A report from Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business suggests that interest among U.S. consumers in labels that highlight products’ “sustainable” attributes – and about such “sustainable” attributes more fundamentally – is mixed. Surveying a sample of 500 consumers in the United States about how fashion brands could provide information on Environmental, Social, and Governance (“ESG”) efforts, including via labels on their garments and accessories, Gabelli’s Responsible Business Coalition found that just 13.1 percent of consumers indicated that they were “very interested” in using ecolabels to help guide their fashion purchases, while approximately 50 percent of consumers surveyed indicating “some level of interest” in ecolabels, and almost 18 percent indicating that they had “no interest at all.” 

Setting the stage in the report it released this summer, the Responsible Business Coalition (“RBC”) states that companies – including those in the fashion space – are “being called upon to be both innovative and socially innovative to achieve a sustainable, responsible future,” with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, in particular, “calling on companies to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies to solve systemic societal and environmental issues such as accelerated climate change, pollution, and inequality.” Such sustainability-centric pushes from regulators and intergovernmental organizations like the UN, paired with research that consistently shows that “a significant increase in the public’s concern for environmental and systemic social issues,” have prompted (at least some) brands to focus on “making their products more sustainable and socially conscious.” 

Against this background, the RBC sought insight into “the most effective means for brands to communicate [their ESG efforts] with consumers” – with an emphasis on the use of labeling. Among the top-line takeaways is that while approximately half of the consumers surveyed indicated “some level of interest” in ecolabels, “a large segment of customers” (almost 50 percent) does notconsider the inclusion of ecolabels to be particularly valuable tool when it comes to helping them decide what garments and/or accessories to buy. The RBC notes that interest in fashion ecolabeling is significantly impacted by age, with older consumers being far less interested in ecolabels than are younger consumers, and the most interested consumers falling in the range of 25 to 44 years old. 

Consumers’ level of education also significantly impacts their interest in fashion ecolabels, the RBC determined. “Specifically, the greater the level of education post high school, the greater the interest: Consumers with only a high school degree have the lowest level of interest. By contrast, those with degrees post Bachelor’s (e.g., Master’s, Ph.D., JD, MD, etc.) had the highest level of interest.” Also, the survey results revealed that where consumers live – and their employment status – also impacts their interest in ecolabels. In short: The RBC’s findings indicate that ecolabeling is “most relevant for younger, college educated, employed, urban consumers.” 

Assuming brands were to start making use of labels that identify the ESG elements of their operations and output, nearly half (46 percent) of the consumers surveyed by the RBC indicated that “recyclability” was an issue of importance to them. This was followed by human rights, which was important to 39 percent of consumers, while chemical usage, animal welfare, and material usage were each selected by 33 percent of surveyed consumers. Information regarding a firm’s carbon footprint was important to 31 percent of consumers surveyed, and finally, one in five (20.7 percent) of consumers surveyed showed interest in information about companies’ diversity and inclusion efforts. 

Like its findings regarding consumers’ overall interest in brands adopting ESG-centric labels, one in five consumers (20.9 percent) indicated that “none of these information options would be important in their decision making.” 

When asked to rank the ESG attributes that they believe are the most important for fashion brands to address and inform consumers about, one-third survey participants listed “recyclability” and “human and labor rights” in their “Top 3.” “Material composition” was among the Top 3 for 24 percent of respondents, followed by “animal welfare” and “chemical usage” (23 percent of respondents put them in their Top 3), and carbon footprint (22 percent). Finally, less than 15 percent of consumers surveyed listed “water usage,” “diversity and inclusion,” and “employee education” in their Top 3 priorities for companies. 

Taken as a whole, the RBC states that these results indicate that eco-conscious fashion consumers may, in fact, want easy access to garments’ sustainability credentials, and that their “first priorities are knowing how to recycle their clothes, and that they can be comfortable that people were treated fairly in the creation of their garments.” As for how consumers want to access such information, the majority of survey participants (65 percent) pointed to ecolabels attached directly to the products that they are considering purchasing as ideal, followed by indication via “a website icon or a website filter for sustainable products.” This is distinct from QR codes, for instance, which were the “least desired ecolabeling option” with only one in five consumers indicating interest. 

