As the collection hits stores for the second drop this week, read the designer’s conversation with Nic Galway about the one-click youth culture that inspired it
Taken from the winter 2016 issue of Dazed:
If fashion was an American teen movie, then Alexander Wang (and his gang) would be the bad kids hanging around the fountain at the mall. The ones you were told to stay the hell away from – and who you’re desperate to be friends with because they know rappers and throw parties recreating Miami strip clubs.
Living up to his reputation as the king of good times, Wang even crashed his SS17 catwalk show to announce his collaboration with adidas Originals, a unisex apparel and footwear collection as black as a broken heart and cool as midnight.
Some of it was available immediately, a sign of our 100MB/s culture of desire. But you had to do more than click ‘add to basket’. Instead, Wang made us work for it. “Our office is actually right off Canal Street, so we thought, ‘How can we create more of an interesting storyline?’” he says. “We had the idea of merchandise sold from trucks where you’d have to call in and find the location.” Said truck made stops in Soho, Midtown and Williamsburg, before moving on to London, Tokyo and beyond – the wheres and whens of each layover revealed by a phone-call. The inspiration? Reseller youth culture, of course.
What you really need to know about the collection is that Wang is the first designer who’s been allowed to turn the legendary trefoil upside-down and attach Adidas's three stripes inside-out.
To mark the event, Juergen Teller has shot Rocco Ritchie in his first-ever campaign, alongside Alexander Wang favourites Hanne Gaby Odiele, Binx Walton and Lexi Boling. Delicious and seditious, the collection even features a print lifted from today’s most illustrious legal document: the non-disclosure agreement.
Here, Alexander Wang and adidas Originals’ creative director Nic Galway discuss a collection of respect and disruption.
What does adidas mean to you, Alex?
Alexander Wang: I’ve always been a huge fan of adidas – to me it’s always represented innovation, and it’s always been the one brand that’s had an equally rich heritage in both apparel and footwear. I grew up in a boarding school where we had to wear school uniform, and the only thing we were allowed to wear that was our own was our footwear, so whether it was the Sambas or the shell-toes, adidas was on regular rotation. I was never the most athletic person in PE class, but when I wore adidas it gave me so much street cred. It was always something I really looked up to and a brand I wanted to be a part of.
Nic, do you have any special memories of adidas from growing up?
Nic Galway: Absolutely. I grew up in the UK in the 70s and 80s and adidas was all around me, it was part of youth culture. I have very clear memories of university – seeing some of the dead stock that the students from Japan were wearing. At that time there was no Originals line so there was nowhere to find them. Seeking them out is why I ended up here.
“I grew up in a boarding school and the only thing we were allowed to wear that was our own was our footwear, so adidas was on regular rotation” – Alexander Wang
How is the perception of adidas different in the US from Europe?
Nic Galway: This is an interesting question. A couple of years ago people would have talked about the origins of youth culture, terracewear movements and things that are very European-based. But our goal now is to shake things up and be unexpected, mixing the latest innovations with the greatness of the past, and what we’ve found is that this is resonating around the world. The approach has really changed from being Europe versus the US to a generation looking for a brand to be their voice, which they can adopt into their culture. That’s the great thing about the project with Alex, it’s part of that new dynamic.
Alex, what was your particular inspiration for the collection?
Alexander Wang: With everyone I collaborate with, I look for someone who has something we can learn from and innovate with. You can’t really innovate without taking risks and, for a brand with such a rich history, it’s been amazing to see how open they are to ideas. A lot of people that we’ve worked with before, with smaller or larger brands, are more careful when they have a rich heritage. But adidas were so helpful and generous in this process. Sportswear is something that a lot of people are experimenting with right now, but the one thing they don’t have is the heritage and the lifestyle. That was something I felt growing up and even today, there’s an immediacy in seeing iconic adidas items like the soccer jerseys, the tear-away pants, the tracksuits. I really wanted to take that and start from the idea of the originals – but really subvert it.
Was it important for you to put ‘gender’ to the back of your mind and think about the spirit first?
Alexander Wang: For sure, the first thing I said was that I wanted this to be a unisex collection. Through the fitting process, fabric selection and colour process, we kept that in mind: does it work both ways? Because adidas is not gender-specific, and I wanted to push that further.
Nic Galway: What’s important to me is that I really want Adidas to be about genuine collaboration. It’s not about endorsements or putting names on products, it’s about finding someone who sees something special in our history and innovation and wants to take it somewhere different.
Nic, this is a historic moment in that it’s the first time the trefoil and the stripes have been turned upside-down and inside-out. Were you happy to let Alex get away with it?
Nic Galway: Alex really loved the archive, so there was a shared love for the sportswear of the past and the future. In that respect, I liked the idea of one small gesture on something so familiar which makes it new and desirable. There are no actual physical rules about it, so why not? It really brought it to life. There’s a lightness of touch and a real attention to detail. Those small flips gave it a unique touch, despite perhaps not fitting in with corporate rules.
Alexander Wang: What most interested me were the things that get bypassed. The inner workings of the institution were exciting to explore. It was all trial and error, trying to find the right thing – but also trying to not make it feel too precious or considered, even though it is really considered.
Was the collaboration with Juergen Teller, who loves sportswear, an instinctive decision?
Alexander Wang: It was one of the first things that we talked about. I found out that Juergen is actually from Nuremberg (near Adidas HQ) and thought, ‘Wow, this is almost too good to be true.’ It could not have turned out better, in my opinion.
The collection has been appearing in New York in street trucks. Can you tell us about that?
Alexander Wang: (It’s) this idea of subverting items – really, it’s a reflection of reseller culture, something I feel is evident today. You see people buying things and selling them on eBay seconds later. I wanted to play with that and with what authenticity means. It was amazing to see lines of people on 57th street in front of the most expensive top-tier luxury stores to buy from a truck! That was one of my favourite images to come out of the whole project.
Why is the junction between catwalk fashion and streetwear such an interesting place to explore?
Nic Galway: That was one reason I was interested to work with Alex – Adidas has always been a disruptor looking beyond sportswear to ask how we can use our place in culture to empower each generation. I see Alex in the same way, but obviously from a different world, breaking those boundaries between high fashion and streetwear and the New York scene. It felt like an ideal fit. I find what’s happening outside of the shows (right now) really exciting; it’s changing the industry to a much more democratic approach. That’s the dialogue that we, as Adidas, want to be a part of.
Alexander Wang: Yeah, what he said! We’re just getting started, this is only the tip of the iceberg. We’re gonna have some fun and we hope everyone enjoys the collaboration.
adidas Originals by Alexander Wang drops Wednesday March 1. You can buy a copy of our latest issue here. Hair Akki at Art Partner, make-up Emi Kaneko at Bryant Artists, set design Whitney Hellesen, models Lexi Boling at IMG, Christopher Fernandez at RED, photographic assistants Jeff Pearson, Guario Rodriguez, fashion assistant Shawn Lakin, hair assistant Tomoko Kuwamura, make-up assistant Marika Aoki, production Daniel Aros at REP, on-set production Michelle Faeroe, post-production Chroma NYC, casting Noah Shelley