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Wednesday, 10 July 2019

'The Lamborghini of shoes': Kanye's Yeezy trainer empire is worth $1billion according to Forbes story on the rapper's comeback from a '$53m debt' - and he's spending his fortune on Belgian plaster floors and 'monastic' white walls in his LA home

Kanye West's Yeezy sneaker empire is worth $1BILLION according to Forbes cover story
You know when Kanye West is coming. His matte-black Lamborghini SUV rumbles up his gated driveway on the outskirts of Los Angeles like an earthquake, and when he steps out, in a white T-shirt and dark sweats, the obsessiveness kicks in immediately.

First, there’s the house: The lushly landscaped exterior of the property he shares with his wife, Kim Kardashian West, and their four children (North, Saint, Chicago and Psalm) serves as a stark contrast to the unadorned alabaster walls within. Nearly every surface is a monastic shade of white. The floors are made of a special Belgian plaster; if scuffed, the delicate material can be repaired only by a crew flown in from Europe. “The house was all him,” Kardashian West later tells me. “I’ve never seen anyone that pays such attention to detail.” 

Kanye West's sneaker empire is a billion-dollar enterprise, according to a new cover story on the rapper's business endeavours by Forbes magazine. 
Revenue for the Yeezy sneaker line, now with Adidas, is set to top $1.5billion in 2019, and West's pretax income over the past 12 months came in at $150million, according to Forbes.
Since moving the Yeezy line from Nike to Adidas in 2013, West has struck what Forbes calls an 'unprecedented deal' for 15 per cent royalty on wholesale, plus a marketing fee.
For comparison, Michael Jordan is thought to get royalties around 5 per cent on the Air Jordan line, which does annual sales of about $3billion.
Kanye Chronicles
West describes his foot line as 'the Lamborghini of shoes', a nod to the matte-black Lamborghini SUV he owns. 
Forbes reports that West appeared for its cover photo shoot not once but twice wearing a black hoodie and that he called the editor to share his concern that the piece would not focus enough on the religious influence on his business.
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Kanye West is featured on the new cover of Forbes magazine, which chronicles his dramatic financial turnaround due in large part to his Yeezy shoe line
Kanye West is featured on the new cover of Forbes magazine, which chronicles his dramatic financial turnaround due in large part to his Yeezy shoe line
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are seen above in NYC in December 2018 both sporting Yeezy footwear
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are seen above in NYC in December 2018 both sporting Yeezy footwear
As with the floor and the booties and the book positions, West fixates over sneaker details; he idolizes Steve Jobs, preferring a limited, carefully chosen number of products with an endless array of colourways. The iPod in West’s world: the ubiquitous, chunky-bottomed Yeezy Boost 350s, which come in dozens of varieties of the same shoe and account for the bulk of Yeezy’s sales. “I am a product guy at my core,” West says. “To make products that make people feel an immense amount of joy and solve issues and problems in their life, that’s the problem-solving that I love to do.”
'The house was all him,' Kardashian West told Forbes. 'I've never seen anyone that pays such attention to detail'
'The house was all him,' Kardashian West told Forbes. 'I've never seen anyone that pays such attention to detail'
West's business fortunes mark a stunning reversal from just three years ago in late 2016, when he begged Mark Zuckerberg to invest $1billion in his 'ideas' and claimed to be $53million in debt. 
Soon after, he cancelled the latter half of a lucrative tour and checked himself into a Los Angeles hospital for over a week with symptoms of sleep deprivation and temporary psychosis, only to emerge in a bizarre meeting with Donald Trump, then the president-elect, at Trump Tower.
Now he is spending his shoe fortune on special Belgian plaster floors for the Los Angeles mansion he shares with wife Kim Kardashian West and their four children, North, Saint, Chicago and Psalm, according to Forbes.
If scuffed, the plaster can reportedly only be repaired by an elite team of plaster experts flown in from Europe.
'The house was all him,' Kardashian West told Forbes. 'I've never seen anyone that pays such attention to detail.' 
Kanye Chronicles 2005-2008
In April Kim Kardashian allowed Vogue into the massive Hidden Hills mansion - which was designed by Axel Vervoordt and took years to complete - for its 73 questions interview.
During her chat, the Keeping Up With The Kardashians star played with all three kids on a bed while West served as babysitter in a very intimate look at their life.
Nearly every surface of the property is 'a monastic shade of white', Vogue reported. The living room, which is incredibly sparse, shows off an unbleached Steinway.
She describes her home as 'minimal monastery' and said it was inspired by Axel and Kanye.
Kim walked the Vogue staffer through the foyer and into a minimal bedroom featuring a white king-sized bed and a nightstand that had several books piled up.
There West was seen with North on his shoulders, Chicago playing with the musician and Saint near Kim.  
Now he is spending his shoe fortune on special Belgian plaster floors for the Los Angeles mansion, according to Forbes. The interior of the home is seen above
Now he is spending his shoe fortune on special Belgian plaster floors for the Los Angeles mansion, according to Forbes. The interior of the home is seen above 

