Kanye West’s Weird Adidas Meeting, Explained

Kanye West is at war. The artist (now just Ye) has become increasingly public about his battles in recent weeks, using his social media to bash LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault and Supreme creative director Tremaine Emer Various opponents such as Li and Dad. He turned down his clothing partner Gap, ending a deal with the iconic brand to make Yeezy clothing. Ye also waged this war on Adidas, the brand that makes his popular Yeezy footwear.

In an Instagram post, he accused Adidas of stealing his intellectual property and publicly mocked its board. In a YouTube video posted Monday, he opened up about some of his dealings with the brand, showing clips of tense meetings with Adidas executives as part of a 30-minute article titled “Last Week.”

“You’ve done everything wrong in terms of company, business and partners,” Ye said at the meeting. At one point, he showed a pornographic video of him holding his phone to the face of an Adidas executive and comparing him to the actor in the clip.

Ye’s latest attack is his most surreal yet. The video opens with Grand Theft Auto, with the faceless figure in Yeezy Gap meandering through Tokyo. From there, it switches to scenes shot by cameraman Nico Ballesteros that show Yeh embarking on various tasks related to his business.

At the Adidas meeting, the participants were blinded. Ye expresses his displeasure to the vague face, but the voices and details of the conversation confirm their identities. Who are the other men in the room with him?

To his right is venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar, who recently teamed up with Ye and was spotted fighting alongside him. Pishevar is not in the sneaker business, but did claim in 2020 that he met Kobe Bryant in 2019 to promote an independent Kobe sneaker brand.

Pishevar mentioned that Yeh terminated the Gap deal the day before the conversation with Adidas, a comment that appears to have scheduled the meeting for September 16.

Pishevar explained his outrage by arguing Ye’s point about Adidas stealing his designs. He admonished the executives, saying they knew they were doing it wrong.

“When someone steals this person’s ideas, his creations, it’s like you’re stealing a child,” Pishevar said at the conference. “These are his kids, and you kidnapped them. There are Yeezy-inspired derivatives that are making a lot of money because people can’t tell the difference.”

In the middle is Eric Lidke, the former brand president of Adidas. His position between the two sides of the conversation is appropriate, and in the minutes of the meeting shown, he acts like a mediator.

“It starts with someone feeling very disrespected,” Liedtke said, referring to Ye’s reaction to Adidas releasing sneakers that looked like him. “In my opinion, it’s justified.”

Working closely with Adidas’ Ye, Liedtke helped design the long-term Yeezy deal the artist signed in 2016. He is a veteran employee who worked for the German sportswear company in the early 90s. Liedtke, who left Adidas in 2019, said of “last week”, “I’ve been gone for three years.”

Liedtke now runs Unless Collective, the eco-friendly streetwear company he co-founded in his post-Adidas life. He shows off a hoodie in another part of the video, showing Ye an unless it’s a costume, while making a clear reference to a contentious relationship with Adidas.

“It won’t have your shape,” Liedtke said, “because, you know, we won’t spoil your artistry.”

Ye has posted about the meeting before — on September 15, he uploaded a screenshot to his Instagram Story showing a text exchange with Liedtke. In it, Liedtke asks Ye if he wants to meet before they meet Adidas. The posting of the post coincides with the September 16 date suggested by Pishevar’s comments.

Ye was so enthusiastic about “unless” in a YouTube video that he even told Liedtke that he wanted to buy the company.

At the “last week” meeting, West said he would not work with Adidas unless they made Litke CEO. Ye has been focused on the Adidas CEO role, which made outgoing CEO Casper Rosted the subject of some of his public outrage earlier this year.

Also in attendance was Adidas chief creative officer Alasdhair Willis, who sat to Liedtke’s right. In September, Ye posted about Willis on Instagram, asking why he was never allowed to call or meet Willis. Hours later, Ip asked his fans not to spread Willis’ memes like the rest of the Adidas leadership, and said he believed he was a good guy.

Willis is married to Stella McCartney, who has her own label with Adidas. Pishevar mentioned her in their conversation. Ye mentioned her father, Paul McCartney, and the music they made together.

Willis’ comments in the video were brief and mild.

“We can certainly do better in the way we work with you,” he told Ye.

The most silent person at the left end of the panel at the meeting was Torben Schumacher, a senior vice president at Adidas who has worked at the sneaker maker since 2004. He oversees adidas’ sports lifestyle business globally, which means his purview includes the Yeezy category.

Schumacher was the victim of the meeting’s most bizarre moments. Ye showed the group a pornographic video on his phone and compared one of the men to Schumacher, noting similarities in their voices. The scene in the porn depicts a man’s reaction to his partner cheating on him, which Ye compared to Adidas cheating on him and copying his designs. He taped the screen to Schumacher’s face to make his point, and called his videographer to take a closer shot.

“Come on, man,” Schumacher said, before pushing Ye’s arm away.

Of course, the parts of the conference that we know are highly edited and presented by Ye. They were filtered through his views on the relationship between Adidas and Yeezy. Gone are the rebuttals from the Adidas executives present and the context for the actual back-and-forth conversation. Complex reached out to Liedtke, Schumacher, Willis and Adidas spokesman for comment, but no one responded.

Ye has accused Adidas of ripping off his Yeezy Slides.

Yeh’s documenting the encounter and showing it to the world blurs the line between it’s a legitimate attempt to reconcile with Adidas and a strategic performance that makes the brand look bad. It’s reminiscent of his persistent abuse on social media earlier this year against Daniel Cherry, the senior Adidas employee responsible for interacting with Yeezy.

Ye’s antics have turned into hate speech — his October 3 Paris Fashion Week show was memorable, not for its clothes, but for its embrace of white supremacist slogans. West was locked out of his social media accounts this week after making anti-Semitic remarks.

These actions were read in part as a man’s determination to break his deal and make himself toxic and untouchable. He said at the meeting that he was facing Adidas’ worst nightmare. While the meeting in “Last Week” appears to have actually started last month, Yep’s latest moves continue to test the limits of his relationship with Adidas.

After Ye showed his “White Lives Matter” shirt in Paris, Adidas issued a statement saying it was reviewing the deal with Yeezy, saying it was important for the partnership to be built on “mutual respect and shared values.” The brand, which has broken up with tenured employees in the past over less incendiary comments, still sells Yeezy sneakers.

It’s unclear how long it can do so and how long the partnership can last. Ye used clear wording at the meeting to assure Adidas executives and the audience that he was on a scorched earth campaign.

“Our military is fully prepared,” he said. “You understand? It’s a nuclear activity of varying degrees from which no one can recover.”

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