This Is No Green Effort

Craig Green’s first collaboration with Adidas is sure-footed work and possibly one of the Three Stripes’ best ever

 

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By Ray Zhang

Frankly, I would have preferred that Craig Green paired with Nike. There are more interesting silhouettes in Nike’s archive to exploit. The Japanese designers have been especially successful in morphing Nike’s classic kicks into deliciously new shapes. Undercover’s Jun Takahashi, for one. But London’s leading designer chose to work with Adidas. I wonder if Mr Green is himself a Three Stripes or Swoosh wearer.

Perhaps that does not matter. Mr Green’s first output with Adidas is out today. And sneakerheads are understandably excited. One told me that this is a “must-have of 2020”! Fresh from a stunning debut at Paris Fashion Week, Mr Green is establishing himself even more among hypebeasts with, not one but two, sneaker releases (the next collab was already shown earlier in the month in Paris). By the time you read this, they’re probably sold out.

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The collaboration with Adidas Originals (again, staff in the store told me this is a “boutique release”, hence not available at even the flagship store) yields two styles: the CG Kontuur I (top) and CG Kontuur II (above), based on the retro-clean Kamada and flat-bread-looking Ozweego, respectively. I personally do not gravitate to either. If I had to choose, I think I’d go for the CG Kontuur II since I am partial to Raf Simons’s re-interpretations of the Ozweego. But interestingy, it’s the CG Kontuur I that speaks to me. Mr Green’s version sports his love for padded details, and the midnight-blue (they call it navy) upper and black mid-sole combo is especially fetching. That it is an extremely comfortable shoe—although a little too formless—adds to its cyber-geek appeal. Only thing is, I’m quite over chunky sneaks.

“Footwear is like a sculpture,” Mr Green offers through a media release. “There’s so much you can do with sneakers that you can’t do with clothing.” But he is already doing a lot with clothes, I think, sculptural ones too. Sneakers are just part of an expanding universe of merchandise. And I believe I’ve seen the future: with the next Adidas collab, Craig Green’s done a lot of the “so much”, and it is even more enticing. Stay tuned.

Craig Green X Adidas Originals, CG Kontuur 1 and CG Kontuur 2, SGD380, is available at DSMS from today. Photos: Zhao Xiangji

Just As Good Without The Collaboration

Are sneakers sans designer association less desirable or not as worthy? We think not

 

Nike Daybreak SP opNike Daybreak SP in the newest colour combo following the success of the collaboration with Undercover

Sneakers linked to designer names are getting not only discouragingly expensive but also annoyingly difficult to score. Apart from creating a buying frenzy and enormous publicity for the respective brands, collaborative outputs are known for their scarcity. That is, of course, the intention from the beginning of the coming together of two major brands, but what’s good for them is often a bummer for the rest of us—many, it should be noted, defiantly adverse to the ridiculous resale market. No one can explain satisfactorily why a company such as Nike, this year ranked 14th on the ‘World’s Most Valuable Brand’ by Forbes (just two spots below LVMH), can’t produce enough shoes to meet demand.

Most designers who collaborate with sneaker brands work on existing or old or out-of-commission models. At some point, brands will release said model either simultaneously or after the release of the former, in the wake of the reiteration’s success. Nike’s much anticipated React Element 87 from last year, conversely, was a new silhouette and was first launched with Undercover. The shoes, seen all over the Web in their colourful glory, piqued so much interest that they were never, till this day, available in quantities that can satisfy even a quarter of the demand. When the non-collab version finally came out shortly after, they too were so often sold out that people started to wonder if the React Element 87 were really phantom footwear. But at least those could still be seen, even if infrequently, and you stood a chance to cop a pair.

Nike React Element 87 in the slightly off-beat colours of the latest drop

So many of us are now wondering why we allow ourselves to go weak in the presence of the increasingly mindless hype of collaborative kicks. Enough doubt, in fact, that we are beginning to consider the OG (original release) version rather than be disappointed by the failure to cop the designer-linked. Nike, for one, seems to know that (or plotted such an outcome). Following the success of their second pairing with Undercover, a compelling born-again Daybreak, the Swoosh released the OG version quickly enough in no less appealing colours, such as the latest Ocean Fog/Mountain Blue/Metallic Gold (top). Sure, these are not like what Undercover cleverly and unexpectedly did, but they are no less handsome or covetable.

Merely bringing back a style from the past may not be enough to ensure new interest or relieve consumers from retro-kicks fatigue. Look at Nike’s own Cortez: even the expensive Bella Hadid—in an uninspiring campaign—could not save the shoe from lacklustre retail performance. A “premium product” at the start of the Nike brand, the Cortez now looks merely retro, without the edge that other brought-back-from-about-the-same-time sneakers radiate. Perhaps, what the Cortez needed was a pre-comeback designer touch. Post-collab, the Daybreak seems even more desire-rousing than the React Element 87, proving that it can survive the consumer tastes of 2019. The Undercover spin paved the way for new interest in a shoe that, by itself, may not have returned from forgotten glory, especially in the wake of more bombastic offerings such as the over-the-top Sacai-led LDV Waffle Daybreak.

