Jon Wexler Shares the Most Important Thing He Learned From Kanye West

The former adidas YEEZY GM talks about his new role at Shopify in a HYPEBEAST-exclusive interview.

21,654 Hypes 17 Comments

Jon Wexler is no stranger to sending shockwaves through the world of street culture. The man affectionately known as “Wex” did so once again when it was announced earlier this month that he’d be leaving his position as GM of adidas YEEZY to join Shopify as Vice President of the company’s creator and influencer program. Of course, executives moving between companies is par for the course, but Wexler’s stint at adidas was nothing short of monumental: over two decades with the Trefoil, he established paradigm-shifting partnerships with Pharrell, Beyoncé, Kanye West and more. The famously mercurial West even said that Wexler “basically saved my life” in 2015.

So what will the cultural guru bring to the world’s biggest E-commerce platform when he officially starts his role this upcoming Monday? In an exclusive interview with HYPEBEAST, Wexler and Loren Padelford, VP and GM of Shopify discussed next steps, how they want to help creatives — or “makers,” as they say — amplify their voices and much more.

HYPEBEAST: Jon, what was it that drew you to Shopify?

Jon Wexler: I’ve been following them closely for many years, and have engaged with them multiple times. It was just very clear from the early days of conversations with them and meeting their leadership that we shared a common vision — and that they believe strongly in the mission of enabling entrepreneurs while making commerce better for everyone. That idea of democracy and leveling the playing field really resonated with me as someone who’s always had an entrepreneurial spirit.

Loren Padelford: As far as why [Shopify] wanted Wex, it’s because we watch brands and their stories and we see when people are doing innovative things. Things that are counterintuitive and very creative. What Wex did at adidas is all of that. When we started to peel back the onion and be like, “Where did [adidas’s success] come from? How did adidas choose to go down this path?” All those roads lead to one place: Wex.

He was going after creatives, musicians, artists who were very different, and [let them] design athletic wear in a different fashion than normal people do. That’s the genius of what Wex did with adidas. You can’t teach or manufacture that. If you want that level of creativity, you just have to get the people who are naturally inclined to operate in that way. When you talk to the artists and creators that worked with Jon, it just reinforced how influential his thought process and decision making was.

Is bringing that entrepreneurial spirit to a different platform what excites you most about your new role?

Wexler: It’s mostly that I’ll have the chance to help creators, makers, etc., build these long-term businesses. As a person who envisions their role as a connector, someone who helps people achieve their goals, take the ideas in their head and bring them to reality, going into the Shopify ecosystem where we have the ecosystem, the distribution — I don’t want to reveal too much just yet [laughs].

“We love the story of someone who took nothing and made something.”

What is the most important thing for a creator to do when building their brand?

Padelford: Stories. Stories rule. Humans only exist because they told stories for a million years. We love underdog stories, we love hero stories. We love the story of someone who took nothing and made something, of someone who created something new and took it to the world — someone who delivered unique value in a space that didn’t exist before they came along.

Because of that love for stories, I think that when you’re discussing brand building of any format — whether it’s a company starting out, a maker creating something, an influencer building a community — the best [people] are the best storytellers. They have the most compelling personal stories, but also the most compelling stories for what they’re trying to do, change or influence. When I talk to entrepreneurs around the world, all scales and sizes, I tell ‘em “be true to your story.” If you want to build a brand, become a storyteller.

Wexler: I don’t know how you follow that up, it’s perfect. That’s always what it was to me as well, as a consumer and someone on the other side of the table. That meta narrative that goes into the product itself, that’s what people are responding to.

“Creativity comes from all different walks of life, and every scale and scope.”

What kind of creative partners is Shopify looking to bring into the fold? “Makers” is a term I’m hearing a lot.

Wexler: Creativity comes from all different walks of life, and every scale and scope. You have these up and coming people who are trying to connect with their audience in a meaningful way. Like Loren just referenced when we were discussing storytelling, that becomes so critical. For the artist of larger stature, they’re trying to have those meaningful conversations as well. For us though, the focus is about bringing in the new up and coming people who [haven’t made it to the top]. However, makers both large and small are already on Shopify — so it’s also about forging deeper relationships with the ones who are there.

Padelford: We’re looking for storytellers, the up-and-comers that nobody has really discovered yet. They’re just getting started, and don’t have the support, the infrastructure of the mega influencers. We want to empower them, to give them support on a global scale. Once again, that doesn’t mean we’re not interested in or won’t do really exciting things with big brands and big creators. The world is full of interesting stories, and we just want to help tell them.

As brands scale, retaining their “authenticity” is very important. What would you do to assuage the fears of a brand or individual who’s worried about “selling out” with corporate partnerships?

Wexler: As long as people are leaning into their passion in an authentic way, there’s ways to scale their businesses into a wider hemisphere while still maintaining their authenticity and original approach to designing, creating, distributing and interacting with consumers. Scaling authenticity, while it is a finer needle to thread, is an optimal thing to do at a place like Shopify, where you have multiple ways to engage with your audience, and learn more about their audience as they grow. I think [Shopify] is a really incredible environment to do exactly what you’re asking about.

Padelford: Some of the best and biggest brands ever are fundamentally focused on a core set of authentic values and they held [the values] through thick and thin. What Jon and I are trying to do isn’t make creators into something they’re not — it’s amplifying something they are. Most small creators just don’t have the team, the infrastructure, the support. They didn’t start doing what they’re doing because they’re great businesspeople, they started because they were great makers. We want to take the massive asset that is Shopify, with all of its capabilities and global reach, and give that to creators to amplify their voice so they can be what they are on a much larger scale. We live in a world where access is much easier to gain, so we want to help a very unique set of entrepreneurs, creators and influencers amplify their community engagement in a way they might not be able to do on their own.

