If there’s one business that Kanye West would be most upset to leave his orbit, it’s likely Balenciaga.
The high-fashion firm and its creative director Demna have long collaborated with and inspired West in his apparel-industry ventures, including a cosign on West’s now-scuttled deal with retail apparel giant the Gap and a slot for West to walk the runway in Balenciaga’s Paris Fashion Week show this month. Demna and West reportedly had a close friendship as well.
But, following a two-week period during which West made, and then repeated, numerous antisemitic and conspiracy-soaked remarks, Balenciaga has finally cut ties with the rap star.
“Balenciaga has no longer any relationship nor any plans for future projects related to this artist,” the brand’s parent firm Kering said in a brief statement Friday.
The relationship between West and Balenciaga goes back years — in 2016, West said he planned to “steal Demna from Balenciaga,” and Demna returned the affection. “He makes me come out of my comfort zone and be a better designer. There’s no ego when we collaborate, just a mutual drive to evolve and do something great and new,” he told Vogue. Balenciaga often collaborated with West’s now ex-wife Kim Kardashian, and Demna worked on his “Donda 2″ live dates last year.
But a decade after designer John Galliano’s fall from grace following an antisemitic rant, fashion industry insiders wondered why West’s most high-profile design collaborator had not spoken out. While West’s diagnosis of bipolar disorder earned him some sympathy, his appearances with far-right figures like Candace Owens and Tucker Carlson, and provocations like wearing a “White Lives Matter” shirt proved too volatile for some firms to bear.
In unaired footage from West’s two-part interview with Carlson, he told the Fox News host that Planned Parenthood was founded “to control the Jew population. … When I say Jew, I mean the 12 lost tribes of Judah, the blood of Christ, who the people known as the race Black really are. This is who our people are. The blood of Christ.” On the popular rap podcast “Drink Champs,” West said “Jewish people have owned the Black voice. … Paparazzi taking a photo of you, you ain’t getting no money off of it. You’re used to getting screwed by the Jewish media.” On the same podcast West also claimed, falsely, that George Floyd’s died from a fentanyl overdose (a police officer suffocated Floyd).
Floyd’s family announced that they plan to file a $250-million lawsuit against West for his comments. Meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation League and other groups condemned West’s various remarks and urged his business collaborators to end their relationships with him.
Many of West’s creative and business collaborators have broken off or reevaluated deals in recent weeks, including Adidas, J.P. Morgan and the Gap. His record deal with longtime label Def Jam has reportedly come to a close as well.
Not every company is fleeing West’s side. The right-wing social-media platform Parler, owned by Owens’ husband, George Farmer, announced this week that West had agreed to purchase the site.