The obsessiveness is unrelenting. When Forbes shot West for a possible cover, he insisted on wearing a black hoodie. Urged to return the next day to try again, West obliged—wearing the same hoodie. He’s been known to edit albums days after they’ve already been released. And when he didn’t feel I was properly absorbing the religious influence on his business (coming from the guy who calls himself Yeezus and is working on an album tentatively titled Yandhi), he called my editor impromptu on a Saturday evening to hammer the point some more.

Whatever, it’s working. Mostly because of the shoes, Forbes pegs his pretax income at $150 million over the past 12 months; his team insists the number is even higher, partly due to his Yeezy apparel. In any case, it’s by far the best stretch of his career, good for No. 3 on our Celebrity 100 list.


Rewind to three years ago, when West claimed to be $53 million in debt, just before cancelling the back of a lucrative arena tour and checking into a Los Angeles hospital for over a week with symptoms of sleep deprivation and temporary psychosis. West credits his turnaround to religious beliefs (“being in service to Christ, the radical obedience”)—and, on occasion, to being bipolar. Call him creative, call him chaotic—just don’t call him crazy. Like some entrepreneurs with conditions like ADHD and Asperger’s, he sees his diagnosis not as a hindrance but as a “superpower” that unlocks his imagination.
Looking all white: Kim describes her home as 'minimal monastery'
Looking all white: Kim describes her home as 'minimal monastery' 

He shares  the home with wife Kim Kardashian West and their four children, North, Saint, Chicago and Psalm
West spends his shoe fortune on special Belgian plaster floors for the Los Angeles mansion he shares with wife Kim Kardashian West and their four children. They are seen above during a Vogue interview in April before the birth of Psalm
West spends his shoe fortune on special Belgian plaster floors for the Los Angeles mansion he shares with wife Kim Kardashian West and their four children. They are seen above during a Vogue interview in April before the birth of Psalm
Next venture: The reality TV star and the Bound 2 hitmaker are now looking into property in the Bahamas or other tropical destinations that their family can enjoy
Next venture: The reality TV star and the Bound 2 hitmaker are now looking into property in the Bahamas or other tropical destinations that their family can enjoy
West first debuted his Yeezy shoes in 2009, after sketching out his ideas on a plane where he happened to be seated next to the CEO of Nike. 
'I am a product guy at my core,' West told Forbes. 'To make products that make people feel an immense amount of joy and solve issues and problems in their life, that's the problem-solving that I love to do.'
Crucially, West maintained ownership over the Yeezy brand, allowing him to jump ship for Adidas when, he tells Forbes, Nike refused to pay royalties. 
Forbes estimates West's net worth at $240million but says that he is on track to someday be a billionaire.