This month, Adidas Originals released Ozweego with a dedicated window at AW Lab

In fact, OGs following successful collaborations so increase the visibility of the shoes themselves that sneaker brands are now dedicating some brought-back-from-obscurity OGs for major launches. Adidas Originals has had some triumphs with their designer partnerships even if they are not as headline-winning as Nike’s. One of them is their attention-grabbing and wildly successful work with Raf Simons in 2013, in the form of the Ozweego (version 1), a shoe already known for its “aggressive” form (meaning the Balenciaga Triple S of its time), yet Mr Simons was able re-imagine it to stunning and, surprisingly, unrecognisable effects. The results, as expected, are forbiddingly expensive—mostly above S$500 a pair.

With keen interest generated by the more avant-garde forms of the co-branded version and a large base unable to own them because of their discouragingly high price, Adidas rolled out the Ozweego, an update on the 3rd version of the style released in 1998, these past months, in the hope of recapturing the success it had with Mr Simons. Priced mostly at S$160, it is easy and tempting to bite, even if the shoes are a far cry from the designer versions. That these born-in-the-Nineties kicks now come looking geekier than before (and in Insta-worthy colours unfortunately not yet available here) won’t hurt its chances at being wildly popular.

Adidas Ozweego Aug 2019In its latest form, the Adidas Originals Ozweego looks quite unlike the the version conceived in collaboration with Raf Simons that sparked massive interest

Adidas Originals has, of course, a track record with strong designer collaborations and then following them up with even more partnerships while simultaneously releasing original releases and updated versions with the same fire as those (still) playing Pokémon Go to keep Pikachu and company very much alive. What comes immediately to mind is the Stan Smith—probably the biggest reboot success of the decade, so lucrative and gainful to the German shoe maker and so delightful to fans that Adidas is still producing and updating the Stan Smith up till today, allowing the former tennis kicks (and the cousin Superstar) to outsell every Nike sneaker released in 2017, according to media reports.

The Three Stripes showed rather convincingly that classics can become cool and cool can become classic (again). One of the later collaborations that amplified the Stan Smith’s fashion cred is with Raf Simons (check out their odd ‘Peachtree’ Stan Smith). New versions still appear and collectors, it is known, are not satiated yet. The Stan Smith’s undeniable popularity poses problems too, chiefly imitation, not just among Taobao brands, but with luxury names too. Even Gucci can’t resist—their unapologetic take, the Ace, is the conventional, retro-strong sneaker that those not quite into the chunky Rhyton buy with complete and entertaining abandon.

Nike Air Skylon II Armo opNike Air Skylon II is this year’s geek kicks made good, thanks to Fear of God

Not all designer collaborations trump the OG reissues. Some, in fact, look better than the result of partnered tinkering. Nike’s working together with Fear of God in the Air Skylon II resulted in a shoe that did not quite shake the ground on which the kicks would walk on. Sure, there’s the toggle lacing that replaces the conventional laces, but this isn’t quite the heel clip of the Nike X Underground Daybreak. There is, of course, the “luxury” upper, but the ‘Black’ and ‘White’ of the first issues last year, are hardly the colours of post-IG era or the enough-of-basics buying sentiment of today. Drake seen in a pair with his usual I-am-not-wearing-anything-special nonchalance may have brought attention to the collaboration, but not quite enough to subsequently send the kicks must-have soaring.

Yet, it is the designer-free Air Skylon II (debuted in 1992) that we at SOTD find especially appealing. Visually, this is not anywhere near the colourful Air Max 270 React, a shoe that may one day be as remembered as the Roshe Daybreak (who can now recall the Roshe One?!). Still, the Air Skylon II is a charming show of retro silhouette and creative colour story, both coming together to striking and irresistible effects. If only more brands, not only Nike, can whip up such a commercial yet compelling mix. And charge prices that do not match the versions with designer cachet.

Nike Daybreak SP, SGD159, is available at nike.com; Adidas Originals Ozweego, SGD160, is available at AW Lab; Nike Skylon II, SGD159, is available at The Foot Locker. Photos: Chin Boh Kay

Not All-Leather!

Hender Scheme teams up with Adidas, like you’ve never seen them before

 

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By Shu Xie

I am so used to seeing Hender Scheme’s vechetta-tan, full-leather uppers with their take on Adidas’s classic styles that when this newest style appeared, I felt I was looking at something with missing garb. Undressed anything these days hardly surpises, of course, but that this collab is visually more Adidas than Hender Scheme is perhaps a little unexpected.

That’s not to say that the signature tan leather isn’t applied, only a little stingy in its use. On the ZX 4000 4D, they come in bits: above the mid-sole for the foxing and the trim beforw the toe box, for the eye stay and tongue label. Which is to say, more the cubes on the chriashi don than actual sashimi, but, still, no less appetising!

The choice of Adidas ZX 4000 4D is a weird one, if you ask me. Hender Scheme has always worked on more recognisable and classic Adidas styles, such as the unadulterated ZX, rather than what’s technology-driven. After all, fans pay a not inconsiderate amount for their hand-made shoes.

