Adidas Goes For The Top But Is It The Apex Of Design?

Adidas X Topshop 2015Adidas is no stranger to collaborations. What they can’t do better, they pass to others. What needs re-imagining, they tap the minds of those outside the company. This can be seen as far back as 2001 in one of their earliest collaborations: the pairing with Japanese masuta of the avant-garde Yohji Yamamoto. Mr Yamamoto designed only a few styles of sports shoes then, but they sure did generate enough interest for Adidas to eventually advance the Y3 line. As Mr Yamamoto told Interview in 2011, “we created something that did not exist before and completely projected into the future”.

Fast forward to the future or, specifically, the present. When it comes to collaborations, Adidas is one of the most prolific among sportswear brands. In just the first half of this year, they have launched enough successful design/brand pairings to make those by H&M seem lame. They’ve worked with popular singers, in-the-news designers, and hip retailers, yet there’s more to come. According to an Adidas Group press release, the Three Stripes enjoyed a 17% swell in profits of €4.1 billion (SGD6.1 bil) in the first quarter, no doubt a direct result from pairing with Kanye West and other high-profile stars. Whether it’s the hyped-to-death launch of Yeezy Boost with the indomitable Mr West, the retro-ghetto-fabulous bombast of Run DMC,  the chromatic excess of the Superstar re-coloured by Pharrell Williams, or the comic-cute, street-art-bent jumble of Rita “I’m-a-designer-now” Ora, co-creating has strengthen the Adidas branding rather than dilute it, no matter if some day consumers may forget the label’s association with sports.

So, who would Adidas not collaborate with? At the moment, no one, it would seem. Collab fatigue is not on their mind as Adidas takes Topshop by the hand in the latest twosome-to-create. This is not the first time Adidas, specifically adidas Originals (spelled with a lower ‘a’ and a capital ‘o’, presumably to underscore originality), has worked with Britain’s most recognisable fast fashion store. Last year, they came up with a 20-piece collection to cash in on the sports-meets-fashion craze. While that debut appeared appealing (its street-strong aesthetic not lost on Alexander Wang followers), the current 7-piece capsule collection is a bit of a puzzler: does Adidas need Topshop to create something so regular, prosaic even?

Adidas X Topshop 2015 + 2014Topshop X adidas Originals 2015 (left) vs 2014 (right). Photos: adidas Originals

There’s the “reworked” Superstar jacket, a pair of brief running shorts, a T-shirt, a Trefoil-emblazoned sweatshirt, and two pairs of re-imagined Superstar sneakers. All no doubt smart-looking items, but this time, the street style aesthetic is not immediately obvious. In fact, it seems Topshop has wholeheartedly embraced the sports heritage of Adidas rather than push for a high-street sensibility. Not necessarily a bad idea, but couldn’t Adidas produce these garments and shoes themselves? What has Topshop brought to the table, or, rather, the clothes?

The payoff for either side is not immediately discernible, but we can take a guess at what’s likely: Adidas gets to tap into Topshop’s distribution channel and reach a wider audience, particularly the younger set that has ditched the likes of Abercrombie & Fitch, yet not quite a big fan of full-on sports labels. For Topshop, they get a sportswear line (unlike H&M, they do not have dedicated performance wear) and the association with a brand that’s very much in the news, thanks to loquacious singers with CVs that go beyond music-making. This coming together of forces leveraged both brands. However, when they should have created unique products, this season, Adidas and Topshop output merchandise that’s not exceptionally compelling or innovative. Not one of the seven pieces is anything that Adidas couldn’t do themselves—no celebrity cachet, no designer value.

It is understandable that this collaboration isn’t for fans of the Yeezy or clueless teenage girls with I will Never Let You Down on their Spotify playlist or regular, ardent shoppers at London Skateboard. This is really for fast fashion consumers who, seized by a moment, may just be interested in a T-shirt with an outsized Adidas logo. As a tree might tell you, spread your branches and you really get more sunshine.

Topshop X adidas Originals is available at TopShop, Ion Orchard and Jem