairs of sneakers, including some from Kanye West’s Yeezy brand, for $24,000. He used the proceeds to pay for his wedding and honeymoon in Hawaii.
Now, however, the side hustle is pending — because among Cruz’s collection are 20 pairs of Yeezy sneakers worth a total of nearly $5,000, he said. And in the wake of West’s anti-Semitic remarks — and German sportswear company Adidas’ decision to sever ties with him — the secondary market for Yeezy footwear and apparel is in dramatic decline.
Anecdotal evidence and interviews with retail experts indicate sellers are slashing prices to unload West-associated products as they compete for a shrinking pool of consumers interested in tainted items. anti-Semitism of the musician turned designer. Online resale platform Grailed, for example, was offering many pairs of Yeezy shoes and apparel at a discount of 30% or more on Tuesday afternoon. And on StockX, a competing website, eight of the 10 most popular Yeezy sneakers showed a drop in “last sale” price, meaning the dollar amount had dropped from the previous trade.
The situation left Cruz in shock.
“It’s very difficult to know what to do,” said Cruz, 40, who works as a distribution account manager for an auto parts company. “Because of the amount I spent on these shoes, I have to keep them. I just sit on everything.”
In recent weeks, West has propelled the collapse of several prominent business ventures by repeatedly voicing — in a series of interviews — a virulently anti-Semitic worldview. In an article published Monday, West spoke about Jewish-controlled media and suggested that Jewish doctors wrongly hospitalized him for treatment for bipolar disorder and went public with his diagnosis.
In addition to the loss of the Adidas contract, the high fashion house Balenciaga and Gap have ended their partnerships with West. And he was dropped by the talent agency CAA.
This leads to a startling, self-inflicted loss of business, said Neil Saunders, retail analyst at GlobalData.
“It’s quite exceptional to end so many partnerships and with such high-profile companies,” Saunders said. “These are massive marks. They had to end the partnerships with Ye, because Ye’s comments are really out of morality.”
West, 45, who also goes by the name Ye, did not respond to a request for comment.
The hip-hop musician and producer has had a long interest in fashion. West started getting into apparel and footwear in the late 2000s, working with companies such as A Bathing Ape, Louis Vuitton and Nike. Later, he forged the partnership with Adidas, which started producing Yeezy sneakers in 2013. West struck the Gap deal in 2020 to design adult and children’s apparel for the San Francisco-based apparel giant. . The effort’s first articles were published in 2021 — and a $90 sweatshirt sold out within hours of its debut.
West’s success in fashion has proven lucrative: Prior to his recent comments, his net worth was pegged at $2 billion by Forbes – with the publication attributing 75% of that valuation to the Adidas deal. But, with the loss of that relationship, Forbes said, West is no longer a billionaire.
For years, Yeezy sneakers have been coveted by fans who love their bulbous look. The same goes for her clothes, with their draped cuts and modern silhouettes. A thriving secondary market has allowed collectors missing out on a limited edition to snag the latest item – at a hefty price. This paradigm was supercharged in the first year or so of the pandemic, with sneakers and collectibles exploding in value alongside other luxury assets, including watches, wine, art. and cars.
Now West’s commodity market is trending down – sharply. Saunders said, “Anyone who owns Yeezy products hoping to make a good deal out of them in the secondary market is going to be very disappointed.”
“The value of these things has gone down,” he said. “People don’t want to be associated with Kanye right now.”
It was evident at Cool Kicks, a shoe store and stockist located in one of LA’s premier sneaker markets on Melrose Avenue. The store was much busier than normal on Tuesday, co-owner Adeel Shams said, and a lot of that had to do with Yeezys.
“People are freaking out selling them,” said Shams, who noted that 80% of shoes sold on Tuesday were Yeezys. “Some of them fear wearing them in public and being judged.”
A popular online platform for selling Yeezy products has opted out of this business. RealReal, an apparel retailer, said on Tuesday it would no longer allow the brand’s items to be listed for sale. So far, however, competing services have not followed suit.
“could turn against them.”
“To say nothing is to say something on a lot of people’s minds,” he said. “If you remain silent on an issue, that silence sends a message.”
StockX, Grailed, GOAT Group and EBay did not respond to requests for comment regarding the presence of Yeezy items on their websites.
There will almost certainly be a market for Yeezy shoes and apparel, but how big it is is an open question. “The market is not going to go to zero,” Belch said. “People may see this as an investment opportunity.”
Still, Saunders expected the residue of anti-Semitism to cling to West, making it difficult to see a way forward for the brand.
“With Yeezy…it’s directly tied to him,” Saunders said. “So whatever Yeezy wants to do now is clouded by these comments from Kanye. It makes it very difficult for the brand to grow or evolve. It’s tarnished forever.”
For his part, Shams thinks there could still be a market for Yeezy sneakers, although he warned it’s too early to tell. He said the value of some designs could skyrocket “now that Adidas and others won’t wear them anymore.”
“There are going to be two types of people,” Shams said. “People who are freaking out and trying to monetize them right now. And there will be the holders. They’re going to buy them now and hold them for about a year because they think they’re going to go up in value.”
For collectibles, the end of production can drive up prices, Belch said.
“It’s the scarcity factor – people who invest in these things, they play this card all the time,” he said. “They see it as an investment. I guess a lot of these people don’t care less about controversy.”
Indeed, on YouTube at least, some sneakerheads were unfazed by West’s anti-Semitism. Others saw it as an opportunity to buy cheap.
In the comments section of a popular YouTube video titled “No More Yeezys! Adidas Ends Yeezy Deal With Kanye West,” one commenter expressed displeasure not so much with the cobbler’s decision as with its timing.
“I wish they had just waited a week or so,” the commenter wrote. “I was hoping to get the utility black 500 for retail.”
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.