Admittedly, the ZX 4000 4D is not my fave sneak; the mid-sole—the Furturecraft—is a peeve because it’s a major dust and dirt trap. In addition, Hender Scheme’s simple artisanal leather patches, with their red zig-zag stitch, is a little at odds with the latticed “4D” mid-sole.

But, I know people who love it (shoe and sole!), even when they frown at the price. Well, better this than the seriously over-rated, over-hyped Yeezy, dare I say.

Adidas Originals X Hender Scheme ZX 4000 4D, SGD550, is available today at Club 21 Four Seasons. Photos: Adidas/Hender Scheme

Two-Tone Hender Scheme

The Japanese brand teams up with Adidas Originals once again 

 

Adidas Originals X Hender Scheme

By Shu Xie

The Japanese label Hender Scheme is so synonymous with single-tone vachetta-tan leather uppers of their take on classic sneakers that when this appeared, it took me by surprise. Their latest collaboration with Adidas Originals is a Boost-sole-bolstered iteration of the ZX, a running shoe that was first released in 1984, and is enjoying a bit of revival when Adidas announced early this month that they will offer a circa-1989 version, the ZX 4000, come December.

As with everything Hender Scheme does, premium is the mantra. But this time, in this version, the upper composes of both the said tan leather and a black mesh fabric that is, in fact, rather typical of the ZX. The bi-coloured effect is striking in its simplicity, even retro-vibe, especially when what is now considered cool is colour-blocked to death. Perhaps this is what Hender Scheme’s Ryo Kashiwazaki meant when he said that he “wanted to give more of a true sports feeling” to the shoe. In fact, this version, prefixed HS, is the most track-and-field-like of the Hender Scheme output with Adidas Originals, as far as I can remember. The effect also affects the price: since it is not a full-leather shoe, it is actually more affordable than the typical Hender Scheme kicks.

It will be interesting to see how, after long use, the aged leather—which will turn darker—pairs with the black. I think the contrast as you now see will be diminished. What I find especially appealing are the white, zig-zag, top stitches on the serrated-edge three stripes. There’s a dressmaking aspect to this, a detail that only matters to those for whom such small touches bring mysterious joy.

I have been always been intrigued by Hender Scheme and Adidas’s collaboration. It’s like Adidas doing couture. Okay, I exaggerate, but you know what I mean. The artisanal hand of Mr Kashiwazaki is unmistakable, and Adidas sneakers that shouldn’t be this beautiful are given a near-bespoke treatment that draws the eyes. Simply put, I like.

The Adidas Originals X Hender Scheme HS ZX500 RM (pictured, but also in white and tan), SGD340, is available at Club 21. Photo: Adidas Originals

All That Is Needed Is A Face

In celebrity/KOL-sports brand pair-ups, taste and talent are unimportant

 

Kylie Jenner for AdidasKylie Jenner giving Adidas a Calabasas spin. Photo: Adidas Originals

By Mao Shan Wang

Kylie Jenner may not be as major as sister Kendall in the modelling business, but she is big in her own right and bigger still as a cosmetic seller, more so after being named by Forbes as the youngest near-billionaire (USD999 million is how much she’s worth, as reported) on its yearly ranking of America’s wealthiest “self-made” (controversial in the case of Kylie Jenner) women. I don’t know about you, but that sounds very much like success, which makes her decamping Puma for Adidas, where her sister is already the latter’s face, quite a puzzler.

“So excited to announce that I am officially an Adidas ambassador,” she boasted via Instagram stories recently. Nothing more was said. Two sisters for one brand is quite a lot. I don’t think Kylie Jenner is doing it for money—she’ll make more through her wholly-owned company Kylie Cosmetics. I don’t think it is about fame—the still-successful reality TV show with her family ensures that, as well as her IG following which numbers 114 million to date (versus Kendall Jenner’s paltry 94.7 million). I don’t think it’s about power—since the Forbes cover story broke, she isn’t lacking in that either.

What could it be then?

Adidas FalconThe Kylie Jenner-endorsed dad-ish Adidas Falcon soon to be released. Photo: Adidas Originals

Fore sure, I do not know. So, I am guessing here: It’s a cultural thing, a Calabasas thing, even a cheap thing! Cultural because the people of her ilk and tribe are all trying to be designers or faces of brands, whether they have this other thing called talent or not. Some are, of course, more successful than others, but that’s not important. Rather, it’s vital that you get your foot across the threshold and the Jenner sure have. Their half-brother-in-law only succeeded after many (news-making) attempts. It’s a Calabasas thing because in this lian town of southern California, people dress in a certain conspicuous way and they think the rest of the world wants to dress like them too, so much so that the name of the town appears on Yeezy apparel and attendant knock-offs. It’s a cheap thing because it costs the Jenners virtually nothing to get into the fashion business as almost everyone is clamouring to collaborate with them, which validates the power of association than the strength of talent.

