As the worldwide trainer community wakes up to news of what the new Kanye x adidas “Yeezy 750 Boost” looks like, there’s elements of said industry that view these pop cultural collaborations (the adidas ones or by other brands) as total hype machines, designed with only two purposes in mind; media attention followed by enormous sales. The intent of adidas Originals x SPEZIAL, a line curated by adidas expert Gary Aspden and now in its second season, is of course not dissimilar to Kanye’s. Coverage and commercial success is not only the goal but a must to stay in the game. These two examples, though, take two very different routes to reach their end goals.
Whereas the Kanye trainer is based on fame and celebrity culture, the SPEZIAL range is rooted in adidas’s staff and their loyal customers’ love for the brand. It’s a collection that, as Gary says himself, looks back in time to create clothes for today. Using archetypical adidas staples, updated for 21st-century demands in new fabrics, the line pays homage not only to Adi Dassler himself but to a bygone era of European sportswear. The apparel and trainers evoke memories among the in-the-know customers as they remind them of, perhaps, clothes they wore when playing or watching football in the 60s, 70s or 80s. They have, as such, enormous nostalgic value but SPEZIAL works as the sartorial re-appropriation by Gary and his team makes it relevant for modern life. One can’t help to think that the Kanye trainer, meanwhile, is only designed with the Internet in mind.
What inspired the SPEZIAL Spring/Summer 2015 collection?
It’s about adidas using itself as a key reference point to create something modern. I have always seen adidas as a sophisticated sports brand and want the range to reflect that. It perhaps comes from my memories as a child of seeing the German football team in the 1970s wearing presentation suits and black boots with white stripes. I loved that uniformity and those suits had very clean lines – their clothing looked like a cross between sportswear and tailoring. None of the oversized sloppiness and garish colors that came to dominate the sportswear industry in the decades that followed. I take the lead from the strap line adidas used for its apparel products in the era of Adi Dassler where they would sign off the packaging with the phrase “sports and leisure wear.” On the apparel I have created contemporary leisurewear that is sports and luxury-inspired. Europe is where the brand started so that is always a big part of my inspiration – an idealization of the Europe I traveled around as a youth – there is a lot of mileage in that.
How is it a followup to Fall/Winter 2014? Is there any connection?
Yes. Some of the graphics that originally appeared on the patch hoodie in Fall/Winter 2014 make another appearance. I like the idea of adidas Originals x SPEZIAL having consistency in its approach and the products from different seasons should mix seamlessly. We have evolved it while sticking with its original philosophy of identifying what it is within iconic adidas designs outside of the branding that makes them feel and look like adidas. We then take those elements and marry them with modern fabrics to create new pieces. I’m very pleased to have resurrected the ST1 rain jacket in the highest quality Climastorm fabric as I believe it is a design classic but advances in fabric technology had consigned to the past until now.
How are you settling into the role as a designer?
I guess it depends how you define a designer. I have always described myself as a curator as I cannot fully take credit when I am revisiting iconic pieces like the Beckenbauer tracksuit or the Colorado hooded top – the geniuses that created those pieces are truly the designers. A number of fashion designers buy up vintage clothing and rework it as “designer” clothing – maybe I am splitting hairs but I personally see that more as curating than designing. That is a skill in itself and I’m not taking anything away from them but I am not sure I would call it designing. I feel that calling my role that of a curator is more transparent and honest.
Do you think one reason SPEZIAL was so well-received is because adidas are doing so many contemporary pop culture collabs (Pharrell, Kanye, etc.) that it needed an “old school” project looking back in time?
It was particularly well-received here in the UK and in northern Europe. In the UK there is a huge cultural connection with adidas that has little to do with the “cop or drop” sneaker culture that seems to be popular in some quarters. I have a lot of experience of third-party collaborations going back to the turn of this century and I believe they have become an industry standard now. Companies will continue do them as there is an audience out there that wants and expects that from them and I wouldn’t criticize that – it most definitely has its place. adidas Originals x SPEZIAL is not that – it is from us and by us.
I drive the ideas but there are a great team of people internally at adidas who support those ideas. It looks at the past for inspiration but most definitely doesn’t live in it – it glances at our history but tries not to stare if you know what I mean. This apparel collection uses modern fabric technologies like Climastorm, Climacool and organic ETA but marries that with iconic adidas design. I have spent years watching fashion designers use adidas’s vast archive as a reference so to have the opportunity to utilize that archive legitimately is a dream gig.
What are the key Spring/Summer 2015 pieces?
For me it’s the four-pocket Haslingden jacket in the organic ETA fabric, the piquet Beckenbauer leisure suit and the herringbone “Witton” cardigan.
Where did some of the characteristic details, like the “Jog-On” slogan and the “three top mountain” logo, come from?
The “Jog-On” graphic came from a 1980 graphic sweatshirt that said “Jogging” across the chest. I used the same font but married it with a modern phrase. It’s a bit tongue in cheek that one. The three peaks graphic started from a design the guy who I work with on my graphics (Gary Watson) created based on some references I sent him. We tweaked his design by adding the reflection of the three peaks under the horizontal lines and it ended up looking like a Modernist Trefoil. We felt that captured the ideology behind the range so we stayed with it.
For obvious reasons, SPEZIAL is very Euro-centric – what’s the biggest difference between European and American sportswear, according to you?
It’s only my personal opinion but I guess you have to look at the sports that are popular in those places and how that is adopted into the broader culture. Sport itself has always been at the root of this type of clothing. Football has always been a driving force for sport in Europe whereas basketball is probably its equivalent in the U.S. Sportswear is primarily produced to serve a purpose – it is built to perform a task. The requirements of those sports and the cultures that surround them are very different in Europe and the U.S. which is reflected the product design.
I have been wearing sportswear and casualwear for over 30 years and despite the protestations of some sections of the men’s fashion media I don’t plan on changing the way I dress anytime soon. I am a fan of some aspects of American culture but European sportswear has always suited me better – it is on the whole more understated in its delivery. I believe there is huge value in those European design values that extends beyond Europe itself hence why hip-hop kids adopted brands like adidas, PUMA, Kangol, Sergio Tacchini and Fila. I guess with the rise of the internet and everything being accessible to everyone, Europe now appears to be far more influenced by the U.S. than it ever was before and people’s interpretations of U.S. lifestyle and fashion here are far more literal nowadays. I’m contrary by nature so I wanted to create something with adidas Originals x SPEZIAL that in some way questions or even challenges that.