Kanye Chronicles 2009-2013
Kim Kardashian took to Instagram Stories on Tuesday to say how proud she is of her husband
Kim Kardashian took to Instagram Stories on Tuesday to say how proud she is of her husband
Of course, part of West's fortune comes from his music, as he is one of the best-selling music artists of all time with over 135 million records sold worldwide.
West is currently working on an album tentatively titled Yandhi, according to Forbes. 
Wife Kim Kardashian took to Instagram Stories on Tuesday to say how proud she is of her husband.
She wrote: 'Kanye on the cover of Forbes! So incredibly proud of my husband! I watch everyday how hard he works and how much of his heart and soul he puts into his business, every idea and product that he creates. 
'It's of no surprise to anyone who works with or is close to Kanye that he has been able to turn millions of dollars in debt into a billion dollar empire in only 4 years - 100% on his own terms, while owning 100% of his business. 
'He inspires me every single day and I'm so happy he's finally getting the recognition and credit that he deserves.'

Kanye Chronicles 2014-2018
An example of the Yeezy Boost 350 is seen above. The shoe is now the core of West's Yeezy line and comes in many different colors
An example of the Yeezy Boost 350 is seen above. The shoe is now the core of West's Yeezy line and comes in many different colors
West's shoe empire began with the Air Yeezy 1 (above) launched with Nike in 2009
West's shoe empire began with the Air Yeezy 1 (above) launched with Nike in 2009

His fame gave him a chance to return to his first love: sneakers. In 2007, he created a shoe for the Japanese apparel company A Bathing Ape, complete with a teddy bear logo that appeared on some of his early covers. (Find one of those shoes today and you’ll net several thousand dollars.) It was a start, and he cultivated a cadre of fashion-industry friends like Hedi Slimane, who has served as creative director at Dior Homme and Yves Saint Laurent. “You’re going to do something really strong in shoes,” West remembers the designer telling him. That sort of encouragement gave West the confidence to whip out a notepad when he found himself on a plane with Nike CEO Mark Parker shortly thereafter. Says West: “When he saw me sketch, he said, ‘This guy’s interesting, let’s do a shoe with him.’ ”
Yeezy was born (a shortening of the “Kanyeezy” nickname Jay-Z gave him in the intro to a 2003 song). West says Parker put him in the room with Air Jordan designer Tinker Hatfield, and by mid-2008, West was rocking prototypes of his own Air Yeezy high-top onstage, with the genuine article arriving in 2009. Hip-hop has connected with footwear almost since the genre was born, from Run-D.M.C.’s Adidas shell toes in the mid-1980s to Jay-Z and 50 Cent’s Reeboks two decades later. West was the first to do it at Nike on the level of an NBA superstar.
Says analyst John Kernan of investment bank Cowen, “What he’s done in footwear has been truly transcendent.”
Kanye West with yeezy shoes
t the same time that West’s business interests were shifting, he began changing too. His mother died in a 2007 cosmetic procedure gone wrong; the following year, he split with his fiancĂ©e Alexis Phifer. On his album, 808s and Heartbreak, he ditched rap for heavily autotuned singing. 

Then came the bizarre. He hopped onstage to interrupt Taylor Swift’s 2009 acceptance speech for Best Female Video at the MTV VMA ceremony, insisting that BeyoncĂ© should have won the award instead; the episode generated such an intense backlash that he cancelled his planned arena tour with Lady Gaga and moved to Italy to intern for Fendi. When he returned from his European sojourn, his previous praise for the Creator was superseded by an insistence on his own holiness, particularly his 2013 album Yeezus, where he declared flatly, “I am a god.”


West kicked off 2016 by unleashing flurries of Tweets, asserting that he was $53 million in debt before asking Mark Zuckerberg for $1 billion to help fund his creative ideas. Then he embarked on his most ambitious tour yet—one that featured him holding forth atop a platform that looked like something out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, hovering about a dozen feet above the crowd. West’s rants grew more and more unusual as the tour continued. In one performance, he suggested Jay-Z might be trying to have him assassinated. The year ended with West hospitalized after the tour cancellation. His first appearance after? A pilgrimage to Trump Tower, where he posed with the president-elect (and turned off a lot of his core audience). 

