Tag: "adidas"

The Doomsday Papers | Mysterious Al at StolenSpace

The Doomsday Papers - Mysterious Al at Stolen Space

When I was working in the centre of town, I’d usually check out most exhibition launches, regardless of the artist. Free drinks, the same crowd of familiar faces and occasionally some interesting artwork to see as well. These days I’m far more selective with my free time. Traveling for an hour into London to see an exhibition is less appealing unless I’m a true fan of the artist’s work. So when I got an email from Mysterious Al asking if I’d like a sneak preview of his solo show, ‘The Doomsday Papers’ at the Stolen Space gallery, it was an easy decision.

When Trashfilter last caught up with Mysterious Al, he was preparing to collate his work in order to get a show together – and it’s obvious that he’s been very busy. Put any preconceptions aside: whilst there’s enough of Al’s older established (and much-loved) style here, the work in ‘The Doomsday Papers’ is a totally new level. Beautiful screened pieces with spraypaint and collage details are well positioned alongside some new wooden maquette pieces, with a subtle theme of masks and monsters running throughout everything.

The Doomsday Papers - Mysterious Al at Stolen Space

The first thing you’ll notice is the painted shed in the middle of the gallery – more on that in our interview with Al below – but as you walk around the space, you’ll see a sacrificial altar overlooked by Bela Lugosi-eque renditions of Amy Winehouse and Kate Moss, a huge photography-based main piece and a collection of Mayan mask prints that would make a modern-day headhunter proud.

Eager to interrupt Al while he was putting the finishing touches on the exhibition, I grabbed him for a few words about his exhibition.

At the end of the feature we did back in 2010, you mentioned that you were planning your first solo show… and now here it is!

I know! When we spoke about it, it was really just a plan: nothing had been set in stone. So I’m just really lucky that the gallery let me do it and that I had enough ideas to produce all of this work. And I’ve actually got too much work! I’ve never been in that position before.

So, which pieces did you work on first for the show? Are all of these new pieces?

Yeah – all of them are new. I was looking at masks and collage work, which really gave me a new lease of life. For so long I’d been going down the commercial route – and I loved it – but for ages I’d draw something and just couldn’t turn it into a finished thing. I didn’t want to just copy what I’d been doing on the computer: that didn’t work. But by doing this, I’ve stripped it back and got into doing things a little more abstract. Collage is just good fun. It’s immediate, you don’t get bored doing it and I’m really into it at the moment.

The Doomsday Papers - Mysterious Al at Stolen Space

What inspired you to look at masks as a visual theme?

Actually, I should say, there’s none of this bullshit about ‘Oh, it’s something to hide behind’: I just really like the aesthetic of a mask. That’s all it is. I went to the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill: they’ve got a collection of witch doctor masks and it’s the coolest thing in the world. If someone came to see a witch doctor to get treated for toothache, the doctor would make a mask for toothache and do a ritual with it. And then that mask would go into a box until another person came in with toothache. And over time they’d make all these different masks and trade them with each other. And I just really like the idea of this. Some of these masks are so stylistically current, they look like they could have been made this year. These got me interested in Mayan art – tongues sticking out and that kind of thing – which I really like the symmetry of.

Over the years, we’ve all seen people doing things with wrestling masks and that kind of thing, but these are very different.

I want to take things even further, which is why I’ve started doing things out of wood as well. I don’t want to start making actual masks, but this seemed like a good next step to try out.

The Doomsday Papers - Mysterious Al at Stolen Space

These pieces are all really bright and bold, which works really well as a contrast to some of the darker pieces we’ve seen from you over the past few years: layered paint onto top of black and white photography etc.

Yeah, over the years, a lot of my work has ended up being really muted – I really like desaturated colours and things like that. I think that works fine for digital work, where you can really make the dark areas bold, but for painting I find it makes them look really muddy and boring. Going into this Mayan theme, it’s given me the perfect excuse to try using some colours that I’ve never really used before. I was finding myself going to Chrome & Black and buying lime green paint and sky blue stuff: things I’d never really used that much before. It feels quite liberating.

The Doomsday Papers - Mysterious Al at Stolen Space

Did you plan the pieces beforehand or did it naturally evolve into what’s on the walls now?

When it had to be a show, it had to be more concise: it had to be a bit of a story. This is my first solo show, so I did really have to think about what I was doing. I did a few things that are a bit more commercial or accessible, like the Amy Winehouse pieces, but the overall theme or theory behind everything here is different kinds of monsters. Different monsters in history all brought together. Influenced by Mayans, influenced by mythical monsters – werewolf, forest men, yetis – and monsters from the past and present like Dracula, the Phantom of the Opera, Kate Moss, Amy Winehouse…

It’s really nice to see a loose evolution in your pieces here. I can see where you’ve continued what you were working on when we last spoke. So, let’s talk about the scary-looking altar…

You know when you think of bad religion and Satanism and things like that? People always think of pentagrams and stuff like that. What I think is more interesting is English occult and Wicca and witchcraft. Weird shit made out of bits of stick and stuff. When I lived in Cornwall, we’d always find these sacred stones. We’d go out for walks on a Sunday and we’d always find these weird creepy things when we were out: piles of stones with burn marks on them – proper ‘Blair Witch’ type things, but before that was even around. Just evidence that something had happened there the night before. I didn’t find it necessarily sinister, but it always interested me.

