Even before he started designing clothes and shoes under Yeezy, Kanye West expressed a desire to dress the whole world. When he first launched his own brand, Yeezys was just as difficult to secure as any other super hyped shoe. In 2016, it sounded like a cruel joke when he declared, “At some point, anyone who wants to get Yeezys will get Yeezys.” Now, almost five years later, that vision is being realized. Kanye’s brand has made the toughest shift in fashion: from limited drops in crazy ways to selling shoes with no hype.
The latest annual report from the resale platform StockX describes the massive leap that Yeezy made in 2020. While the top brands stayed mostly static, Adidas and Yeezy stand out. Yeezy alone (excluding the shoes produced and released with Adidas) jumped from 16th place in the StockX rankings to sixth place. Yeezy is now sitting between two major mass brands: New Balance is one place ahead and Vans is right below. In the meantime, Adidas took a top 3 spot just because of the brand’s Yeezy styles. All ten of the most traded Adidas sneakers in 2020 were 350s – the second most traded shoe overall. When you add it all up, you have to argue that Kanye took two of the top six spots on the list.
The jump is an indication of Yeezy’s shifting strategy. The brand no longer relies on gadgets like limited volume to sell their most popular shoes. By far the most popular Yeezy model is the brand’s 350, which ranks second on the StockX list of top-selling shoes, just behind the Air Jordan 1 and ahead of iconic shoes like the Air Force 1. You can find many Yeezys on the website for prices near or below the retail price on some models. The Kanye brand works its way up the rankings by maintaining volume and partnering with brands that have mall stores and billions of dollars in revenue. That doesn’t mean linking StockX transactions to what’s happening in your local Westfield, but the numbers do shed light on the sheer number of Yeezys in the secondary market. Even if Yeezy has looked “hotter” in recent years because the drops sold out in seconds, it could only dominate the StockX list by posting millions of couples at once.
And because Yeezy history has been so well documented over the years, we can look back and see how Adidas and Kanye’s long-tail strategy has evolved. In retrospect, the multi-year development provides an impressive example of how you can build a sustainable sneaker brand in 2021. Over the years, the brand cultivated a hype and left a lot of ground to catch up after its frustratingly limited releases. Then Adidas was able to slowly convert the scarcity into mass sales. The CEO of Adidas, Kasper Rørsted, clearly outlined the strategy at the end of 2018: “When we launch new Yeezy products, we will do what we have done in the past: create shortages in the new products that we put it on the market, we make it We are sure that we have the hype and of course we will drive the volume into this market over a certain period of time, ”he said at the time when we called an investor. Now Yeezy is able to do what Nike, Jordan and Adidas are doing: relying on tentpole models and continuing to do limited hype-churning releases. While the 350 moves in large numbers, the brand is still able to play the scarcity game elsewhere. According to StockX, sales of Yeezy slides grew 400% in 2020, and most of them will quadruple their original retail price.
Perhaps the best evidence that Yeezy is shooting at all cylinders is that the sale managed to survive the behavior of the brand founder. 2020 wasn’t exactly a banner year for Kanye, who ran a short-lived presidential campaign, tweeted a picture of him peeing at one of his Grammys, and claimed his wife Kim Kardashian tried to lock him up. Somehow, none of his bad behaviors seem to have dampened cravings for the brand that bears his name. While Yeezy was once a brand that relied on the influential powers of one of the most stylish men in the world, it now appears to be a brand that just sells a ton of sneakers.
This post has been updated to clarify that Yeezy’s ranking on this list only reflects sales of non-Adidas footwear.