Torben Schumacher on adidas Equipment
There’s no way around the fact that the adidas Equipment launch 2017 was a big success on every level. Since we always want to provide as much background info as possible, we’ve already interviewed adidas’ Till Jagla regarding Equipment, visited the exhibition in Berlin in January and of course interviewed the man behind that exhibit, Mr. EQT himself, Overkill’s Marc Leuschner. Here’s another perspective – a conversation with Torben Schumacher, which took place in Miami during Art Basel. He was then Vice President of Product but has since taken the position of General Manager at adidas Originals. Needless to say, he’s one of the brand’s most influential heads. The interview was originally printed in our January issue, which you can still grab in your favorite sneaker stores, in our own store and of course you can also subscribe to the magazine to receive it in your mailbox.
Torben, when adidas Equipment first came out, the idea was to have a “no bullshit approach” for the products – a simple and clear sports focus. Now it’s become a complete lifestyle package. How do you see that shift from the brand perspective?
For us, the fundamental idea behind Equipment remains a huge inspiration, especially when you look at it right after the 1980s that were a really colorful period, with lots of details and bling. Equipment came along in the early 1990s as a real break from the norm and an attempt to clean things up. This fundamental idea is still really relevant and motivational for us. Our team in Germany consists of a lot of sneaker lovers and it sure is one of the most iconic platforms in sneakers and somewhat of a holy grail for the brand.
What about the timing for the current EQT push?
We have always been looking for the right moment to tell this story anew. Starting from the classic shoes from the 1990s, we asked ourselves: What would these shoes look like today if they were designed according to the same idea? That’s the beautiful thing about the collection. It reaches from slightly enhanced classics all the way to modern designs that make no compromises and bring in new technologies such as Boost and Primeknit. That’s what makes it exciting.
Campaign image by Jürgen Teller
The line between performance and lifestyle is becoming increasingly blurred. Would you say that performance has come to include “everyday” performance in terms of comfort and wearability?
Yes, I think that today it’s increasingly important to make the innovations we have such as comfort, weight-reduction, and breathability available to everyone, not just athletes. By taking inspiration from our archive and the history of adidas Originals, and integrating designs with the best industry leading tech such as BOOST and Primeknit we are really about to add an exciting new perspective to the model and the next chapter of the EQT.
One of the definite highlights of the 2017 collection – the 93/17
Now there is also a new EQT color, namely “turbo red”. Overall it feels like adidas is getting a bit bolder in using the archives and pursuing a new direction and experimenting. Would you agree?
I believe it’s important to have this unique archive that remains a defining characteristic of our brand but we also shouldn’t be held back by it. And that was an important point back when Adi Dassler started out building products. He was never too precious with his designs and constantly cutting thing apart and rebuilding them to innovate. This is very inspiring for us. While we often re-release archival models, we also want to revisit the idea and the inspiration behind the products in the archive and explore that. That’s what is behind mixing new technologies and materials with the old ideas – or ideas that were relevant back then – and asking the right question: Not why a shoe looked the way it did, but why it was constructed that way.
The EQT Support RF in Turbo Red
With an event like Art Basel in Miami, so many influences are converging: music, street culture, sports and so on. Does that also create more of a dialogue for the brand with these areas – more than before? Does adidas listen more and seek out that conversation?
It’s great to hear that you see it that way; that’s exactly what we are doing. adidas Originals is a brand born from culture and it’s important to us that we celebrate that and continue conversation around culture and creativity, Miami Art Basel is a great location for this. With the EQT series’ historic connection to design, Art Basel was also a natural fit, and it’s always exciting for us to connect with those who continue to push creative culture forward.
In Miami, fashion, art and sportswear converged during Art Basel. Here’s a video from the adidas #tlks with Pusha T, Adwoah Aboah and Ben Jones
Adidas has always been relevant beyond sports but now it seems the brand is more intense in the way it collaborates. What changes do you see if you compare the 90s, when Equipment started, to today’s environment?
I believe that first of all, it’s important for us not to try to consciously control things too much. We don’t tell people how to wear our products and what to use them for, but rather we aim to present a clear point and view, be it from our own design and product teams or through the eyes of one of our collaborators, and see how culture accepts it. This approach has been successful for us.
Can you give an example?
Well, we could be sitting in the same room as ten people all wearing the Stan Smith but they would most likely have ten very different looks going on at the same time and all look great. That’s what’s so exhilarating about the time we live in as a brand: Whenever things are authentic and created from our core, this seems to be recognised and embraced. And for us it’s so exciting to see how that manifests in culture in different ways.
Would you say that Equipment was ahead of its time?
Yes, definitely. There was a strong focus and bold pursuit of building something simple and direct, and nothing else. From that point of view, it was quite visionary. That’s the reason why the products remain so relevant today. They represent something special – a design distilled to its essentials.