The RBC’s findings come as a number of big-name brands have opted to cease their use of the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (“MSI”), a suite of tools aimed at helping companies to measure – and make information available to the public about – the environmental impact of their offerings, in the wake of allegations of greenwashing. The controversial Higg MSI is one of many certifications available for brands to calculate and tout the sustainability of their wares in light of rising consumer concern over climate change. A slippery slope, “Certification in general is sort of this false promise, and it is this license to greenwash,”  George Harding-Rolls, a campaign manager at not-for-profit Changing Markets Foundation, told Quartz, noting that “certification programs like the Higg Index” – and other labeling initiatives – often trivialize the amount of change that the fashion industry needs to take to become sustainable.” 

Prior to the most recent round of pushback, Allbirds landed on the receiving end of a false advertising lawsuit last year for allegedly failing to live up to the claims that it makes in its sustainability-centric marketing, including ones about the carbon footprint of its popular footwear, which it measures using a proprietary life cycle assessment tool and the Higg MSI. While plaintiff Patricia Dwyer took issue with the footprint-measuring tool, arguing that its calculations are based “on ‘the most conservative assumption for each calculation, skewing the calculations in its own favor,’ so [Allbirds] can make more significant environmental claims,” a New York federal court tossed out the case this spring.

In examining Allbirds’ environmental impact claims, Judge Cathy Seibel of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York stated in April that Dwyer’s “criticism [is] of the tool’s methodology,” not with Allbirds’ statements about its products, thereby, letting the sneaker-maker off the hook.

In an Instagram post from Salvatore Ferragamo on Wednesday, the Italian leather goods and fashion brand announced that “Salvatore Ferragamo [has] become FERRAGAMO.” The revelation – which also included a subtly-stylized new word mark and a custom red-ish Pantone hue – comes on the heels of the appointment of 27-year-old Maximilian Davis in March to the helm of the Florence, Italy-headquartered brand and just ahead of his runway debut during Milan Fashion Week on Saturday. In addition to reflecting a number of recurring trends in branding (from the rising adoption of color marks and moves by companies to simplify their brand names), Ferragamo axing Salvatore and the cursive stylization of its previous mark and opting, instead, for a more pared back font, is a nod to the “blanding” trend that has found a home in the fashion/luxury goods space over the past several years.

The newly-introduced Ferragamo word mark and the 95-year-old company’s decision to bring the red hue (which has roots in the company’s branding to date) to the fore falls neatly in line with enduring trends in the realm of branding. Other companies are placing emphasis on signature shades to complement more traditional forms of source-indication, such as word marks and logos. Bottega Veneta’s green, Valentino’s PP Pink, and Tom Brady’s “Brady Blue” come to mind as recent examples. In addition to adopting color branding, Ferragamo’s decision to move away from its previous signature-style mark is not without precedent either, and is immediately demonstrative of the “blanding” movement.

Still yet, Salvatore Ferragamo leaning into a shortened moniker is not uncharted territory, as it follows from similar steps taken by the likes of Ermenegildo Zegna, Hugo Boss, and Yves Saint Laurent. Fellow Italian fashion brand Ermenegildo Zegna became Zegna (and debuted a new logo) in December 2021. Shortly thereafter, Hugo Boss announced that it would split its formerly unified brand and create two distinct brands – HUGO and BOSS. And best known, of course, was a move by Yves Saint Laurent – under the watch of former creative chief Hedi Slimane – to famously drop the “Yves” for the ready-to-wear collection brand. (It is worth noting that this trend is not limited to fashion, and companies like The Boca Raton (formerly The Boca Raton Resort & Club) have simplified their names, as well.)

