Yes or no ? Yeezy sneaker sales skyrocket as fans and companies split to give Kanye West the boot

Rafael Joseph faces a costly dilemma. Normally he wouldn’t think twice before lacing up one of his eight pairs of Yeezy sneakers – the much-publicized partnership between Adidas and Kanye West, also known as Ye.

But after the rapper’s recent anti-Semitic rants on social media and a podcast, Joseph – who is Jewish – is considering kicking off his expensive collection.

“I love wearing them, you know? And I found myself in a position where my whole collection was ruined by [his] statements,” Joseph said.

He’s one of millions of sneaker collectors and music fans who are now wondering if they can separate West’s controversial opinions and actions from his designs.

WATCH | The Jewish sneakerhead explains why he won’t be wearing his Yeezys:

Jewish sneakerhead swears Yeezy collection over Kanye West’s anti-Semitism

Rafael Joseph hopes the rapper will one day apologize for his comments about the Jewish people. Until then, Joseph says he won’t wear his own collection of Yeezy sneakers.

In a TikTok video explaining his mixed feelingsJoseph urged the rapper to apologize, saying it was the only way to wear his Yeezy collection again.

“I’m not telling all Jews to stop wearing Yeezys. It’s a personal matter,” Joseph told CBC News from his home in London, England.

“I have a personal issue putting on designer clothes where I’m promoting someone who is really causing trouble for my people.”

But where Joseph has a problem, many others see an opportunity in West’s fall from grace.

Adidas split fuels Yeezy hype

After Adidas severed ties with West on Tuesday, halting production and ordering authorized retailers like Foot Locker to remove Yeezy products from stores, the resale market went into hyperdrive.

Most Adidas Yeezys retailed for an initial retail price of US$200-$300, but could cost hundreds more on resale.

This week, resale prices surged as sneakerheads rushed to buy the sought-after shoes, made more exclusive than ever by Adidas’ discontinuation of the brand.

Since Monday, Yeezy sneakers and sandals have made up seven of the 10 best-selling shoes on resale giant StockX.

West is pictured in New York on November 6, 2019. Many business partners and others associated with the rapper have severed ties over the past few months over his controversial behavior, including wearing a ‘White Lives Matter’ shirt during of a fashion event. (Evan Agostini/Invision/Associated Press)

“As long as there’s a demand for it, and people still come to us and are willing to pay three or four times the price, it doesn’t make sense for us not to sell it, isn’t it? it not?” asked Richard Chang, co-owner of online retailer Sneaker Source Toronto, which has about 100 pairs of Yeezys in stock.

Unlike major retailers, Chang and his business partner, Shawn Alonto, can’t afford not to sell their remaining supply – despite their own discomfort with West’s recent antics.

“To say stop selling, I can’t promise you that,” Alonto said. “But just wearing the product right now, yeah, it’s too cool to be stunted in some Yeezys.”

Shawn Alonto, left, and Richard Chang, co-owners of Sneaker Source Toronto, say they don’t plan to stop reselling Yeezys, but they won’t carry the brand themselves for the foreseeable future. (Provided by Sneaker Source Toronto)

In any case, many of the pairs still floating around on the resale market will likely never hit the pavement: with prices ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars a pairthey are considered collector’s items, which are expected to increase in value in the years to come.

“A lot of people who had a bunch of it in their closet that they’re probably going to wear one day, maybe sell it, are probably going to keep it forever,” says Andrei Zelenin, co-owner of Toronto sneaker store Kenshi, who has saw his own rush of Yeezy hunters this week.

“Most people who buy them, they don’t seem to care what happens [with West]. They just like them because they’re good shoes… They’re just a sneaker, after all. The shoe does not have its own voice.”

Andrei Zelenine, right, and Pat Bryjak are pictured in front of a wall of Yeezy shoeboxes at their Toronto streetwear store, Kenshi, during an interview with CBC News on Tuesday. (Radio-Canada News)

The Ye-proof Playlist Rush

Even businesses unrelated to West’s business ventures have rushed to distance themselves from the rapper — including stores, restaurants and gyms that are now removing his music from their playlists.

A ‘major retailer’ in Canada was among hundreds of companies to remove West’s pieces from their rotation over the past week, alongside major restaurant and hotel groups in Australia and the United States, said Ola Sars, CEO of Soundtrack Your Brand, which provides music to approximately 22,000 businesses worldwide. Sars declined to name the companies involved.

West performs at the Coachella Music Festival in Indio, California on April 21, 2019. Some businesses, including stores, gyms and restaurants, are now removing West’s music from their playlists. (Rich Fury/Getty Images for Coachella)

The big brands were particularly concerned about customer perception, which will likely lead to further unplugging West’s music, said Melanie Fulker, chief account officer of Sars’ company competitor Startle Music.

“All it takes is, in an extreme case, for a customer to hear the song and be upset about it and that’s a lasting association they’ll have with that brand,” Fulker said.

“In many cases, companies want to speak up about issues, but also [to] err on the side of caution and just make sure they protect themselves.”

Fitness giants Peloton and Equinox are among the brands that have confirmed they will no longer use West’s music in their classes. Major Canadian gym chains, including GoodLife Fitness and Fitness World, declined to comment.

All it takes, in an extreme case, is for a customer to hear the song and be upset by it, and that’s a lasting association they’ll have with that brand.— Melanie Fulker, Startle Music, on major brands pulling West’s music from playlists

Hannah Pratt, a spin cycle instructor in Winnipeg, decided on Monday that she would no longer play West’s songs during her Wheelhouse Cycle Club classes, which include a hip-hop-themed ride on Sunday mornings.

“My role as an indoor cycling instructor [involves] create playlists that attempt to bring positivity, joy, connectedness, motivation, inspiration to people who walk through those doors,” said Pratt, who is also the chief marketing officer of the studio.

“Playing Kanye West, I wasn’t going to do those things — especially if there were people within the Jewish community who are on my rides.”

Sneaker collectors have been rushing to buy Yeezy shoes, driving up their prices, since Adidas announced it was halting production of the Yeezy brand. Here, some styles of Yeezys are pictured at a sneaker resale store in Paramus, NJ on Tuesday. (Seth Wenig/Associated Press)

Although Adidas hasn’t specified what it intends to do with its inventory of unsold Yeezys, industry insiders and sneaker fans are hoping the sportswear giant will continue to create the same iconic designs – without reference to West.

While Joseph waits for an apology that may never come, he doesn’t know what to do with his eight pairs of Yeezy: keep them in his closet? Selling them to one of the many collectors looking to buy? Or maybe donate them to a good cause.

“They were expensive shoes,” he said. “I’m not going to lie, I don’t really want them to lose.”

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