Nike Air Yeezy

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Yeezy Samples

The Nike Air Yeezy is an official sneaker collaboration project between Nike and Kanye West.

Notable as the shoe brand's first non-athlete full collaboration, the project has released two editions: the "Air Yeezy" (2009) and the "Air Yeezy II" (2012 and 2014).

Design process[edit]

The Nike Air Yeezy was developed from 2007 to 2009 by rapper Kanye West and Nike Creative Director Mark Smith. Kanye has spoken very highly of Smith as both a collaborator and designer, and Smith has said the same of Kanye, stating that he is "a truly creative talent" and a "natural designer."[1]

The design process for the Nike Air Yeezy was long and features dozens of sample colorways and silhouettes. Inspiration behind the line notably include the Air Tech Challenge II, Jordan III and IV. The early prototype of the Air Yeezy had many features that greatly differ from the release version of the shoe. For instance, the midsole and outsole featured what the shoe’s creators referred to as "Death Star" tooling, named for the large spherical shape on the back half of the midsole. The outsole also featured the "Y-print" that was used on the toebox of the three release versions. Also, on the very early prototypes, the shoe used LED lights implanted in the outsole, but after issues with low battery life and cost evaluation, production staff at Nike came to the conclusion that phosphorescent rubber would be used in place of the LED lights.[2]

While several color and wear test samples of the Nike Air Yeezy were made, some are more widely known and discussed than others. West wore an all black suede pair during his 2008 Grammy Awards performance of "Stronger" and "Hey Mama." Up until after his performance, the public was unaware that a collaboration between Nike and Kanye West was in the works[citation needed]. This sample was later sold via an online charity auction to benefit the patients of the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital alongside an unreleased prototype of the Nike Air Yeezy featuring the tooling used on the popular Air Jordan VI.[3] Mark Smith stated that Kanye wanted to use Jordan tooling on the Air Yeezy, but that Nike would not allow it, and therefore, before the date of the auction, Kanye was unaware that the "Jordan VI" Nike Air Yeezy sample existed.[4] The other sample that was met with much discussion among fans of the shoe was the "Fire Red" Nike Air Yeezy, which was named for the bright red color on the midsole. This colorway was first worn by Kanye during his "Glow in the Dark" Tour and has been worn by the rapper several times since. According to industry rumors, this colorway was strongly considered for release alongside the other 3 release colorways, but was scrapped at the last minute.[5]


After the long sampling process, three colorways of the Nike Air Yeezy were chosen for public release; a "Zen Grey" colorway that released on April 4, 2009 and was the colorway that was created after almost equal input from Smith and West, a "Black/Pink" colorway (sometimes referred to as the "Blink" colorway) which was more the brainchild of Mark Smith and released on May 4th, 2009, and finally a "Net" colorway that reflected more of Kanye West’s design tastes and released on June 1, 2009.[6] Each colorway had a suggested retail price of $215 and sold out almost immediately.[7][8]

Nike Air Yeezy 2[edit]

Design process[edit]

Anticipation around the release if the Nike Air Yeezy 2 started after a Complex Magazine interview with Mark Smith and Kanye West about designing the Nike Air Yeezy, wherein Kanye stated that there were several designs left over from the Air Yeezy design process that could eventually become the Nike Air Yeezy 2.[9] Despite this statement, none of these designs were used for the Air Yeezy 2, and instead, Nathan VanHook sat down with Kanye to design the Yeezy 2.[10] The shoe features much more of an animalistic design inspiration than the original Air Yeezy, sporting a ridged, reptile inspired heel counter and a snake skin inspired design on the quarters. The shoe, like the original Air Yeezy, borrows tooling from other Nike models. The Air Yeezy 2 borrows its sole unit from the popular Nike Air Tech Challenge II tennis model. The shoe also features several references to Egyptian culture, featuring depictions of the god Horus on the tongue and insole, and using Egyptian hieroglyphics that spell out "YZY" under the strap.[11]

There were also several design decisions during the making of the Nike Air Yeezy 2 that were a direct response to some of Kanye’s issues with the initial Nike Air Yeezy. Firstly, unnecessary padding along the upper was eliminated, and the shoe was made shorter for greater mobility. Also, the shoe was purposely slimmed down, to create a thinner look on feet and better fit Kanye West’s foot.[12]

As with the original Nike Air Yeezy, several sample colorways were created, the most famous of which was the "Kobe" or "Cheetah" Nike Air Yeezy 2 sample which was based on a popular Christmas colorway of the Nike Kobe VII. Aside from the rumored three pairs in existence and the pictures of the aforementioned sample that spread through various sneaker media sources, very little is known about the sample.[13]


Following a series of high-profile teases of the shoe (including rapper Jay Z exclaiming "Shoutout to my Yeezys, Yeezy 2s" during a March 2012 SXSW performance), Nike announced the Air Yeezy II sneaker on May 29, 2012.[14][15] Rapper Macklemore was also seen wearing the Nike Air Yeezy 2's during his performance in Times Square, New York on New Year's Eve. Macklemore was also seen throwing the rare sneaker into the crowd.[16]

Amid wide anticipation, the shoe was released with 5000 of each color way on June 9, 2012. While sold for a retail price of $245, the shoe gained notoriety for its wildly inflated resale value upwards of $4,000. The Air Yeezy II featured two premier color ways, Solar Red, Pure Platinum, and a third color way of the Air Yeezy II shoes, dubbed the "Red Octobers", which underwent a surprise release on February 9, 2014. The "Red Octobers" released exclusively on Nike's website, and sold out within seconds.[17][18][19][20][21][22][23]

Other Kanye West footwear collaborations[edit]

Kanye West x Louis Vuitton[edit]

Around the same time in 2009 that the Nike Air Yeezy was being released, so too was Kanye West’s collaboration with Louis Vuitton. The collaboration consisted of three models: the Louis Vuitton Don which was a low top sneaker named after West’s friend and tour manager Don C, the Louis Vuitton Jasper which was a high top named after Kanye’s barber Ibn Jasper, and finally, the Louis Vuitton Hudson, a loafer named after Kanye West’s musical collaborator and G.O.O.D. Music artist Mr. Hudson.[24]

Kanye West x BAPE[edit]

After being spotted wearing Bape apparel for years and even appearing in a few of their look-books, Bape offered Kanye West the opportunity to collaborate on their Bapesta model. The shoe was released in 2006 in very limited qualities and the design was inspired by Kanye West’s mascot, the Dropout Bear. [25]

Kanye West x Adidas[edit]

Despite the popularity of the Nike Air Yeezy and Nike Air Yeezy 2 models, according to Kanye, Nike refused to give Kanye royalties on his product sales. Kanye responded by signing a deal with Adidas that offered him generous royalties based on product sales, which he stated that he took in order to "support his family."[26]

Pictures surfaced on the internet in November 2014 allegedly showing Kanye and an unknown Adidas employee holding an early prototype of the collaboration. These pictures were not verified by West or Adidas.[27]

On February 8, 2015, the name and design for Kanye West and Adidas collaboration shoe was revealed. On February 10 Adidas revealed posters of the Yeezy Boost 750 all throughout their flagship stores. The Yeezy Boost 750 was released at those flagship stores only on February 14 only available to those who confirmed a reservation through the Adidas mobile app. On February 21 the Yeezy Boost 750 was available throughout a wider range of retailers than just adidas. The shoe retailed for $350.[28] Colorways released include black, brown and two grey renditions of the model.

On June 27 the second shoe from the collaboration, the Yeezy Boost 350 was made available through a worldwide release. The shoe retailed for $200.[29]


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