It is clear that companies across the board are opting to operate under more simplified branding, with a notable number of big-name bands following a very similar formula in recent years. The question is: Why? There are an array of reasons driving this branding stint but at least a couple stand out. Primarily, there is the enduring need for companies to create buzz around themselves – whether that buzz be for general brand-promotion purposes or to indicate new endeavors. This is very-easily achieved by way of changes to their branding)

In connection with its recent rebrand, Hugo Boss, for instance, is angling to regain relevance and in turn, boost sales. While the German fashion brand has “maintained its brand awareness” in recent years, CEO Daniel Grieder said earlier this year that it has “lost its relevance in the fashion industry,” prompting management to go back to the drawing board and “reframe” the valuable brand. Against that background, the bifurcated BOSS brand is aimed at catering to millennial consumers (think: ages 25 to 40), whereas HUGO is looking to find its footing among Gen-Z (i.e., those under age 25). 

Zegna similarly revamped its branding not too long ago as an indication of what is to come, namely, a planned initial public offering this year by way of a SPAC and a larger plan to engage in global expansion.

Other companies have opted to rebrand – or better yet, de-brand (complete with wiped-clean social media accounts) – to signal the start of a new creative direction. The Saint Laurent rebrand, for instance, coincided closely with the start of Hedi Slimane’s tenure, and the same is true for Ferragamo, which onboarded both Davis and CEO Marco Gobbetti over the past year, and is in the midst of a larger effort to attract millennial and Gen-Z consumers to the brand that has become a relatively dusty over the years.

Practically speaking, companies appear to have become much more willing to play with their valuable branding than they have been in the past. As a result, alterations to companies’ branding that follow from changes in creative directors – or that foreshadow other changes for a company – have become thoroughly commonplace, a sure-fire way to elicit clicks (and potentially, cash) from consumers. “Wrongly, or rightly, this has almost become the de-fecto way a traditional luxury brand communicates that they are having a bit of a rebirth and is still relevant and that it wants consumers to look at its offering with a bit more of a modern lens,” King & Partners founder and CEO Tony King told TFL. “It is almost a battle cry for luxury brands to signal to the world, ‘Hey kids, look at us! We still got it!’” 

Beyond the need to create recurring buzz in a crowded and largely-image-driven luxury market, branding changes are a way for companies to adapt to a growing number of markets and mediums, which have increased even further since the initial wave of blanding thanks to the rise of web3 and the metaverse. In addition to seeking “maximum impact” across the mediums where they simultaneously communicate – from smartphones to billboards, Base Design’s Partner and Executive Creative Director Thierry Brunfaut says that “most of these brands are global brands, and they believe that they need to get to the lowest visual and textual common denominator to reach a global audience.” 

The line of thinking here, per Brunfaut, is that “the shorter and bolder your name is” the more widely fitting it is and “the better the impact.” And ultimately, replacing stylized branding “with something bolder, simpler” enables brands to “pass the ‘Will this be highly recognizable on a hoodie?’ test,” King asserts. (He notes that the simplification of a brand name also sets companies like Ferragamo up neatly to use the dropped portion of a name for a diffusion or separate line.)

Blanded logos

Such de-branding – which is seeing brands “extract all the nuances and considered details of a brand that carefully evolved over decades,” King says, may prove to be an effective way to achieve appeal across markets and mediums, but it is not without potential drawbacks. One of the risks here, Brunfaut contends, is that such de-branding “could empty the brand of its story, heritage, and unique feel,” while at the same time, giving rise to “the danger that all these fashion mega brands today look the same,” thereby, giving consumers the impression that “luxury has become a commodity.” This might not bode well from a positioning and/or pricing point of view, which is the name of the game in the luxury segment. 

Finally, from another perspective, what is going on here makes sense. In reality, most of the fashion brands that are engaging in de-branding exercises have come a long way from their origins, with their founders either dead or otherwise not involved with the company, and this fact is being reflected in the removal of “original human/family heritage” elements, Brunfaut says. The message here is “clear,” he claims, these new branding efforts represent a shift “from a person to a corporation.” 

