Telfar Clemens Speaks Out About Canceled Gap Collaboration
The designer doesn’t want social media to pit him against Kanye West.
When news broke on June 26 that Gap inked a 10-year deal with Kanye West’s YEEZY, social media users were quick to question the status of Gap’s collaboration with Telfar, which had been in the works for approximately one year and was publicly announced January 2020. In the midst of protests and conversations surrounding racism in America, many painted Telfar as the victim of the situation, effectively overlooked in favor of another Black designer with more fame and power.
Clemens told The New York Times that he is happy for West, as well as YEEZY x Gap’s Design Director Mowalola Ogunlesi. The designer believes that talk — which largely took place on Instagram — of his former Gap project “played fame and skin color against each other.”
According to a Gap spokesperson, “The Yeezy Gap partnership and the Telfar collab were handled by wholly separate teams and the workstreams didn’t intersect, given organizational and leadership shifts between the timing of both.” The company’s statement seems to reference the firing of Gap Chief Executive Art Peck in November 2019, followed by the departure of Chief Marketing Officer Alegra O’Hare in January 2020. Further complicating things, John Caruso, head of Gap Adult Design, left shortly after.
Now that Gap has agreed to pay Clemens in full for the canceled collaboration, he is “really glad to be free of it.” Clemens’ creative director, Babak Radboy, touched on the tendency of establishment brands to tokenize Telfar: “It has been part of our survival to become content for a bigger brand so they can make a statement about their racial solidarity. But the real problem is the initial situation that blocks a designer’s progress so they need to say ‘yes’ to such a thing.”
- The New York Times