CODY, Wyoming — Kanye West’s Yeezy brand has chosen an unusual location to build a manufacturing hub for his collaborations with Gap and Adidas. In an interview with Cody Enterprise, the designer and musician announced plans to create jobs and begin domestic manufacturing on both footwear and apparel in Wyoming.
A spokesperson told BoF the plan is to produce over 1 million pairs of footwear in the state by the start of next year, with apparel production to begin in the US “shortly after.”
Wyoming is an unusual choice to serve as the centre of a fast-growing fashion empire. The state has seen a boom in energy jobs in recent years, but has virtually no textile industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 100 people in the state were employed as sewing machine operators, one of the sector's most common occupations, as of May 2019. Workers would likely need to be brought in from out of state, as Cody’s population was just below 10,000 in 2018.
“We needed to start our Yeezy organization in Wyoming,” West told the Enterprise. Matt George, the brand’s business director, added that most positions will be entry level with training provided.
The company has a footwear sample and prototype facility in Cody, with plans for it to be staffed in the next 30 to 60 days according to the newspaper. Yeezy declined to say how many jobs the projects would create.
West has slowly expanded his presence in Wyoming, travelling there frequently in 2017 and recording an album and hosting a listening party there the following year. He’s also reportedly purchased multiple properties in the areas surrounding Cody and has moved members of his Yeezy design team to the state.
West has previously mentioned ambitious plans to expand Yeezy operations within Cody. In a New York Times profile this year he discussed farming the land in order to do production from “seed to sew” in the town. He refers to his property there as “Yeezy Campus,” according to GQ.
Domestic production is often too expensive for brands, and many rely on global supply chains outside of the US where labour is cheaper and mass production is faster. Just two of the hundreds of factories Gap works with are based in the US, in Brooklyn and Long Beach, Calif. Adidas opened a “Speedfactory” in Atlanta in 2018, betting that investment in automation and proximity to customers would make up for higher labour costs. The factory closed last year.
Yeezy’s partnership with Adidas has proven wildly successful, generating $1.3 billion last year according to Forbes.
Announced last week, the brand’s Gap deal will include apparel for men, women and children, and is set to reach the market in 2021. The collaboration is expected to be in line with Gap’s current prices.
West has several other plans for Cody, including developing single-family, skate-friendly dome houses to accommodate Sunday service performers and attendees.