Adidas, of course, loves working with non-talents. While they have teamed up with fashion mavericks such as Kolor’s Junichi Abe and corporate darlings such as Raf Simons, they have also paired with style-dubious Rita Ora with quite frankly dreadful results. In the case of choosing Kylie Jenner as the face (and body) of the brand, it is possible that Adidas is fulfilling Kanye West’s wish. Remember his now-deleted rant: “There will never be a Kylie Puma anything. 1000% Kylie is on Yeezy team!!!”? It isn’t hard to see that what Adidas mainly wants is her social media reach and her propensity to live her life publicly. They are happy to feature Kylie Jenner as she is, and she is happy to be as she is, complete with over-drawn brows and over-painted lips. Predictable? Yes, I know.

These Stand Taller

The Adidas classic Samba, first introduced in the ’50s, now comes atop rather ’60s platform soles for girls who need a little help with height

 

Adidas Samba Rose

By Shu Xie

I almost could not recognise this shoe until I saw the familiar gold emboss. Could this really be the Samba, a shoe my brothers used to love and I not, but for nostalgic reasons now found myself liking it? This was a football kick for off-the-field, but now it looks like the Samba was, gasp, forced into marriage with creepers!

That the Samba is re-introduced now—during the World Cup season—is understandable, but the new version for women, called Samba Rose, comes with a football-unfriendly mid-sole the height of a stack of toasts. If you want to remember the shoe as it was, you’d have to look at it from the top. From the sides, and I risk repeating myself, the upper seems to be going through the princess and the pea test.

Strangely, the Samba of 2018 has a for-men companion that looks like the shoe, as recognisable as another Adidas classic, the Stan Smith. Why the Samba Rose needs the extra height is anyone’s guess. Mine goes something like this: in the world of declining heel sales, women are eager to adopt sneakers as their shoe of choice, but are not quite yet willing to give up walking with some elevation, especially in a dress.

Adidas to the rescue. Will it be Stan Smith Rose next?

Adidas Samba Rose, SGD170, is available at Adidas Originals stores island wide. Photo: Adidas

Before They Could Cop These Off-Whites, They’ve Soiled Them

Grown men fighting over sneakers simply makes the exposure all the more over-hyped… and a little dirty

Pharrell Williams X Adidas Hu Holi Blank Canvas sneakers

By Shu Xie

I really don’t get it: Fighting over shoes! I can understand men squabbling among themselves over a woman (even if that’s juvenile), but over sneakers that will past their prime by tomorrow, that is inexplicable. And in full public view, that is tacky, tasteless, and low.

As reported all over online media—local and international, a fight broke out three days ago in the queue at Pacific Plaza for the latest release of Pharrell Williams’s collaboration with Adidas: the Hu Holi Blank Canvas collection. Not only had a video of the scuffle subsequently gone viral, it allowed Malaysia’s New Straits Times to gleefully headline their report, “Near-riot breaks out in orderly Singapore over limited-edition Adidas.”

Ok, it was nowhere near a riot, but anything disorderly in “orderly Singapore” is usually seen as riotous. There was finger-pointing fuming and security staff warding off possible threats with their forearm, but was it close to an insurrection? Unfortunately, Adidas didn’t get the extra marketing advantage.

What’s puzzling is that, according to someone I know who was there, the people in the queue were not “fashion types”. Fashion folks don’t fight, do they? Rather, the guys (mostly) in line looked like those who might hawk knock-offs in a wet market—“between the taugeh/taukwa seller and the butcher”, so helpfully described. Which sounds to me like these were guys who would put their purchases on Ebay or Carousell to gainfully tempt the moneyed and the desperate.

Unfortunate also for the Hu Holi Blank Canvas collection—the blank canvas is now stained with the un-“holi” taint of violence. So are these shoes more desirable now that guys are fighting to cop them? Even if they are, you have no chance of getting your gentle hands on them. They’re sold out. Every one of them.

Photo: Adidas

Adidas Originals Goes Nude

Is adidas Originals’s latest collaboration a little belated?

 

It’s one tone close to the shade of our skin—unless you’re especially swarthy—and in that unmistakable vegetable-tanned leather: it’s Hender Scheme. Now, Japan’s premium sneaker maker has paired with adidas Originals to reprise three of the German sneaker maker’s most iconic shoes: MicroPacer, NMD R1 and Superstar.

Hender Scheme’s Ryo Kashiwazaki has divided sneakerheads with his creations even before this latest collab, when, in 2010, he created some of his favourite kicks strip-down the barest form, all constructed by hand. In particular, his take on Nike’s Air Force 1 high tops caught the fashion sneaker world’s attention. Some people call him a rip-off. Hender Scheme labels it Homage.

For the present salute to adidas Originals’s instantly recognizable styles, released worldwide on 1 September, Sneakerfreakermag calls it a “high-class overhaul”. We don’t see a real revamp with these shoes, but the high-end feel of the make is indisputable. But we’re not sure if these are any longer a class of their own when so many shoe brands have released—in homage, too?—their own take of footwear in unblemished, supposedly un-dyed leather.

