Kanye West — rapper, puffer designer, and sole resident of Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz stadium — has broken the record for highest-grossing U.S. tour, based on Donda merchandise alone. The second listening event for the still-unreleased album on August 5, with 40,000 ticketed guests, raked in $7 million from merch sales, according to Billboard.
West partnered with Balenciaga creative director Demna Gvasalia to build the Donda visual imprint. Gvasalia designed the event merchandise, including an array of black and beige long-sleeve T-shirts printed with religious iconography, the Mercedes-Benz logo, or a photograph of West’s late mother Donda. Every T-shirt, which sold for $100 at the merch tables, reads “Donda 8/5/2021 Mercedes-Benz Stadium Atlanta.”
Yeezy does it — West is no rookie to the merch business; he was arguably one of the first artists to establish hip hop merch as culture-defining streetwear grails, and has continued to do so throughout his last few projects. Gothic-print T-shirts from West’s 2016 The Life of Pablo, from its Madison Square Garden premiere and the string of city-specific pop-ups that followed, dominated streetwear long after the album came out. His Sunday Service merch was co-signed by Cactus Plant Flea Market, and “Holy Spirit” loungewear from his 2019 Coachella set run upwards of $1,000 on the resale market. Then, of course, there’s Yeezy, his luxury clothing line that provides most of the blanks used for his merchandise.
Especially considering West’s unpredictability and fluidity when it comes to his work (can you keep count of the “official” album release dates we’ve been given?), dated merchandise from something like his listening party is the physical embodiment of “you had to be there.”
Still TBD — The second Donda event broke another record as the most-watched Apple Music livestream ever, with 5.4 million viewers. Donda is West’s first studio album since 2019’s Jesus Is King, and his first tour-like performances since 2016’s Life of Pablo. From the 24-hour livestream, Soundcloud leaks, stage outfits, celebrity cameos, and years-long wait alone, Donda may be West’s most anticipated project yet. Considering how much his fashion industry clout has grown over the past few years, it’s no surprise that his merch followed suit.