As for whether this overarching blanding (or de-branding) will stick – and/or whether it is what companies in the business of manufacturing the image of exclusivity, craftsmanship, and … luxury will want – long-term is not immediately clear. However, Brunfaut, for one, suggests that this may not be the end of the luxury brand as we once knew it. 

It is “all about cycles” when it comes to branding. “We could be surprised by the coming of a new trend that gets back to more human-centric branding,” he says. “I think we all crave that.” 

Urban Outfitters has landed on the receiving end of a new lawsuit for allegedly “bombarding” consumers with promotional text messages without getting their consent. According to the complaint that he filed with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida on September 15, Martin Tooley claims that Urban Outfitters has run afoul of both federal and Florida state law by “engag[ing] in aggressive telephonic sales calls to consumers without having secured prior express written consent as required under the Florida Telephone Solicitation Act” (“FTSA”) – which prohibits the sending of marketing “calls” (including text messages) using “an automated system for the selection or dialing of telephone numbers” without the recipient’s prior express written consent – and “with no regard for consumer rights under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act” (“TCPA”). 

Setting the stage in the newly-filed complaint, Tooley claims that “beginning on or about June 19, 2022, through June 30, 2022” Urban Outfitters sent a barrage of text messages to his cell phone that “constitute telemarketing” because they “encouraged the future purchase” of Urban Outfitters goods and services. Tooley alleges that “at no point in time did [he] provide [Urban Outfitters] with his express written consent to be contacted,” as required by law. (To constitute valid consent under the FTSA, a consumer must “[c]learly authorize the person making or allowing the placement of a telephonic sales call” or text message to make such contact “using an automated system for the selection or dialing of [their] telephone number.”)

Tooley assets that he “never provided ‘[Urban Outfitters] with express written consent” authorizing [the company] to transmit telephonic sales [messages] to [his] cellular telephone number utilizing an automated system for the selection or dialing of telephone numbers.” And “more specifically,” he contends that he “never signed any type of authorization permitting or allowing the placement of telephonic sales calls by text message using an automated system for the selection and dialing of telephone numbers.” 

As a result of such unauthorized messages, Tooley claims that Urban Outfitters caused him and other similarly situated consumers “harm, including violations of their statutory rights, statutory damages, annoyance, nuisance, and invasion of their privacy.” Against that background, he sets out claims of violations of the FTSA and the TCPA. In addition to asking the court to certify the class action element of his lawsuit, Tolley is seeking “up to $1,500 in damages for each call in violation of the FTSA, which, when aggregated among a proposed class numbering in the tens of thousands, or more, exceeds the $5 million threshold for federal court jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act.” 

Rising FTSA Claims

Tooley’s lawsuit against Urban Outfitters falls in line with a growing number of FTSA suits following the amendment of the statute to allow for a private cause of action in July 2021. “Before the FTSA existed, plaintiffs mostly sued under the TCPA for alleged telemarketing violations,” according to Klein Moynihan Turco LLP’s David Klein, who notes that the FTSA “contains some key differences from the TCPA,” with the “most notable of which, at least in a litigation context, being the definition of ‘autodialer.’” (e-commerce services company Shopify, mall brand Hot Topic, and fast fashion brand Nasty Gal are among some of the companies that have been hit with TCPA lawsuits over the years.)

While an “autodialer” is defined under the TCPA as “equipment that randomly or sequentially generates phone numbers and then dials those numbers,” Klein contends that the FTSA “contains no such definition.” Instead, it contains “a somewhat vague reference to an ‘automated system for the selection or dialing of telephone numbers,'” leaving room for an appellate court to interpret the FTSA’s “autodialer” provision and/or the Florida legislature to provide “a real definition.” 