MicropacerHender Scheme X Adidas Originals Micropacer

NMD R1Hender Scheme X Adidas Originals NMD R1

SuperstarHender Scheme X Adidas Originals Superstar

Truth be told, we have never tried the Hender Scheme, but we have taken into consideration online complaints (such as this one) that these shoes, spared of the tech used in their original versions, are not terribly comfortable to wear. It is, thus, not outrageous to compare them to raw denim jeans. You probably need some time (months?) to break into them. What struck us is the weight of the shoes. They’re by no means as light as the originals they are based on.

But to most, the deterrent could be in the pricing. These reiterations are sold at more than USD$900 a pop!

So do they, therefore, come with adidas Originals’s sole technology? Hender Scheme is known for complete handwork using very old-school methods of shoe-making. And Adidas won’t say if any of their technologies are incorporated into the collaboration. Looking at the collab’s NMD R1, it seems that it does not sit atop Adidas’s Boost sole.

Despite these shortcomings, shoe freaks are not going to miss the chance to cop one of these, even if only to re-sell them on e-Bay later.

Hender Scheme X Adidas Originals is available at Club 21. Photo: Adidas Originals

Keeping It Loose

adidas - XbyO Seven-Eighth Pants

By Ray Zhang

Skinny and skin-tight pants have so dominated the wardrobes of Singaporeans that it is a wonder anyone would be interested in Adidas’s latest iteration of the sweatpants availed under the new sub-line XYBO. Well, I am wondering.

Last year, at the launch of Uniqlo’s U line—helmed by Frenchman Christophe Lemaire—in their Orchard Central flagship, a couple was seen picking a pair of sweatpants. The guy tried on what he chose and when he emerged from the fitting room, looking pleased, his other half said audibly while shaking her head, “Nope, too baggy.” And the guy retreated, defeated.

Don’t ask me why sweatpants have to be fitted, but there are men and women who wear them limb-hugging as if the legs of the pants are one extended ribbed cuff! So you can imagine how surprised I was when I spotted this pair at the Adidas Originals store. I really like them, but as my friends are wont to say, when I like them, they won’t sell.

But let’s give the Adidas pants a chance.

adidas - XbyO Seven-Eighth Pants pic 2

First, XYBO. Not sure what it means. Or if it is even written in this manner: full caps. On the Adidas website, it’s spelled in both lowercase and uppercase sans spacing: xbyo (or XBYO), which prompted me to read it as X.B.Y.O. But on some online reports, the name is spelled XByO and XbyO, which could mean it’s collection X by an unknown entity O. Perhaps it is not an abbreviation (surely it does not stand for X, Bring Your Own!), just a random mix of letters—not dissimilar from Japanese naming convention. (For this post, I shall stick to XYBO.)

And the Japanese-ness of the line is unmistakable, especially the cuts. So it surprised me not to learn that XBYO, conceived for both men and women, built its design cred on the skill of Japanese pattern maker Satomi Nakamuri, an accomplished technician who has cut for Comme des Garçons and the denim label Johnbull. Pattern making is, of course, not the same as designing. While Adidas has been enthusiastic in touting Ms Nakamuri’s contribution to XYBO (an unusual marketing angle), its US website is careful to state that the brand “revisited the archives with expert pattern maker Satomi Nakamura to bring an artisan approach to Adidas heritage. Designed in Germany and crafted in Japanese-made Yamayo terry…”

And that’s another highlight feature: the terry cloth used is from Japan’s “premium terry cotton manufacturer” Yamayo Textile that, I suppose, could be considered the Kurabo Mills of fabrics for sweatshirts. So vital is this distinction to XBYO’s USP that the fabric mill’s name is identified in one of the garment’s hang tags. And truth be told, this fabric is extremely comfortable to the touch, and Adidas is not exaggerating when they describe it as “luxe”.

adidas - XbyO Seven-Eighth Pants pic 3

Well, so far, so clear. But in case you thought that this was some wayward Japanese fantasy for world athleisure domination, or Y3 part 2, Adidas would have you know that XBYO is essentially a “street style”. But I’m not sure if the collection is street by way of Harajuku or Copenhagen’s Strøget. The minimalism of the look is evocative of Danish designs, yet there’s something rather Japanese in the styling, especially the cropped length of the sweatpants (which explains the name: ‘Seven-Eighth Pants’). They remind me of those Red label engineered jeans launched by Levis in the ’90s, reportedly conceived, if I remember correctly, with Japanese consultants.

Perhaps it’s in the side seams: they meander forward around the knee before going backwards, forming a veritable less-than (or more-than, depending on which side you’re looking at) symbol. More exaggerated than those engineered jeans, I say. Will it fall nicely when worn? I had to try them on to find out.

These have to be the easiest to wear sweatpants I have ever tried. Perhaps it’s because of the absence of cuffs. There is, of course, the roominess (and the surprisingly generous crotch): you won’t feel like you’ve slipped into a pair of ‘jeggings’. And the unconventional seam placement does not affect how the pants hang and move with the body. Now that joggers are jostling with jeans for prime position in our wardrobe, the XBYO Seven-Eighth Pants may be the one to take on the alpha role. I’m all for that.

