Telfar Clemens comments on dropped Gap partnership
Telfar Clemens, designer and founder of unisex brand Telfar, has made his first statement in response to the highly publicized cancellation of the Gap x Telfar brand collaboration.
The partnership between Telfar and Gap Inc.'s Gap brand was first announced in mid-January, but was postponed due to the outbreak of Covid-19 - an obstacle that added mass store closings, layoffs and missed rent payments to Gap's list of company woes. Then, as the pandemic continued on, updates on the Gap x Telfar collaboration remained sparse.
Following this, Gap announced a separate, new collaboration with Kanye West and Yeezy for the Yeezy Gap line in late June. As consumers became increasingly confused regarding Gap x Telfar, Gap officially confirmed that the partnership with Telfar had been canceled.
Now, representatives from Telfar, including Clemens and his creative director Babak Radboy have given their first public comments regarding the dropped partnership in an interview with The New York Times.
According to the Times, Clemens does not support the idea that the folded deal is an issue of "Kanye vs. Telfar." Instead, the designer told the Times that the situation represents “a vast power imbalance, perpetuated by the narrative of ‘inclusivity,’” or “being allowed to appear in territory owned by white people.”
Radboy, continued, calling the situation "a wake up call."
According to the report, Clemens said he was happy for both West and Mowalola Ogunlesi, the Nigerian-British designer who was named as design director for the Yeezy Gap line. However, he and Radboy decided to speak out once narratives surrounding the dropped deal began to "[play] fame and skin color against each other,” Clemens said.
The report further confirmed that in late March, Telfar sent Gap an invoice for work submitted prior to Covid-19 putting the partnership on pause - a total of 30 designs - and that Gap offered to pay 25% of the design fee. After this payment was completed, communication from Gap came to an abrupt halt, Radboy told the publication. Once the Gap X Yeezy line was announced, the report said, Clemens and Radboy "asked to be paid in full, assuming their collection had been canceled."
“I am really glad to be free of it," Clemens told the Times.
“We grew up looking at the edifice of the mall and wanting to be part of it, to have power there,” Radboy said. “Now we have realized we shouldn’t. It has been part of our survival to become content for a bigger brand so they can make a statement about their racial solidarity. But the real problem is the initial situation that blocks a designer’s progress so they need to say ‘yes’ to such a thing.”
When contacted regarding the end of the Gap x Telfar partnership, a Gap spokesperson provided the following statement:
“While we’ve chosen not to move forward with the Gap x Telfar partnership at this time, we’re making whole on our payment regardless and have only respect and appreciation for Telfar’s time and vision."
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