Could Ye be lining up his exit strategy with adidas?
Initially founded back in the early-2010s, the company Donda has been responsible for the growth of a whole slew of designers, from Virgil Abloh to Matthew M. Williams. While the company has continued to expand into other ventures, including the Donda Sports division, design is its forte. On the heels of Ye signaling he is upset with The Three Stripes for ripping off his designs, one of Yeezy’s and footwear’s most prolific designers, Steven Smith has recently been named the Head of Donda Industrial Design.
Often proclaimed as “The Godfather of Dad Shoes,” Steven Smith began his career way back in the 1980s working for New Balance, designing the 550, 574, 996, 997, 1500, and plenty more. He even had a small stint at adidas, creating the high-top adidas Artillery, though shortly after he joined Reebok where he designed the Reebok Instapump Fury and a handful of other silhouettes. Other models and brands Steven has blessed with his presence are Fila with the Grant Hill, Nike with the Air Spiridon, Spiridon 2, and a handful of Shox-based models, and finally working with The North Face on a duo of running silhouettes. Where Steven has become a household name is over at Yeezy. Ye scooped the free agent up in 2016 where the two would often call each other, stay up till the early morning hours, and send designs back and forth, often completing their vision in a ridiculously short time span. With Yeezy, Smith is credited with designing the Yeezy 700, Foam RNNR, 450, Desert Boot, and 500, though he has lent his hand to many more designs that still have yet to see the light of day.
During his many press runs, Smith has credited Ye with pushing him forward and unlocking his ability to design freely, considering many of his designs were not chosen when working in a corporate environment. With his new position as Head of Donda Industrial Design, Smith is still expected to maintain his design role at adidas Yeezy, though he will now expand his portfolio to include furniture, vehicles, and more within Donda as a whole. In a statement to Complex who broke this story, Smith stated “I’m honored to help create our shared vision of the future, Mr. West is the single most inspiring creative I have ever worked with.” Also shared to Complex through Donda itself is a slew of sketches and designs Smith has worked on in the past as well as a concept vehicle titled the “Donda Foam Vehicle.”
While, again, Smith is expected to maintain his role at adidas Yeezy, could this be the beginning of Ye consolidating his design team to his own company? With his statements way back in 2013 stating his desire to learn the manufacturing process and eventually be free from corporate restraints on top of his recent tiff over the adidas Adilette 22, it's quite possible an exit strategy is being formed and executed. Ye’s contract with adidas is set to expire in 2026, so we’ll have to wait and see what the future holds for the Yeezy brand, though Ye is known for changing his attitude and opinions on a whim. For more updates regarding the future of Ye’s footwear and design empire and more within the sneaker and streetwear space, keep it locked to our Twitter and the Sole Retriever mobile app.
Images via Getty; Donda