Adidas Originals XBYO ‘Seven-Eighth Pants’, SGD129, is available at Adidas Originals stores. Photos: Adidas Originals

Is Adidas Desperate?

yeezy-season-4-g1Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 4 shown last week during New York Fashion Week. Photos: Yeezy

Everyone’s keeping up with Kanye (too), so let’s not talk about the Yeezy Season 4 show (or what some members of the media called “a hot mess”) that was staged last week. (In case you’re allergic to hoodies and really don’t know what happened, it was, by most accounts, a “disaster”.) Let’s discuss, instead, what Adidas is doing with Yeezy.

Back in June, Adidas made a public announcement of the formation of adidas + KANYE WEST, an “entity” that the German company sees as “the most significant partnership ever created between an athletic brand and a non-athlete”. That, marketing students, is an example of puffery. What we shall see, expectedly, is more of Yeezy sneakers, clothing, gear, and even eponymous stores. 

It was also widely reported that Adidas bankrolled the Yeezy Season 4 show after keeping away their cheque books for 3 and 4. Staged on New York’s Roosevelt Island and so poorly managed that it fanned the chagrin of those who attended, it isn’t clear how the show could benefit Adidas in the long term.

Sure, there’s publicity to be had from the media grumble, but is this the kind of foundation for adulation an established brand would lay with a potentially successful collaborator? Added to the incomprehension are the Yeezy clothes that have, hitherto, not escaped the bland and uncreative designs, first seen in Season 1. Has the man been so busy with blinding his followers with his publicity antics that they cannot see that he’s in a fashion rut?

yeezy-season-4-bootsThe Yeezy boots that caused more than one model to trip. Photo: Nowaygirl

Perhaps Mr West knows that he can’t push Yeezy any further. In an interview with Vogue.com just hours before the Roosevelt Island show, he said he prefers to substitute fashion for “let’s say ‘apparel,’ especially for the style of clothes I make.” A seductive euphemism if there ever was one. He then qualified his word choice by claiming, “I’m not saying that this is a fashion proposition, I’m saying that this is a human proposition.”

That sounds pretty close to Adidas’s game plan for the collaboration. As the brand’s chief marketing officer Eric Liedtke said to the media when the pairing with Kanye West was announced, “This is what Adidas has always been about, empowering creators to create the new.” Or giving celebrities, rather than sportsmen, what they have always been good at doing: ring up the noise.

It is often said that, unlike Nike, Adidas isn’t big in the sporting arena—at least not in the US of A, where success there often means global recognition. For Adidas there is also the niggling problem of Under Armour closing in. Adidas probably had to rethink endorsements after a series of failed partnerships with sport stars. These include the high-profile but still-not-rising NBA player Derrick Rose, who, in 2012, was awarded a “lifetime deal” rumoured to be worth around USD260 million over 14 years. Then he got injured and injured and injured, and Derrick Rose fronting Adidas became less and less and less visible.

yeezy-boost-750The first sneaker launched by Adidas and Kanye West in spring last year: the Yeezy Boost 750. Photo: Sneakernews

Big-name athlete association is integral to sporting goods brands. Nike had their money on the right guy when they signed with Michael Jordan, a Chicago Bulls star player. That pick was so spot-on that in no time, Air Jordans became a legit sub-brand under the Nike umbrella in 1985, and the launch of each style, till today, is still closely watched by sneakerheads and collectors alike. That the shoes were associated with Nike’s celebrated designer Tinker Hatfield didn’t hurt either. Adidas closest sport-celeb offering is the Stan Smith (named after the tennis player of the ’70s), a basically one-product category that’s been flogged to death.

So Adidas had to look outside of sport to raise its profile among consumers. Turning to celebrities—especially singers—isn’t a surprising move. The Three Stripes have always had the support of rappers as early as the ’80s, culminating in the RUN DMC single My Adidas of 1986. In the music video, not only were the trio decked in Adidas, they were even shown emerging from a RUN DMC/Adidas chopper! Street fashion, brought to music television by rappers, was on its way to being a multi-million business.

It was reported that the Adidas mention was completely self-initiated. Regardless, that song led to a USD1.6 million endorsement deal signed between Run DMC and Adidas. Hardly unexpected when you had rapped to the world, “my Adidas and me, close as can be/we make a mean team, my Adidas and me.” Their Adidas referred specifically to the Superstar, worn without laces. As if to relive those glory days, Adidas release a RUN DMC-co-branded line this year. Are we to expect a Missy Elliot collection? Maybe not, since we already have the Yeezy. Kanye West, the hip-hop star, will now change the fortunes of Adidas as RUN DMC did. Sport can wait.

run-dmc-adidas-teeRun DMC Adidas T-shirt, featuring the two names’ original logo. Photo: Adidas

The retreat of sport in the Adidas branding became more palpable with the push of adidas Originals (no idea why they prefer to spell it with a lower-case ‘A’), as part of a new division conceived in 2000 to advance the emerging popularity of “sport style”. It is under adidas Originals that Stan Smith was reborn and aggressively promoted. Yeezy too benefitted from the marketing might of Originals, but Kanye West isn’t the only rapper it has tapped. Others include Mr West’s G.O.O.D. Music label mates Big Sean (e.g., last year’s ZX Flux) and Pusha T (e.g., EQT Running Guidance ’93, also last year).

