During lunch one day at California’s Calabasas High School (CHS), a freshman student manned a DJ turntable — a moment that was captured on the school’s Instagram page.
In the accompanying video clip, the student isn’t spinning a Kanye West track, but West’s influence is nevertheless present in the post — through the student DJ’s shirt. His black long-sleeve shirt, scrawled with the words “I feel like Diplo” (the popular American DJ) in capitalised gothic font mirrors West’s “Life of Pablo” 2016 tour merchandise, which has been copied and reimagined hundreds of times over.
If Calabasas sounds familiar, it’s likely because the town entered the millennium zeitgeist in the mid-2000s when a family named the Kardashians chronicled their lives on a reality TV show set in the wealthy SoCal town. It’s “where the (mostly) wealthy move to feel safe and unbothered.”
Indeed, it’s also where Dior creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri held her first Resort show for the French fashion house in May.
After West’s 2014 marriage to Kim Kardashian, the rapper turned designer embraced Calabasas as his own. So it’s no surprise that his presence is palpable at Calabasas High School, even though his own children are a long way from high school age.
West, who officially partnered with Adidas in July 2016 for both “sport and street” products, first featured the town’s name on clothes from his Yeezy Season 5 Fall 2017 ready-to-wear collection, which debuted at New York Fashion Week in February.
While the Kanye West and Adidas teams did not respond to requests for comment, and Calabasas High School declined to comment, it seems Adidas is already a school sponsor — at least according to the school’s website. And whoever is responsible for handling the school’s Twitter account retweeted a story about the rumoured partnership between the school and Adidas.
TMZ, which first reported the rumour, noted that West would donate to the high school, revamp the school’s gym, and reportedly requested that the school’s team names be changed from the Calabasas Coyotes to the Calabasas Wolves — West’s apparent spirit animal, judging by his last studio album. Again, none of this has been confirmed, but that didn’t stop some Twitter users and the school’s alumni from expressing their disapproval.
— Modern Banks (@TheModernBanks) June 4, 2017
Current students don’t seem to mind the rumours though. Keithan Gooden, a sophomore and football player at Calabasas High School, tells Yahoo Style that he and his teammates are excited about the potential Adidas-Kanye West-CHS partnership, saying it would be a “great move” for the school.
“I do think this is a big opportunity for us as a school, and I think we would look pretty good with Yeezy cleats on,” Gooden says. “We do enjoy [Kanye’s] music, and really it doesn’t matter where he comes from. We’re just thankful that he wants to invest in us as a program.”
Major athletic sponsorships with Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas aren’t common at most high schools, but for elite schools with Division I status, the opportunities to provide sports gear can be seen as a valuable opportunity.
Matt Powell, a sports industry analyst for the NPD group, shares with Yahoo Style that, while a few elite high schools have uniform deals with brands, the value in the deal lies not with the school itself, but with its athletes, who may go on to play college sports.
For example, high schools with “national prestige” in the Washington, D.C., area left companies like Under Armour and Nike clamouring for a chance to outfit student athletes.
Keithan Gooden says it’s his dream to play college football. As an underclassman, he has already visited schools like University of Southern California and is busy fielding scholarship offers from others. While CHS athletes have worn Adidas-sponsored team apparel in the past, Gooden says he’s not “attached to any logo” but favours Adidas.
For West, the partnership could be a chance to prove himself as a player in athletic gear, much like he had to convince fashion stalwarts that, despite a novice design résumé, he was a credible designer. It took a few seasons to prove that, though there are still those who are unconvinced. (Before Adidas, West partnered with Nike to release a series of sneakers called “Air Yeezys.”)
Assuming a hypothetical Yeezy-Calabasas High School shoe is less Powerphase trainer and more Air Jordan, it’s also a chance to make some of West’s critics eat crow. (“Nobody is going to play street ball in Yeezy Boosts,” a 2015 Fortune story noted. “As one morning radio DJ told West when he came to plug the shoe: It looks ‘like a papier-mâché project.'”)
Luckily, there’s one group West doesn’t have to work hard to convince: Calabasas High School students. And as for the mascot change, Gooden says: “To me, that doesn’t really matter. I do like both mascots.”
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