His career, however, has proved antic-proof. And he has channelled his intensity profitably, particularly when it comes to sneakers. As sales blossomed at Nike, particularly after the Air Yeezy II release in 2012, West felt that the company was treating him like just another celebrity dabbler. “It was the first shoe to have the same level of impact as an Air Jordan, and I wanted to do more,” West says. “And at that time Nike refused to give celebrities royalties on their shoes.” (Nike declined to comment for this story; two other sources familiar with the arrangement also say he wasn’t being paid royalties.)
West, however, had always insisted on maintaining ownership of his brand. And when Adidas executives caught wind of West’s dissatisfaction, they invited him to Germany. With the help of Scooter Braun, who started a stint comanaging West around the same time, they created what appears to be an unprecedented deal: a 15% royalty on wholesale, according to sources familiar with the deal, plus a marketing fee. For comparison, Michael Jordan is thought to get royalties closer to 5%, though he doesn’t own his brand. (After publication, West's camp disputed the extent of Braun's involvement with the deal, claiming the terms had already been settled before his arrival).
In 2015, West debuted his first “Yeezy Season,” a showcase for his clothing and sneakers. The next year he leveraged his new album to create a launch party for both sneakers and song, at a sold-out Madison Square Garden. His biggest breakthrough: the 350. Marrying his eye for design with Adidas’ Boost technology, which purports to efficiently return energy to runners, West turned trainers into high fashion and made low-top sneakers cool again. The 350’s aggressive stance, leaning forward as if to challenge any foe to a footrace, suddenly had scores of people willing to cough up $200 for a pair of running shoes. Adidas has never released Yeezy’s numbers, but in 2016 West let it slip that his sneakers were selling out surprise 40,000-pair drops in minutes.
His wife—West and Kardashian married in Florence in 2014—gets an assist here, opening up West to her family’s hundreds of millions of social media followers (they routinely sport his Yeezy shoes and apparel). 
The partnership works both ways. Kardashian West seeks out her husband’s opinion on all of her projects, from the Kim Kardashian: Hollywood mobile game to her recent shapewear line. When she brought him mockups for the latter, West wasn’t impressed. He sat down and drafted a new logo before personally redesigning the packaging. In any case, West’s advice isn’t limited to the creative side. “He’s just taught me as a person to never compromise and to really take ownership,” says Kardashian West, who ranks No. 26 on The Celebrity 100. “Before, I was really the opposite. I would throw my name on anything.”
Given their hectic schedules, Kardashian West and West often trade ideas at what he calls “bedtime true-crime story meetings,” where she watches police procedurals while he shows her mockups.
“I’m just blessed through the grace of God to go from tweeting at Mark Zuckerberg” to ask for money, West says, to where he is today. He can laugh at himself a little now. “People wondered, ‘Why did you tweet at Mark Zuckerberg?’ And I was like, ‘Hey, I heard he was looking for aliens.’ ”
Speaking of aliens, if you really want to see how West’s creative process works, then a visit to the Star Wars planet of Tatooine is necessary. Inspired by Luke Skywalker’s childhood home, West has been working with a team to design prefabricated structures that sport the same austere aesthetic, with the goal of deploying them as low-income housing units. Just after midnight he ushers me into his Lamborghini for an impromptu visit, barreling back down the road with Bach blasting on the sound system. After about 15 minutes, we arrive at a bungalow in the woods.
A team of four is still clattering away on Apple laptops inside, ahead of a meeting the following morning in San Francisco with potential investors. Around them, the walls are plastered with written notes and sketches. West peers over the shoulders of his charges, instructing them to change a font here or brighten a picture there.
“He pushes people to do their best and pushes people even outside of their comfort zone, which really helps people grow,” Kardashian West says, citing West’s relationship with Louis Vuitton designer and Off-White label founder Virgil Abloh. 
After a half hour or so, West appears satisfied with the state of the presentation and motions me toward a back door. We stroll out into the chilly, starless night, and I follow him up a dirt path deeper into the woods for several minutes until he stops at a clearing and looks up, wordless. There, with the hazy heft of something enormous and far away, stood a trio of structures that look like the skeletons of wooden spaceships. They’re the physical prototypes of his concept, each oblong and dozens of feet tall, and West leads me inside each one. 
He tells me they could be used as living spaces for the homeless, perhaps sunk into the ground with light filtering in through the top. We stand there in silence for several minutes considering the structures before walking back down to his lurking Lamborghini and zooming off into the night.

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