Do rappers have a particularly appealing taste that other singers in, say, rock or jazz do not? Or is it their visibility, as well as what can be heard from them that entices? One of the most audible (and still remembered) is Mr West’s very public outburst directed at his ex-collaborator Nike. It built up to the concert rant of 2013, when the rapper taunted Nike via the audience in a packed Bridgestone arena in Nashville, Tennessee: “Do you know who the head of Nike is? No, well let me tell you who he is: his name is Mark Parker, and he just lost culture. Everyone at Nike, everyone at Nike, Mark Parker just let go of culture.”

There must be something appealing about publicly berating the hand that once fed you, so much so that Adidas is willing to risk the same thing being done to them to go into partnership with a known hothead. It does look like it is true that publicity of any sort is better than no publicity. Let them talk about you, never mind if it’s a rant. Since its launch, Yeezy has spawned equal parts rant and rave. Or maybe it’s something else. Maybe Adidas is keeping Mr West so happy that they will not receive the same treatment if things should turn sour between them.

adidas-x-alexander-wang-ss-2017Revealed this week, Alexander Wang’s pairing with adidas Originals. Photo: JP Yim/Getty Images

adidas-x-alexander-wang-ss-2017-editorialadidas Originals by Alexander Wang editorial for Vogue. Photo Juergen Teller/Vogue

Why has Adidas become so bent on banking on celebrities to push their wares or elevate their brand? Because, these days, it is the thing to do, even if the best you can get is Rita Ora. Tommy Hilfiger, too, was once preferred and endorsed by rappers, but look at where the brand is today. They’re so threatened with irrelevance that they’ve (re)aligned themselves with celebrity—this time, the K-clan mirror image Gigi Hadid. And it isn’t enough that she is their face; she has to have a collection purportedly co-designed with her. Celebrities these days have more clout than designers. Designers have to be celebrities or use them to yield similar influence. Just ask Olivier Rousteing.

While Adidas continues its on-going collaborations with designers such as Stella McCartney, Yohji Yamamoto—Y3 is considered to have presaged the current love for athleisure—and Kolor’s Junichi Abe, they have not quite earned the cred and clout that Nike has with Junya Watanabe, Undercover’s Jun Takahashi (who, a runner himself, created the running-centric label Gyakusou), and recently Sacai’s Chitose Abe (a stunning collection conceived with Nike Lab). Nike has generally been rather judicious with their designer collaborations. Up next is Louis Vuitton’s men’s wear designer Kim Jones, whose last sport-brand collab was with the British label Umbro ten years ago. Nike has mostly paired itself with those considered the crème de la crème of the fashion business—champions of design, rather than seekers of fame.

Not to be outdone, Adidas has gone to team up with Alexander Wang, who showed an all-black capsule collection with the Trefoil logo given the dao treatment—turned upside down—during the recent New York Fashion Week (now considered season-confused since there were designers who showed autumn/winter 2016). Adidas latest choice is, of course, far from unexpected. Mr Wang had given the Stan Smith top billing when he designed a whole range of clothes inspired by Adidas’s most-known sneaker in 2014.

barrack-obama-in-adidas-2016An undated picture of Barack Obama wearing Adidas tracksuit circulated on Twitter this year. Photo: Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images

His latest is homage to the Adidas tracksuit, all black, as most fashionistas desire. But do they bring anything new to the table, or, if you like, jogging track? Yes, he has toyed with the logo, but so has Junya Watanabe for Lacoste. He has outlined the three stripes, but so has Y-3. Mr Wang’s take on the tracksuit picks up after Gosha Rubichinskiy’s resuscitation of those by Sergio Tacchini and Kappa (even the Juergen Teller-lensed communication material featuring Madonna’s son Rocco Ritchie shares Mr  Rubichinskiy’s eastern-bloc aesthetic). And the all-black get-up? Even Barack Obama has worn his version, Adidas no less.

The thing is, Alexander Wang, whose own design does not distance itself from the aesthetics of fast fashion (that’s why his collaboration with H&M was a better fit than that with Balenciaga), need not have to try that hard. Adidas isn’t known to excel in the marketing of design-centric lines such as the critically-acclaimed but doomed sub-brand SLVR (launched in 2009 and discontinued in 2014), last designed by Dirk Schönberger, Adidas’s creative director for its Sports Style division. With Mr Wang, Adidas can simply let the former’s online and offline cool do the work.

Adidas’s ardent embrace of Kanye West also attests to the prevalent sentiment that design doesn’t matter. Mr West may offer what, in New York parlance, is “dope shit”, but it’s the shit that seems to rile observers such as Project Runway’s Tim Gunn, who, in a taped interview with Access Hollywood Live two days ago, called the outfits “dumb basic clothes” and the designer behind them “a sphinx without a riddle”. Mr Gunn deserves more fans.

