The first thing you realize, when holding the jacket, is that it is more than a jacket. Made in a Chinese factory out of recycled nylon and polyester fill, it’s also a collection of contradictions. Voluminous, but weightless. A puffer coat with no seams. Warm, but lacking buttons, zippers or any type of closure. A Gap jacket that is suddenly a status symbol.
This month, the Round Jacket — the first release from the lucrative, 10-year deal between the rapper-cum-fashion designer Kanye West and the American retailer Gap, which was first announced last year — has finally begun to land in the hands of fans who bought it for $200, through online pre-orders, during the dog days of summer. Available in shiny red, black or electric blue, the jacket is already being peddled on reseller marketplaces for nearly triple its retail price.
But how does it feel to wear such a sought-after fashion oddity on the streets of New York? It was a question I sought to answer over the course of several days in November.
Wearing the item, I learned a few things: Many people recognized the coat. And they wanted to talk about it.
On my first night wearing the jacket, I had only to strut a few blocks in SoHo before running into a one-time Hinge date. We exchanged awkward hellos. Then he stepped back, took in my recycle bin-blue garment and smirked.
“You look rich,” he said and then flitted off. (He texted me later that night after weeks of radio silence.)
Outside an East Village bar, a stranger, unprompted, told me he thought the jacket was a “knockoff” of the Norma Kamali “sleeping bag” coats frequently worn by the onetime Vogue editor André Leon Talley. He owned a sleeping bag coat too, the stranger said, and then he added, “The construction is just way better compared to that thing.”
The jacket is also an invitation for touch. After giving it up to a coat check, attendants perked up when they squished down on the polyester fill, as if partaking in ASMR. A friend joked that it felt like trying to pop Bubble Wrap that never pops.
The jacket is something of a safety hazard. When I jogged up a crowded set of subway stairs, the handlebars of a passing scooter snatched the fabric and yanked me backward. The near constant crinkle of the thin nylon makes you aware of the garment’s fragility at all times, giving it a kind of precious quality.
Near Washington Square Park, the jacket was a hit. Two girls shouted out compliments as I walked past them.
“The coat is completely different and new, but still yum,” Karon Sanders, a 20-year-old from Florida, said.
“That’s a new word I’ve started using for things I like,” she clarified.
“Yes, I second the yum!” said Cal Trucco, a 19-year-old from Argentina. “It makes my eyes feel good.”
Over at Fight Club, a consignment store for coveted sneakers, located near Union Square, the jacket prompted a sales associate to expound about his love of Kanye. “He’s a visionary,” Cavan Miller, 19, said. He compared subtle updates to the Yeezy models over recent years to the incremental tinkering of Air Jordans over the decades.
“People come in here and they’re like, ‘Wow, these are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn,’” he said.
Outside Bloomingdale’s, on 59th Street, Nancy Boomer, 51, a tech worker, was less effusive. “It reminds me of the coats I had when I was a young teenager, which I didn’t like because they’re too puffy and you’re already sensitive about your weight at that age,” she said.
A beat later, a gang of friends masterfully used my jacket as material for a rapid-fire roast.
“It looks like a poncho,” Jason Luna, 18, said. His friends laughed.
“It feels like something I would find at Ikea,” Jose Rivera, 21, added. “Like one of their shopping bags, man.”
“You know when you’re wearing your jacket wrong?” Mr. Luna said, smiling. “That’s what it looks like.”
So, none of them would wear the jacket? Mr. Rivera grew serious. “You saying it’s Yzy,” Mr. Rivera said, shrugging. (That’s a “yes.”)
Mixed reactions continued to pour in. Pergrin Pervec, a self-proclaimed Kanye West superfan who declined to share his age, said he believed the jacket represented Mr. West’s full creative potential. He noted that the rapper had spent time interning at Fendi, a mark of his commitment, before calling him one of the “most interesting designers we have today.” Mr. Pervec’s girlfriend disagreed.
Despite its eccentricities, the Yzy Gap round jacket appears to have connected with the people it was meant to attract. Young shoppers. Shortly after the online release of the blue version, reports suggest that Sonia Syngal, the Gap chief executive, was more than pleased with the rollout.
“It’s had a great response,” Ms. Syngal said on a conference call with analysts. “We’ve had a much younger customer. We’ve had 75 percent of those customers being new to the Gap brand.”
After a week of wearing the jacket in public, I’ve come to believe that for consumers, it represents, most importantly, a link to Kanye and his creativity. It is the most democratic and accessible entry into the vision of fashion he has curated and built over the years. Wearing the jacket seemingly transforms you from a plebeian to a shapeless, off-duty celebrity ready for a paparazzi shot. If not visually, at least mentally.
“I thought you were someone famous!” a 16-year-old girl visiting from Pittsburgh with her family told me on the street. I didn’t believe her.
A few days later, walking through my neighborhood in Bed-Stuy, I saw a young man of color wearing the jacket, slinking down the street with confidence. He couldn’t have been any older than 18. He looked famous too.
(With Inputs from nytimes)
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