The Doomsday Papers - Mysterious Al at Stolen Space

I started thinking about sacrificial things and offerings and that kind of thing. Not so much in a morbid or evil way: when I was in Thailand, people would leave things out. Little deities and stuff. There’d be a crumpled postcard of a God or something… and then a can of Coke and a bag of crisps next to it.

And the paint-covered shed in the middle of the exhibition?

This… this is my studio. This is where I make my work.

So, hang on, this is where you made some of the work for the show?

No, no, no. This IS my studio: we moved it into the gallery!

Wow! How long is the show on for?

The show is open from the 4th March through to the 27th March.

It’s a big thing for me, it’s my first show, I’m really pleased with how everything looks and I just want to get back on people’s radars a bit. I’d been going down the commercial route for so long that I really missed doing the pure art stuff. I’m going to carry on with this momentum of work and I’ve got some more ideas with the wooden pieces. StolenSpace are looking after me now and I’m hoping to get involved with some of their other group shows and exhibit through some of their sister galleries and just see where it takes me really.

The Doomsday Papers - Mysterious Al at Stolen Space

Too often you go to a show and there’s some lovely work, but it all looks a bit random or disjointed. This show is really cohesive, without being boring. You can get as deep and wanky as you like when you write about gallery shows, but at the end of the day you can narrow it down to this: all of the work here looks fucking amazing. I’d put any of these pieces up on my wall at home. And that’s probably the highest praise I can give.

Go and see the show, pray at his altar and try to pick up one of Al’s pieces before they’re gone.

– Exhibition and gallery details

Mysterious Al presents ‘The Doomsday Papers’
4th March – 27th March 2011

StolenSpace Gallery
Dray Walk, The Old Truman Brewery
91 Brick Lane
London E1 6QL
United Kingdom

OPENING TIMES
Tuesday – Sunday
11:00am – 7:00pm

P: +44 (0) 207 247 2684
info@stolenspace.com
www.stolenspace.com
www.mysteriousal.com

adidas Originals x Burton | Ben Pruess & Greg Dacyshyn

It’s a logical and interesting project for both brands to do, but how did the collaboration idea come about? Who approached who?

Ben Pruess: The program was a natural process of looking at how we continue to evolve the brand and work with what our consumers want. We had often spoken about snowboarding in the context of our success with Originals Skateboarding and how this plays into other action sports and other seasons. We focused on product and distribution as they are the real difference between skate and snow. Skate brand do sneakers, decks, t-shirts and goodies, where snowboarding is a hard goods and technical apparel business model. With Skate, our credibility and skill set is natural since we are a leading sneaker and streetwear brand, plus our team is supper solid. With Snow, we didn’t have a hard goods or technical link.

We really wanted to build a new business model to get into these product and distribution areas, and we thought it was a good idea to build a bridge for the consumer to extend the relationship with our brand to an new environment and sport while still playing to our core skills. The idea to work with Burton was a natural one, as a market leader, we wanted to partner with a brand that brought the same level of impact. Burton is the leader and arguably the founder of snowboarding, as we are in the world of sports. In the end I think Burton also felt like a natural fit, as they seek to push opportunities to extend their brand into the street in an impactful way.

How did you approach this project, in terms of the creative process? I’ve seen previous adidas snow product, such as the Forum-inspired boot, but this is a little different.

The approach was pretty simple; we identified what we saw as a clear white space in the market and worked to use both our brands skill set in a combined way to fill this gap. The idea was about “transition product”. The brief was: what do you want and need after riding to look good and feel good? What do you want to wear – après-ski? What do you want to put your feet into after you get out of your boots? And what makes the whole collection work with style so it’s cooler than just wearing your hill gear on the street?

The Forum boot was something very different; we only made 50 pairs and just did it for fun. It was never for sale but just used as a gift to friends. The idea back then was simple: we wanted to build a 3-stripe boot to ride in to rep the brand.

Were there many existing adidas technologies used when it came to developing the product range? Or did you need to look further afield?

Both adidas and Burton have great histories of innovation for sport, so we had no lack of tools in the shed. Once we knew what was needed, we looked for the right technologies. It was more about sharing needs on how best to solve the brief vs. being lead by pushing any existing technologies.

Who handled the design of the products for this project? Was it a 50/50 effort from both brands?

