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Adidas MakerLab Campus 80s sneaker Shun Hirose Helen Kirkum
Photography Jean-Vincent Simonet, Ibrahem Hasan, Basile Mookherjee, José Cabaço

Three emerging designers created their own adidas sneaker in just ten days

Helen Kirkum, Shun Hirose, and Alex Nash are the latest creatives to take part in the sportswear label’s MakerLab series

For most young designers, the idea that you might one day hold an adidas sneaker bearing your name in your hands probably seems pretty far beyond the realms of possibility. Since the sportswear behemoth founded its MakerLab series, though, for a number of emerging creatives, this wildly far-fetched concept has become a reality. 

Having previously invited rising talents Paolina Russo, Priya Ahluwalia, and Nicholas Daley to collaborate with them earlier this year, with their individual styles debuted during Paris Fashion Week back in February, this season sees adidas Originals join forces with a new group of footwear-focused designers. On the line-up this time around is Helen Kirkum, Alex Nash, and Shun Hiroshi, who were chosen by adidas’s global creative concept and storytelling director, José Cabaço, and tasked with reinterpreting the iconic Campus 80s sneaker.

To say the three designers were thrown in at the deep end is an understatement. Where adidas sneakers usually take anywhere from six months to two years to get from sketchpad to shop floor, in this case, Kirkum, Nash, and Hiroshi were given just ten days to bring their designs to life, spending 24 hours a day living, breathing, and creating together. Beginning their journey at adidas’s Herzogenaurach HQ in Germany, where they were let loose in the brand’s vast archives, the three travelled to Vietnam, where many of the label’s sneakers are crafted, bouncing ideas off each other and working through more than a few meltdowns together as they went.

“We were together 24/7 for two weeks, so we would feel out things we were thinking about and give feedback to each other the whole time,” explains designer Alex Nash. “It was a real group effort. I think our styles were very different, but our way of thinking, the raw elements of us, and how we work is exactly the same.” Tokyo-based Hiroshi (otherwise known as @recouture__), who doesn’t speak English and was accompanied by a translator throughout the process, found he too was able to communicate with the group with ease when it came to sitting down around the table and talking through issues surrounding design. 

As if the pressure of creating a shoe that would eventually go on sale around the world wasn’t enough, the designers were documented throughout their journey, as part of a film which made its debut the same night the sneakers dropped. “This is the biggest project I’ve ever done,” says Kirkum. “Being around the same people for two weeks is a lot in itself, but between making a shoe and making a documentary – you know, making sure you say good stuff, making sure you look nice in front of the camera – it was really intense. But José created the team from his friends and from people that he trusted, which allowed us to trust in the process. I teach a lot and one of the main things I tell students is that you have to be nice to people otherwise people aren’t going to want to work with you. Everyone working on this was so supportive – I think the project was a real ode to that idea.” 

Here, we get to know the three designers as they talk us through their work, their sneakers, and what they’re taking away from their MakerLab experience.

SHUN HIROSE (AKA RECOUTURE)

Tokyo-based Hirose has become known for his wild hybrid shoes, which see him deconstruct existing styles before slicing and splicing them into something new entirely: think classic sneakers placed atop chunky loafer and derby soles. Unsurprisingly, his work has gotten him into trouble on more than one occasion, but adidas, the designer explains, has always been more receptive to his creativity. “The first thing I saw when I opened the email (about the project) was the adidas logo and I immediately thought it was a cease and desist and that I was getting sued again,” he laughs. “Instead, it was from adidas Japan, who told me about the project and asked me to come into their office, which is where it all started.” 

When it came to his sneaker, Hirose opted to play up his ‘mistakes’ as he set about reassembling the Campus adidas had already deconstructed for him. “Usually when I’m working on clients shoes I take them apart myself so I know the order to put the parts back together in, but this time, because it was already done, I didn’t know where to start,” he laughs. Crafted in a palette of dark grey, navy, and maroon, with white detailing, the style features a back-to-front tongue, visible stitching and, although you probably wouldn’t realise it, misplaced panelling. 

HELEN KIRKUM 

Hackney-based RCA graduate Helen Kirkum is making a name for herself with wildly creative footwear that traverses the line between art and fashion, with each finished piece completely unique – which meant creating 333 pairs of sneakers for one of the biggest brands in the world while maintaining her signature approach was a pretty daunting prospect. Beginning the process by taking the Campus to pieces, Kirkum was quickly struck by how beautiful some of the components were. “I took the eyelets apart and really liked the reinforcements, so they were worked into the design,” she says.

Other features come via the sole, which when worn down will begin to reveal different coloured layers, as inspired by a pair of sneakers she found in adidas’s far-reaching archives, rough, unfinished edges, which were hand cut when they came out of the rubber mould, and various customisable details which will render the shoe completely unique to its individual wearer. Her favourite detail, however, comes in the form of a detachable leather tag. “In the factory, you get a cardboard tag that comes on every sample with all the information handwritten on it,” Kirkum explains. “One of the girls I worked with, Lynn, had this really neat writing which was such a contrast everything I do, which is such a mess. I was like ‘let’s put this on the shoe!’ so we made a leather hang tag with the date of the meeting and all the info on it. For me, it was all about the process.” 

ALEX NASH

London-based designer Nash was customising sneakers long before social media propelled it to an art form in the eyes of the masses, with his finished Campus drawing on his own archival designs as well as those of adidas Originals. “I was trying to bring together all the things I loved about footwear back in the early 90s – I liked boat shoes and I loved moccasins and sneakers, ” he says of his finished style, which incorporates elements of a range of different adidas sneakers he’s personally owned at different points of his life, including the ZX500, the ZX8000, and the Superstar. “There’s the deck shoe interlacing, the colourway, which brings in a more formal feel, the skate-inspired strap… they’re all pulled together in a mad, crazy, twisted mish-mash Frankenstein of a shoe,” he laughs.    

Nash’s involvement in the Campus 80s project marks his return to sneaker design after a lengthy stretch of time focusing on other things, and so felt particularly poignant. “When you’re doing things under your own steam, you don’t really have the pressure of a deadline,” he confirms. “It was really tricky putting something out in the world with my name on it within those time constraints, and obviously I didn’t want Jose to get me in and then make a really rubbish shoe! So it was about honouring him and honouring myself with this, and embracing that pressure… which is, I guess creatively, is a good thing. It means you’re engaged.”