In Feburary 2011 Nike unveiled their Robert Rodriguez directed short film, ‘Black Mamba’, in which Kobe Bryant had to beat the Boss (as played by Kanye West) in a game of basketball, so that he could hold on to his own pair of sneakers. As excited as everyone was for the video, the real story became the question: What trainers is Kanye wearing? Following a snowstorm of internet speculation, it eventually emerged that they were indeed the fabled Nike Air Yeezy II, a more streamlined take on 2009’s first edition of the shoe.
As the release date of 9th June 2012 approached, the retail price of $245 quickly became a trivial number, with pre-order prices reaching into the thousands, including one over-enthusiastic eBay buyer, who took a pair for a cool $90,300. The media threw a lot of flack in Kanye and Nike’s direction, seeming to hold them directly responsible for the second-hand inflation of the shoe, often failing to take into account the fact a rare pair of Nike Dunks can reach four digits on eBay – sneakers that haven’t been designed by one of the most famous rappers/producers on the planet.
It’s worth remembering Kanye West’s 2009 collaboration with Louis Vuitton retailed at around $1,000 (four times that of the Air Yeezy II) and his more recent stilettos with Guiseppe Zanotti were only available if you lived in Paris, and had a spare $5,887 to your name. (They looked good on Kim Kardashian, but I doubt he made her pay.)
My favourite part of the Nike Air Yeezy II story comes courtesy of graphic design maverick, Wil Fry. Fry’s story begins when the “problem child” of street-art, Kidult, took his paint-filled fire extinguisher to Marc Jacobs’ SoHo store, spraying ‘ART’ in enormous red letters across the front. Jacobs dealt with the stunt pretty well, bringing out a t-shirt with a picture of the vandalised store on the front, reading ‘ART BY ART JACOBS’ beneath. The shirt was available in one size only, from Jacob’s Mercer Street (New York) store, retailing at $689. Fry quickly followed up with a subversion of Jacobs’ subversion, putting out a white t-shirt with a picture of Jacobs’ pink t-shirt on the front. These sold for $35 apiece, and made a little stir as a comment on the high price of label-driven fashion.
Fry’s story begins when the “problem child” of street-art, Kidult, took his paint-filled fire extinguisher to Marc Jacobs’ SoHo store.
Fry’s previous forays into the fashion world had included a white t-shirt with a black Raf Simons tee on the front, a plain item that prices around the $200 mark. He followed up his Marc Jacobs piece with a design appropriated from Givenchy, and a shirt known as the ‘Expensive T-shirt’ – this was an all-over print of a collection of clothing labels from various high-end brands, and became pretty sought after, with a limited run of only 36 (each at $30).
It was Fry’s next project that brought him widespread international attention though – the Air Yeezy II t-shirt, listed on eBay at $90,300 or (perhaps more generously) the bidder’s nearest offer. The shirt was an all-over print design, with a repeated pattern of the Yeezy II in its platinum colour-way, and pretty limited with a print run of 1 of 1.
Here’s how a couple of people reacted to the shirt:
trshlyf.tumblr.com: “A shirt filled with the world’s most ugly and over priced shoe is just a complete eyesore and for $90,300 whoever buys it in theory is a complete twat.”
While at first sounding like he’s completely missed the point, Trshlyf has actually hit the nail on the head – Wil Fry is definitely the one laughing at whoever does shell out the full amount.
Lady London, commenting on dailymail.co.uk: “When will people realise that it's the companies or even the celebrities themselves that place such high bids on their items, therefore making them seem more desirable than they really are. It's a win win situation because if someone is foolish enough to outbid them, then they make a huge amount of money and if no one bids then the goods are simply returned!”
And Lady London has successfully missed the point entirely. Firstly, the brand and the celebrity themselves are fairly removed from the equation – the original $245 for the Air Yeezy II is nothing out of the ordinary for a limited edition pair of sneakers. Secondly, Wil Fry is lampooning the pay-over-the-odds culture and not actually contributing to it. Though I suppose in parodying the price tag by adopting an outrageously high price of his own, he is becoming a part of the process. It’s all a bit post-modern.
I’m just waiting for someone to bring out a t-shirt with the Wil Fry Yeezy II t-shirt on the front.
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