As for how courts have been handling FTSA cases to date, just this month, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida dismissed such a lawsuit, “giving FTSA defendants their first win in Davis v. Coast Dental Services, LLC,” Venable LLP’s Daniel Blynn states, following a string of wins for FTSA lawsuit-filing parties. In the Davis case, the court determined on summary judgment that the plaintiff failed to make more than a “conclusory” allegation about how Coast Dental used a “computer software system that automatically selected and dialed” her number and sent her a single marketing message about its dental services without receiving her prior express written consent.

In its September 13 order, the court stated, “The fact that Coast Dental sent Davis an unsolicited text message is consistent with the idea that Coast Dental used an automated machine to send advertisements en masse. However, these facts are also consistent with Coast Dental hiring a marketing firm to send individual messages from a personal cell phone in full compliance with the FTSA.”

Two days after the court issued its decision in Davis (which includes an opportunity for the plaintiff to amend the complaint), Blynn notes that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida refused to dismiss an FTSA claim in Borges v. SmileDirectClub, LLC “on grounds that the FTSA does not violate the First Amendment and is not void for vagueness under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” 

With Davis and Borges in mind, Blythe asserts that “the dismissal decisions tally is now 5-1 in favor of the plaintiffs’ bar.”

The case is Martin Tooley v. Urban Outfitters, Inc., 6:22-cv-01686 (M.D. Fla.).

“The new logo has a heavier, bold look with a geometric sans-serif treatment.” This is what Bloomberg’s Rob Walker wrote about the newly redesigned Burberry logo. He could, however, actually be discussing any number of recently (and relatively recently) revamped logos – from Balenciaga and Berluti to Saint Laurent and Rimowa. As part of a larger trend in branding, or better yet, blanding, a growing number of high fashion and luxury brands – and other consumer goods and tech companies, as well – are looking to spartan logos, which are “designed not to stand out at all, but to blend in.”

Logos meant to blend in? That is an interesting notion if you consider the practical purpose of branding in the first place. Trademarks – i.e., brand names, logos, and even colors in some cases – have traditionally been used and have derived their value from their ability to enable consumers to easily identify the source of a product and distinguish that product from those of other companies. Given the increasing number of brands contributing to the mass-simplification of logos, it is worth wondering what, exactly, this means, legally speaking, how we got here, and what the broader cultural implications might be.

Trademark Considerations

From a legal perspective, one of the key concerns when it comes to rebranding is the potential loss of trademark rights in a prior logo or specified stylization of a word mark. After all, trademark rights are amassed and maintained in many jurisdictions, including the U.S., as a result of actual – and consistent – use of a mark. As such, discontinued use of a stylized brand name or logo could give rise to complications even when a brand maintains registrations for such marks.

A chart of logos before and after their blanding makeover

This issue is “particularly relevant if that previously-held logo was used for an extended duration, and was recognized and beloved by consumers,” as Sterne Kessler’s Ivy Estoesta and Monica Talley have noted. “At issue in such a scenario will be the need to establish trademark rights and consumer recognition from scratch in a new logo, which will take time and resources, and will also require ensuring that the new logo does not infringe any other parties’ already-existing marks.”

As such, “Companies that wish to refresh their branding but benefit from the goodwill surrounding a prior mark should consider modifications that update – but do not completely change – the commercial impression of the brand.” In such a scenario, “a brand owner may be able to rely on the doctrine of ‘tacking’ in a later procurement or infringement matter, which allows a trademark user to ‘clothe a new mark with the priority position of an older mark.'” While this “sounds simple in theory,” Estoesta and Talley caution brands, noting that the application of the doctrine “is more challenging because the determination of legal equivalency depends on whether the two marks ‘create the same, continuing commercial impression such that the consumer would consider them both the same mark,’ as the Federal Circuit stated in In re Dial-A-Mattress Operating Corp.

At the same time, it could be argued that brands actually stand to increase the strength of – and the scope of protection for – their marks by adopting this less-is-more approach. As London-based intellectual property lawyer Birgit Clark told TFL, a brand “should always try to register a plain word trademark.” That way, she says, the distinctiveness of the mark “will rest on the word(s) rather than any stylization of those words.”