Is this amplification the key to striking an authentic balance between commerce and culture?

Wexler: Absolutely. There’s a variety of factors to authenticity that you have to always retain, and these factors get weighted differently along the journey of building a brand. Parts of the brand will always need tweaking and fine tuning as the market and media landscape changes — requiring creators and makers to find new ways to attach to their audience and sharing a compelling enough story.

However, the creators are the birthplace of these changes and evolutions, so we’re going to tap in with them in a way that’s enabling and empowering to them and help them bring their vision to life, regardless of product or brand classification. This level playing field we’re creating is, to me, empowering and amazing.

Padelford: Traditionally, an influencer of any size and scale who wanted to “monetize” — and I think that’s just a business term for “engage your community” — had a super limited set of choices. They could get sponsored by someone else’s product or service. You’d get paid to be someone else’s representative. It was always “someone else’s.” Now, they can be their own representative and engage new communities from an authentic perspective instead of choosing the “best brand” they could. What we’re doing is not a knock on sponsorships for creatives, it’s just a different option, one that they can do without a ton of money or resources.

“The day after Kanye and I did YEEZY Season 3 in New York, we were in a LA studio the very next day, working on his next album. He does not pause for a moment.”

Jon, what’s the most valuable lesson you learned from working with Kanye West?

Wexler: Never take a second for… how do you say this? There’s a scientific theory where, when scientists are conducting experiments and their test subject gets to the end of a maze it’s been proven that the subject pauses to relax and take a moment of celebration. The day after Kanye and I did YEEZY Season 3 in New York, we were in a LA studio the very next day, working on his next album. He does not pause for a moment. He’s relentless and determined in how he works. I think the thing I learned from him is sheer determination and work ethic, and how to apply your creative vision to the world in a powerful and meaningful way.

That would be my main takeaway, that and being consistent. Kanye is very consistent with his design, his music his sneakers, even the energy on all those things.

Is there anything else that we should know?

Wexler: My phone has been on fire since last week [when Wexler left adidas] with messages and calls from people who are curious about what’s going on and wanting to engage with what I’m doing. I’m just really looking forward to this new opportunity, man. I cannot wait to get started. I can’t go into it just yet, but the relationships that I formed with the people at Shopify, I’ve maintained through the years, and they’ve always had my interest. Once again, this is a great moment, man. I can’t wait to get started.

Read Full Article

Join Our Discussions on Discord

The HYPEBEAST Discord Server is a community where conversations on cultural topics can be taken further.

100 Users Online

What to Read Next

Alicia Keys Debut New Single "Love Looks Better"

Alicia Keys Debut New Single "Love Looks Better"

Appearing on her forthcoming album, ‘ALICIA.’

Ten C and sacai Juxtapose Sportswear and Military Wear for FW20 Collection

Ten C and sacai Juxtapose Sportswear and Military Wear for FW20 Collection

Offering three distinct silhouettes.

Nia DaCosta and Jordan Peele's 'Candyman' Delayed to 2021

Nia DaCosta and Jordan Peele's 'Candyman' Delayed to 2021

The “spiritual sequel” to the 1992 film was originally scheduled to premiere in October 2020.

2 Chainz and Lil Wayne Deliver "Money Maker" Visual

2 Chainz and Lil Wayne Deliver "Money Maker" Visual

Spotlighting HBCU marching bands and dance teams.

Joe Exotic Series Starring Nicolas Cage Heads to Amazon

Joe Exotic Series Starring Nicolas Cage Heads to Amazon

Focusing on how Joe Shreibvogel turned into the eccentric zookeeper.

Vinyl Records Outsell CDs for First Time in Almost 35 Years

Vinyl Records Outsell CDs for First Time in Almost 35 Years

Surpassing CD sales by more than $100 million USD.

More ▾
Subscribe to our Newsletter

Gain access to exclusive interviews with industry creatives, think pieces, trend forecasts, guides and more.

By subscribing, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Help us serve you better

We appreciate your support in allowing HYPEBEAST ads, where we can share contents from the latest fashion, to those culturally relevant. In adding HYPEBEAST to your ad blocker's whitelist, ads on our sites will show while you continue to browse.

Help Support Us

We need ads to keep the lights on and to continue providing free news to our readers. We’d appreciate your support by whitelisting HYPEBEAST on your ad blocker. That way you can keep reading all the great stories for free.

If you have already whitelisted us, simply refresh this page. To find out how to whitelist us, click the button below.


Add Us to Whitelist

We appreciate your support in allowing HYPEBEAST ads. Most ad blockers have similar whitelisting steps and settings. If you need assistance, please contact us.

Adblock Plus

  1. Click on the red ABP icon in the upper right corner of your browser.
  2. Click “Enabled on this site” to disable ad blocking for the current site. In Firefox click “disable on HYPEBEAST”.
  3. Refresh the HYPEBEAST page that you were viewing.


  1. Click the AdBlock hand icon.
  2. Click “Don’t run on pages on this domain”.
  3. A new “Don’t run AdBlock on…” dialog may be displayed in the middle of the screen.
  4. Move the “Site” slider to the right. After that, click “Exclude”.
  5. Refresh the HYPEBEAST page that you were viewing.


  1. Click the uBlock icon.
  2. Click the large blue “power” button in the menu that appears to whitelist the current website.
  3. Reload the HYPEBEAST page that you were viewing.

Firefox Browser

Firefox Tracking Protection may activate our whitelist notice, which can be disabled temporarily for a browsing session by clicking the shield icon in the URL bar and following the instructions.


  1. Click the Disconnect icon.
  2. Click “Whitelist site”.
  3. Refresh the HYPEBEAST page that you were viewing.