The YEEZY Foam Runners, a product of Kayne West’s ongoing collaboration with Adidas, have made their first public appearance thanks to some images from an editorial shoot in The Face magazine and broadcast far and wide thanks to the fully West-obsessed Instagram account Yeezymafia. Already, open-eyed hypebeasts had seen teases of the design—which appears to be an iteration of West’s YEEZY Boost 700—thanks to paparazzi shots of what appeared to be the shoe on the feet of West’s daughter, North.
Hypebeast internet and outside critics have weighed in, determining the shoe to be a jumped-up Croc. It’s an insult, of course. But then again, this could be less of a design failure or a “troll” than simply a smart business move; the market for footwear of this sort is strong and lacking in star-developed designs. Still, it’s an odd look.
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Yet, there’s more than oddness to see. What we have here is a seamless, one-piece, alabaster molded slip-on, punctured by organic-shaped holes and replete with the sort of bulges, curves, and shapes that, for the design inclined, should conjure not only connections to modern automotive design, but thoughts of the late Zaha Hadid’s oeuvre as well. It’s perhaps reductive to say, as we have, that this is a Hadid version of a Croc, but it’s also accurate and curious.
Whatever you think of him—and you’re perfectly entitled to think a lot—there’s no question Kanye West has done his homework when it comes to design and architecture. He’s made connections with that creative class (he knew Hadid personally), even going so far as to reference a clique of leading lights including Rem Koolhaas, Axel Vervoordt, and Herzog & de Meuron in the pages of our own magazine. There’s some very good will there and a genuine effort to contribute, even if both are tinged with an increasingly messianic artistic narcissism. This is all to say, it is neither unexpected nor wrong for the homework West does to surface in his fashion output, particularly given the general bent towards reference and pastiche seen throughout almost all of his endeavors.
No, it’s not the most comfortable way to reference or employ influences (copping styles is quite close to the very serious issues knockoffs present). Yes, the YEEZY Foam Runner is easy to lampoon. But when these shoes hit the market in 2020, you can be sure every one of them will sell out and the design community will still be talking about West and his place in its world.