With that in mind, brands will be able to “go after similar or identical trademarks in any kind of stylization or in combination with a logo,” for example, as opposed to merely being able to claim infringement if the name and any decorative elements are similar. In short: the more distinctive a trademark, itself, is, the wider its scope of protection will be. From this standpoint, the new trend of bland logos bodes well for brands.

“Just Good Business”

Speaking more broadly, there is something to be said about the simplification of logos, a move that has largely been attributed to the desire of brands to use the same logo more seamlessly across multiple format – i.e., on Instagram, billboards, and shopping bags, etc., alike. In this way, creative director Thierry Brunfaut wrote for Fast Co., the adoption of bare bones branding “is just good business.”

The widespread adoption of newly sans-serif-centric logos is also likely due (at least in part) to the reliance of the same handful of individuals’ or companies and their aesthetics. Famed graphic designer Peter Saville, for instance, created both Calvin Klein and Burberry’s new logos and related branding. German creative firm Bureau Borsche was responsible for Balenciaga and Rimowa’s rebrands, as well as recent bland-centric revamps for menswear site Highsnobiety and Nike. The list of commonalities goes on, just as it does elsewhere in fashion.

Blanded logos

Beyond that, the uniformity in design is part of the larger approach to modern fashion, which is becoming more formulaic, corporate, and spread sheet-driven. Because a sizable number of fashion brands are owned by publicly-listed parent companies, the stakes, from a bottom line perspective are higher, and as a result, they tend to be increasingly risk averse. Thus, much of what they produce – from garments to branding – is the product of trend forecasting and careful metrics.

As for the trend, itself, it speaks to the larger state of things in consumer goods sales, as well. After all, consumers – particularly high fashion ones – are not necessarily shopping in the same way as they used to. The rise in omni-channel operations calls for  is a “tremendous design challenge,” per Brunfaut, and as such, brands have opted for the straightforward, easily-transferrable and super-scalable logo.

More than that, an ever-growing percentage of luxury goods sales, for instance, are occurring online, where labeling tends to be clearer than it is in multi-brand stores, and this has had a practical impact on the need for – and the utilization of – logos.  Look no further than the Saint Laurent Sac De Jour bags being offered up by Net-a-Porter. They have the simplified (under the direction of Hedi Slimane) Saint Laurent logo on them. The bags are also being sold under a bold Saint Laurent brand identification tag on the website.

This is demonstrative of the fact that the practical need for a super easily-identifiable logo on a bag, itself, is in the digital era is arguably less intense than when consumers were shopping in brick-and-mortar department stores. Whether that means brands should continue to opt for logos that look very much alike, all more-or-less blend together, and potentially, fail to distinguish one brand’s products from another’s (even if that is less likely than in generations prior), that seems like a negative.

This article was initially published on December 19, 2018.

Kanye West’s desire to branch out on his own and operate his Yeezy brand separately from existing partners adidas and Gap may not prove to be an entirely seamless transition. On the heels of revealing plans to terminate his Yeezy Gap venture (which was slated to expire in 2030) and counsel for West confirming that the rapper-slash-design-figure will open independently-operated Yeezy retail outposts, Kanye shared one page of a recent draft summarizing some of the terms of the deals he entered into with Gap and adidas in an Instagram post on Sunday, stating, “Welp I guess the war’s not over,” and seemingly suggesting that a legal squabble could be in the works in the event that he engages in certain standalone activity.

The summary of terms – which was compiled by counsel at Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young and is dated September 13 – summarizes various limitations that were ostensibly set out the licensing and endorsement agreement that Kanye West previously signed-off on alongside adidas for his long-running Yeezy deal and his strategic agreement with Gap for the Yeezy Gap collection. The restrictions place limits on the types of goods that West, who legally changed his name to Ye this summer, and his company Yeezy can endorse, advertise, manufacture, etc. in order to prevent him and/or his brand from competing with adidas and/or Gap and the products/services that they are offering up under his and/or the Yeezy name. 