Adidas Originals Pairs With An Independent

Adidas Originals X Italia IndependentBy Raiment Young

When it comes to fashion eyewear domination, Italy’s Luxotica group has remained largely unchallenged, so I am repeatedly told. Yet, there are those labels that have been able to go on and do their own thing and still offer creative designs and sensible price. One of them is Italia Independent, the label created in 2007 by Lapo Elkann, dubbed as “the coolest Italian in the world”, who also happens to be Gianni Agnelli’s grandson, and, accordingly, the heir apparent to Fiat.

Perhaps, owner of the label is less important than the designs. Until its debut store in New York last year, not many know of Italia Independent. I had an upfront encounter with their much lauded eyewear eight months ago, during a visit to Florence. It is somewhat inexplicable, even up to now, that although I was in the leather capital of Italy, I was very much smitten not with shoes or bag, but with eyewear. And those of Italia Independent were so alluring that I was seeking them out at every eyewear shop I encountered, all the way to Rome.

Adidas Originals X Italia Independent sunglasses AOR003The sunglasses were especially fetching not for the reason that they were attention-grabbing, oversized, or radiating obvious Italian-retro-cool (such as Persol, another Luxottica brand), but because they imparted a certain sleekness that has nothing to do showiness, such as those of the brash love children of Raybans and some designer shades, you know the type that seems to attract look-at-me fashionistas.

One of the earliest labels to tap Italia Independent’s indie appeal is Adidas Originals. Launched first as footwear in 2014, the Adidas Originals X Italia Independent sneakers did not immediately make waves. I was not particularly impressed as they appeared a tad too designed to me. It would take what the brand is truly known for to bring attention to the collaboration. Last year, their eyewear debut was considered one of the most appealing and also testament to Italia Independent’s strength and ability to built fun on top of the technology behind the glasses.

Adidas Originals X Italia Independent sunglasses AOR010And one of them tech is what Italia Independent calls “thermic”. A special treatment is applied to the surface of some of the frames, and when these are exposed to temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius (yes, our daytime temperature), they change colour to expose a base texture, in this case, a repeated pattern based on Adidas’s trefoil logo. This technology is developed by Italia Independent and was awarded Innovation of the Year in 2014 by MIT Review Italy.

Not that I am charmed by this chameleon quality since colour mutability on eyewear, to me, borders on gimmicky, but I have no doubt many others would. What really is even more appealing is the construction of the glasses. They are undeniably sturdy and incredibly light, with a fit that’s really comfortable. Fitted with lenses that protect the eyes from UV rays, these are sporty shades that are destined to face the harshest mid-day light. And since Italia Independent eyewear is, as far as I know, not yet available here, these are the ideal intro to what you’ll otherwise miss.

Adidas Originals X Italia Independent sunglasses for men and women, from SGD185, are available at Nanyang Optical and select retailers. Photos: Italia Independent

Stan Smith: New Dirty Shoes

adidas Originals X Raf SImons SS 2016

Raf Simons and Celine’s Phoebe Philo OBE were the first two designers who elevated the profile of Adidas’s nearly-forgotten tennis sneakers, the Stan Smith, by wearing the white pair on the catwalk to take their customary bow at the end of their show. Mr Simons went one step further; he walked out onto the runway in soiled and rather beat-up Stan Smith that no mother will approve in her Lysol-ed home.

If people can be a hit in an Insta-second, so can shoes. In no time, fashionistas—interestingly, not sneakerheads—considered the sullied tennis classic positively cool and the only way to wear them. As if to ratify this thinking, Mr Simons belatedly released a version this season that is possibly a facsimile of his own shoes. These are definitely not tried-to-death display kicks.

By now, however, the Stan Smith, although still considered iconic, risks becoming the hackneyed choice of stylish footwear. Only a cursory glance is required to catch the many versions available, at all price points. So omnipresent is the plain tennis shoe outside a court that it is quickly nearing tear-your-hair dull. But, like clothes, they can be refreshed by not making them look fresh.

Dirtying perfectly clean shoes are rather similar, in terms of merchandising objective, to bleaching, staining, or paint-splattering otherwise perfectly good jeans, one of the very few garments of the fashion sphere that actually costs more when not looking perfectly new, or clean. Newness, as product development pros posit, surfaces from the appearance of old. Flog the horse and you can sell a more spirited steed. In fact, there’s such a desire and demand for tatty clothes and footwear that an entire industry has sprung up to make the new old, or at least, less new.

This really means, now you don’t have to go through extra lengths (or even step outside the front door) to get your pair of Stan Smith looking grubby, just as ragged jeans can be had without putting them through the paces in a coal mine. When improved digital products get tagged with a numeral mostly larger than the previous editions, should aesthetically worse-than-the-original shoes get named with a negative number? To be fair, Stan Smith Version -1.0 is really not the Raf Simons interpretation. The latter’s is far from tawdry. Like whiskered jeans, however, there is something oddly appealing about its scruffy appearance. When something looks used, you know it has had an earlier life, even if manufactured.

adidas Originals X Raf Simons ‘Aged’ Stan Smith, SGD499, is available at Ltd Edt Chamber, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands