When we were in Berlin to check out the new adidas EQT campaign along with the great exhibition, we took the opportunity to interview one of adidas’ main creative heads, who was not only behind running concepts such as NMD or the miadidas configurator but also deeply involved in the new Equipment push. Here’s our talk with Mr. Till Jagla, Global Senior Director adidas Originals Footwear Concepts.
The Equipment line was launched in 1991 and never entirely disappeared. However, the big push on a global level including an entire collection and apparel is a milestone. Why now?
Naturally, we put some thought into choosing the right moment in time. We wanted to leave ourselves enough time to make sure that the entire concept, the product assortment, and the strategy are fully thought-out. As is to be expected, this required a substantial concept phase, but at the end of the day we are really pleased to start the year 2017 off fresh with adidas EQT. We already brought the ADV in Fall/Winter ’16 – so the ADV will get an update. And since EQT is one of the greatest topics in our archive, we really wanted to treat it with all due respect – and take our time.
Back when it came out, EQT was a no-bullshit, high performance and high tech line-up. There have been some retros over the years, but 2017 marks the brand-new collection that retains the athletic performance while also tending towards the lifestyle segment. Was it harder to take the “no bullshit” approach into a lifestyle context?
When the product was created in the early ‘90s, it was indeed under the “no bullshit” mantle. Peter Moore really went and built the best of what the brand and the industry had to offer into a product category. And we here at Originals are tasked with connecting our past with the here-and-now, as well as with the future. Our task is to tell stories anew in a highly credible manner. To keep providing the customers out there with exciting products while delivering stories that never seem old. So looking at the original concept that quintessentially goes back to the essence of footwear, our idea was to say “No compromises!” We really wanted to build products from only the best of the best – and that stayed with us throughout the entire creative process.
How does this “no compromise” ethic reflect in the actual products?
Now we built this new spaceship with the adidas EQT 93-17, featuring the best of what we have with Boost and Primeknit. We decided to continue the fundamental approach and connect with the next generation. That’s why we built the ADV because it is a shoe that goes back to other core characteristics: Back then it was about “form follows function.” Today it’s “shape is everything” in EQT.
So we really worked on miniscule details of the shape, the moulds, the lasts in order to really build the perfect modern runner. And then we took another look at the Refine and said, it really is about “no compromises.” So again, we touched on the shape and adjusted and refined it in order to also offer a strong design in classic sneakers and authentic lifestyle.
What attracts you personally to Equipment? In our last interview you said you are a big fan of EQT – when was the first time you noticed it?
The first time was probably in 1991. My best friend is nine years older than me, and at the time he was training for a job in retail at a sports store. Back then he had access to shoes at a reduced price, so he bought the 91 EQT Support for as far as I remember 150 Deutschmarks at the time. Much cheaper than retail. I was eleven years old back then and when I went to visit him at home one time, I saw these shoes standing outside his door. We always had to take our shoes off, because of his mom. So when I saw the shoes, they were so unattainable for me, the entire concept.
That really motivated me to read up on the entire thing and learn about EQT. This was the first conscious point of contact with EQT. And I went to the sports store every day to look at the shoes and talked to the people there every day. Of course I was a mere kid to them, but the interesting thing is that there is always this generational change involved. And right now we have a whole new generation of sneakerheads that are learning about the whole concept, so that’s why we wanted to build a family of products where we make absolutely no compromises and offer folks out there simply the best.
Speaking of new generations: The sneaker scene has grown tremendously over the years and continues to do so. There are far more releases than only a few years ago – is it getting harder for brands to drive successful releases? And what are some factors that make launches like EQT successful?
I think that we at Originals are always facing this challenge – but that’s also the case even when the market is not as full of products. At the end of the day it all boils down to whether the product is well-received or not, and whether it creates emotions, gets people talking about it in a positive manner. So we are putting an immense amount of thought into how we bring products to market.
Here we said that storytelling is important, but we could also have taken “bring back” as a strategy. Ultimately, we consciously opted against it. We wanted to offer the perfect shoe for every consumer – just like offering the perfect shoe for every athlete back in the day. Also offer something for every taste, whether it’s vintage sneakers or futuristic kicks. That also lead us to digging into the ingredients used back in the day.
What were some of the lessons from those inquiries?
One of the most important ingredients of EQT back then was the colors strategy. With Sub Green, EQT managed to elicit certain associations via a color, all the way to bridging the gap to a product. That’s why Sub Green has accompanied us throughout the past two decades – and now Turbo Red will come along for the coming two decades. Because right now, as Gary Aspden already said on stage, we are building the foundation for the next generation.
And we want to provide this new generation with some new stories of its own, instead of just rehashing the same things. That would have been pretty simple and also pretty much expected, but when you look at the space here and see the shoes on people’s feet – you know that the shoes would not have really felt that modern in green. With Turbo Red, we really brought the color concept full-circle, also by explaining that it’s the exact opposite color on the spectrum. And since we want to communicate EQT via the colorways, it also represents the “no bullshit” attitude at the core.
We have seen the new Support RF and many sneakerheads will probably thank adidas for finally hearing their demands. Is adidas placing more emphasis on a dialogue with the community?
We are of course well-connected to the people, here in Berlin there is a lot of discussion about shapes. That is definitely characteristic of the culture, not necessarily the initial concept – but the culture has made it that way. We are aware via our personal connections that shapes are highly important. That’s why the RF – with “RF” short for “refined” – was a real adjustment in order to offer the perfect shape in the authentic lifestyle segment. And people no longer need to work on their kicks with a hot iron, we build it exactly the way they wanted it – hopefully!
Talking about “what people want” – which style of the 2017 collection is your personal favourite?
That’s definitely the EQT Support RF – we put so much effort in the details and the reshape and now it’s just an amazing shoe – a classic EQT silhouette with a great shape!
And more generally, what is your all-time favourite?
That’s actually a good question. As you know, I am a big fan of the whole Equipment series and have many pairs in my collection. But in the end, it’s the EQT Guidance 93 in the OG colorway I could never say no to!
Thank you for the interview, Till.
Do you want to have a closer look at the “From Then to Now – adidas Originals EQT Exhibition”? Click here!