What to Make of YEEZY GAP’s Enigmatic New Campaign?

It was, as it so often is, a Wednesday. August 24, to be specific. Suddenly, the blue-checkmarked YEEZY Instagram account sputtered to life with a desaturated and distorted image of a faceless model wearing the final YEEZY GAP Engineered by Balenciaga collection. What did it mean?

Well, for starters, it’s probably the last time we’ll be seeing YEEZY GAP Engineered by Balenciaga in any official capacity, according to Demna himself. So, that’s something.

But there’s more: nearly every day for the past week, a new image trickled out on YEEZY’s feed. Though plenty were warped through .JPG-artifacted filters, some were comparatively conventional — a masked figure cloaked in YEEZY GAP peering out at the camera or folded in on itself on the ground.

The clothes in the imagery aren’t new at all, mind you: they’re the same stuff we’ve been seeing since YEEZY GAP really revved up this past summer, some unreleased stuff, and some stuff that we’ve seen issued in subsequent drops, like the Second Skin collection and Snake Bag — no “trash bags” or YZY SPLY SHDZ here, though.

That’s basically it. No drop dates, release information, or new product though, over the past month, YEEZY GAP’s website has consistently refreshed its stock with a selection of washed-out T-shirts, hoodies, and accessories to surprisingly little fanfare.

If a YEEZY GAP campaign drops on Instagram, does it make a sound? Outside of the immediate — and, frankly, immense — pool of Ye admirers, not really. Most publications haven’t written about the imagery and little has been said even on Instagram besides a fan-page few reposts and some fans recreating the campaign with rough-hewn Photoshops.

So, what’s the point? Why did YEEZY publish seven exaggerated on-model images? Perhaps the reason is less tangible: this isn’t a formal press release — which YEEZY only occasionally issues, anyways — but a visual line in the sand, something saying “from this day forward, things will look like this.”

A rep for YEEZY GAP wouldn’t comment but did describe the images as being indicative of YEEZY GAP’s latest “visual direction,” which means there’s at least some shrimp on this barbie.

Let’s look a little closer. Who are the folks behind these works? Specifically, among the usual folks tagged on each post — GAP, Balenciaga — there are two new names.

First, there’s Kristina Nagel, the Berlin-based artist whose stark, edgy photographs are most commonly linked to Balenciaga — she lensed the Crocs Pool slide campaign — but occasionally grace the pages of PURPLE, 032C and Re-Edition Magazine.

Nagel also snapshotted some self-portrait for Rick Owens’ Spring/Summer 2022 collection, demonstrative of the provocative circles that surround her.

For this YEEZY GAP campaign, Nagel lensed the imagery and provided the concept: she also revealed that visual direction came from YEEZY itself, presumably Ye.

Betsy Johnson, the YEEZY GAP campaign’s stylist, is another obvious fit for Ye’s world. Johnson is a multihyphenate creative director who’s also quite tight with Balenciaga — she walked Balenciaga’s Summer 2022 red carpet presentation — though she wasn’t always part of Demna’s family.

Earlier this month, Johnson told Exhibition that Balenciaga wouldn’t loan her a suit for a shoot that she’d envisioned during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Eventually, she worked with the photographer to DIY a chair that got a similar vibe to the Balenciaga design: the result ended up on the cover of Office.

Johnson has since overseen Balenciaga shoots with Vogue Czechoslovakia and been a part of this summer’s YEEZY GAP since the Times Square GAP store takeover.

So, that’s that. Welcome to a new era of YEEZY GAP, mere weeks after we were just introduced to the then-new era of YEEZY GAP. And, yes, there’s much more coming very soon. Same as it ever was.

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