Specifically, the excerpt states that Ye and Yeezy are limited in terms of what they can “use, wear, sponsor, promote, market, advertise, endorse, design, manufacture, license, sell or provide consulting services with respect to … products under the Yeezy trademarks or Ye’s likeness or any other identifiable attribute, feature or indica of Ye (e.g., Donda, Pablo or Jesus Walks).” The products primarily include “Athletic, athleisure, streetwear, sportswear, and lifestyle” apparel, footwear, and accessories. Ye and Yeezy are also prohibited from making, marketing, selling, etc. apparel, footwear, and accessories that “use designs that copy or resemble any designs used for Yeezy by adidas or Yeezy Gap products.”

An Instagram post from Kanye West

The applicability of such restrictions from a duration point of view is not indicated on the single page of the summary that Ye shared on Instagram, but the restrictions are presumably limited to the length of his deals with the two companies, conceivably with a window following any termination, which could stand in the way of any immediate retail plans for Ye and/or for the DONDA-related products that recent trademark applications for registration suggest could be in the pipeline.

While Ye’s deal with adidas is still in force and thus, the corresponding provisions are still in effect, it is unclear how exactly the parties have opted to wind down the Yeezy Gap deal and what any settlement terms might look like. It is worth noting that the potential for a period of non-competition following the immediate dissolution of Yeezy Gap seems to be relevant in light of reports that Gap will continue to offer up remaining inventory from the venture; as of the time of publication, the Yeezy Gap e-commerce site was still shoppable and stocked with ten products from the collection. (In a separate Instagram post on Sunday, Ye stated that Gap Inc. Chairman/Interim CEO Bob Martin called him and “said we are amicably ending our deal, but I can’t do a fashion show [and] they can keep selling my product,” which, to the extent that it is true, suggests the existence of enduring non-compete terms.)

As for the nature of restrictions that are included in the summary shared by Ye more broadly, they are hardly earth-shattering. It is not-at-all unexpected, after all, for companies like adidas or Gap to insist upon terms that require the face of a venture to agree to refrain from engaging in directly-competing (or possibly even indirectly-competing) activities for the duration of a venture, and to negotiate the nature/strength of those terms with counsel for the other contracting parties, which would be Ye and Yeezy here. (Entities like adidas and Gap would also undoubtedly push for the inclusion of things like morals clauses and right of first refusal provisions, which the other side would likely look to narrow.)

Against this background, it is customary for companies to use restrictive covenants to prevent big-name collaborators from “exploiting a prominent role on behalf of one company for a direct competitor,” Seyfarth Shaw LLP’s Erik Weibust, Marcus Mintz, and Jeremy Cohen, previously stated in connection with endorsements deals. 

The potential for enduring strife involving Ye and his partnerships follows shortly after he accused Gap of failing to make good on their collaborative Yeezy Gap deal and ultimately, notifying the San Francisco, California-headquartered retailer on September 15 that Yeezy LLC was terminating the venture. As we previously reported, West was looking to back out of the deal on the basis that “Gap breached the agreement by not releasing apparel and opening retail stores as planned,” namely by failing to offer up “40 percent of the Yeezy Gap assortment in brick-and-mortar retail stores during the third and fourth quarters of 2021.” 

Additionally, counsel for Ye asserted that Gap fell short of a provision in the agreement that the parties announced in June 2020, which required it “to open as many as five retail stores dedicated to showcasing Yeezy Gap products by July 31, 2023.” No such stores have been opened to date. Gap has since confirmed the end of the parties’ partnership, with Gap president and CEO Mark Breitbard writing in a message to employees on Sept. 15 that “while we share a vision of bringing high-quality, trend-forward, utilitarian design to all people through unique omni experiences with Yeezy Gap, how we work together to deliver this vision is not aligned, and we are deciding to wind down the partnership.”

Ye similarly expressed issues over his adidas deal, which is set to expire in 2026, but he does not appear to have taken steps to bring that one to a halt.