The adidas SPEZIAL collection is in a special place right now. While three-striped products are all over the place, Boost and Yeezy have taken center stage and now dominate the language of hype. While part of the same brand, adidas SPEZIAL is very much the antithesis of all that. Sitting firmly outside the hype bandwagon, SPEZIAL stays true to its original vision, which is to reimagine classic pieces and to reflect a moment in time when sportswear was adapted by terrace and hip-hop culture. To hear more about the new Fall / Winter 2017 collection, we went to London for a chat with adidas SPEZIAL mastermind Gary Aspden himself.
(Note: This is a shortened excerpt – read the the full interview in Sneakers Magazine #36!)
Gary, what’s up with this new SPEZIAL collection and what was your inspiration this time?
While last season, we took inspiration from the parallels between Jamaican reggae and British football culture, this season we took things back to the core ingredients of the adidas brand identity. The starting point for ideas in the range were iconic adidas footwear colorways, and that is reflected throughout both the apparel and footwear.
Footwear inspiring the collection is a great starting point. Please tell us more about the footwear part of the collection.
The footwear collection once again caters to various tastes, from gum soles to vintage runners, leisure shoes, and outdoor boots. This season sees the return of the Lacombe SPZL, with the navy blue sign off switched to a bottle green. People who might have overlooked, missed, or worn out the first Lacombe SPZL DM me to ask for this shoe almost on a daily basis. For me, it’s one of the best and most versatile products we have produced in SPEZIAL, and in years to come I like to think it will be regarded as a classic shoe.
Speaking of classics, do you find it harder than before to select things because you’ve already picked all your favorites?
Not at all; there are lots of styles I love that we haven’t explored yet. We are limited by which toolings are available, so when new toolings are created by the inline team, it opens up a realm of other possibilities to SPEZIAL. The inline team reissued the Bermuda last year, which meant we were able to use that same tooling to create the Garwen SPZL and, in this season, the Super Tobacco SPZL and the Intack SPZL – a shoe that was formerly known as the Gaucho.
Do you prefer recreating originals or creating something new?
In truth, I personally find it more exciting to create vintage-inspired, new hybrids than the arduous process of getting one-to-one reissues exactly right. I also like it when we are able to take a great shoe like the Super Tobacco and recreate it with far nicer materials than the OG. If you put a Lacombe SPZL upper next to an OG Newcombe upper, there is no comparison on materials, execution, and details. I don’t want my feet to suffer in the name of my shoes being accurately vintage-looking – if I feel a shoe can be improved in some way without compromising the overall look, then that is something we will consider.
Is it tough for you as a purist to make those decisions? Going OG or taking it someplace new?
We had that dilemma with the Atlanta SPZL last season. They were one of our best and most accurate SPEZIAL reissues of a shoe that many had called a ‘grail’, but the OG came in a not-so-easy-to-wear red/white colorway, originally a reflection of the fact that Atlanta is the home of Coca-Cola. Do you stay true to the OG colorway knowing that a lot of your audience might struggle with it, or do you change it to something more wearable? You can’t do both due to the amount of shoes that are allocated to the range, so sometimes there are tough choices like this that have to be made. In scenarios like this, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t, and those decisions can be a real challenge. I consider myself a purist, and it is important to me that SPEZIAL resonates with those people who share that purist philosophy, but we have to remember that that audience is tiny and very hard to please and the range also has to sell through in order to viably continue.
How can we imagine your creative process?
I have a huge personal archive of catalogue imagery and a lot of vintage adidas footwear, and I then bring a number of options to the team in Herzo – OG shoes and relevant apparel pieces, vintage catalogue images, fabric swatches, and occasional references for materials/execution that have come from sources outside of adidas. I then present them to the team with mood board/visual references, and we then discuss which pieces we plan to work on. The decision on the final range is ultimately a team effort.
Can you let us in on two or three things that you are personally proud of because they became our great?
In the apparel, I like how we have managed to create a couple of reversible pieces, the Abenstein bomber and the Kopelman gilet, that offer very different styling in the same garment. The Abenstein uses a relatively new fabric technology called Ultrasonic welding to keep the feathers in the lining, and when it is reversed, the iconic red lining becomes a jacket in itself. I am proud of it all. I do fuss over details because I feel they are important to the overall look of a product. For example, we spend a lot of time on the inside of the shoes as well as the outside. Whilst I try to cater to that hardcore, adidas-dedicated audience that loves gum soles, I personally am very excited when we come up with new hybrids like the Winterhill SPZL.
The new adidas SPEZIAL lookbook is amazing and features DJ Goldie wearing the collection. Please tell us more about why you picked him.
When we started SPEZIAL, I personally was getting a little jaded with a lot of “sneaker culture”’. I had been instrumental in a number of projects that in hindsight set the agenda for adidas and the wider sportswear industry – the Bathing Ape adidas collab in 2003 and the creation of adidas Consortium, Superstar 35, and others. But I wanted to do something new. I wanted us to produce something generic but classic that a wide variety of people could adapt to their personal style. Shooting Goldie for AW17 was an instinctive decision. Yes, he is a friend, but he also personifies many of the values that SPEZIAL stands for. He’s a long-term adidas wearer, he is iconic, his talents are diverse, and he’s never particularly “in fashion”, so he never goes “out of fashion”. Pretty much everything I have done since starting in the sportswear game in the late 90s has been rooted in some kind of synergy. Synergy gives integrity and a solid foundation for ideas to be built upon.
Goldie says he loves the “Proust effect” of adidas SPEZIAL and how it takes you to a place and time in the past. What are your images from the past that are brought to the surface when you see and feel these pieces?
That’s an interesting question. I see it as a modern collection that is trying to evoke the spirit of a time when sportswear was adopted – a time when these products were subverted and their context was changed by working-class youths. My love of adidas runs deep, as it was integral to the identity of me and my peers as far back as I can remember, be that B-Boys in Gazelles, football lads in TRX, or Ravers in ZX8000s.
COMING UP SOON:
DJ Goldie on his friendship with Gary and SPEZIAL’s connection to street culture – stay tuned for Part 2 of the adidas SPEZIAL interview!