It was a very collaborative process. We had about 4 design meetings in the process to brainstorm, present concepts and review. We each brought our own creative assets to the table. We brought our archive and clear visual language as well. Burton played to their strengths on the apparel side – bringing cuts, details, construction that they have pioneered with their great creativity on prints and graphics. We brought the sneaker and footwear knowledge and leadership of sportswear items, like track tops and pants. In the end it was really a 50-50 effort to reflect a real balance of influences.

Is it difficult to appease the core snowboarding crowd when creating something that will undoubtedly still need to appeal to a wider market?

Ben Pruess: Having worked in the action sports industry long enough, our team knew that the first rule is not to try and be something you are not. You have to be real. That was our approach; make great products that represent two leading brands in an open and honest way. We did not go out to make the ‘most core product’ – just great authentic products that the consumer would like.

Originals is one of the largest streetwear brands in the world because we are an open and accessible brand. We don’t want to exclude people, but rather invite them to use us as part of how they express and style themselves. This is what makes us an icon in the world of streetwear and allows us to go from the trend-setting top to a wider, more mainstream market. This product shares in that approach. It is what it is; great stylish product for hanging out after riding, not trying to be anything it isn’t. In the end, it makes things genuine. We see this as a value most consumers respect more then just “being” core. Burton’s in a similar place – they are the leading brand in snowboarding, they are the most credible because they remain true to the sport and market they helped create.

How was the work handled internally at adidas? Did the US team handle the design on this project, or was the work distributed between Portland and Herzo? If so, was there much going back and forth?

Almost all the design work was done in the Portland office; it was easier to do it there for obvious reasons. Time, testing and consumer insight are just better aligned working with partners in the US. We did develop the product in a few locations, tapping into our Japanese team that does Kazuki ObyO because they had the best skills on the more technical apparel.

Were there any concepts or products that didn’t make it to the production line for this project?

We designed the range a bit bigger then we needed to just so we could review and edit. Sure, some of the products hit the cutting room floor but it was all about selecting the best offer for the range size we wanted. I feel like most of the ideas we wanted made it into the line in some way. Of course some others did not make it, but that’s how it goes.

Is this intended to be a one-off project or is there scope for it to grow and develop down the line?

Right now it’s just a one-season project. We did not want to force any long term or contractual obligations on to each other. We did this program because we thought it was a genuinely good fit and one that would make some great product. As brands we have a good relationship so the door is open for us to work on future programs together. Right now we are happy to see this collection hit the market and gain some positive feedback.

Burton has always led the way in terms of snow sport equipment and apparel: as a top-tier brand, there is clearly no need to work with anyone else. With that in mind, how did you approach the collaboration with adidas to create this special range of footwear and apparel?

Greg Dacyshyn: Both myself and Ben Pruess of adidas have a long history in snowboarding. So our two brands got together through this common interest.

How does the range of products differ from your normal output? Were there any particular differences in design or construction when putting these pieces together?

The range was co-designed by my Burton Creative Team with the adidas Originals Team and features the adidas Originals Trefoil as well as Burton branding. The footwear styles were primarily designed by the adidas design team, benefiting from their history in the footwear business and expertise in production and quality execution. In return, all the apparel styles were designed by us (Burton) based on adidas Originals silhouettes, blending the adidas look with the visual language and design aesthetics of Burton.

I’ve always viewed Burton as a particularly creative brand, both in terms of the products and the brand communications. Diffusion lines, such as the [ak] range, and the artist projects (Futura, Stash, Mark Ward, Geoff McFetridge amongst many others) have always added something special, rather than dilute things. How does the process work to continually maintain this level of creativity? Is there a Burton ‘think tank’ – or are you always open for people to approach you with ideas

There’s no standardization to this process. There can’t be. This is art, not graphics-for-hire. We structure our projects in so many different ways. Through the whole thing, feedback is a huge part of the process – whether it comes from our pro riders, customers or employees. Our team riders play a big role here. They all have artists who speak to them or inspire them, so in the case of boards for example, we love to reach out to distinct artists who the team request, and have them collaborate with the individual rider to make a signature board. In other cases like in apparel or outerwear, each season we create distinct stories and collection inspirations that are communicated to the artists in very broad strokes, and then they interpret them in whatever way they are inspired. Lastly, in some cases, we create iconic collaborations like with the Andy Warhol Foundation or Playboy or Ralph Steadman, where we have the honor and privilege to incorporate their work into our products. At the end of the day, we always know that the Burton integrity will be well featured in all of our products, because the partners and artists whom we join up with have a natural affinity to our brand and our DNA. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be on the program.

Was it difficult to keep things levelled towards your core market on this project? It’s clearly functional, but there’s a strong ‘leisure’ aspect to the range too, which differentiates it from everything else at the moment. How did you make sure it still spoke to the core snowboarders out there?

Snowboarders have strong personalities and think for themselves, which is what makes the culture so creative. We thrive off different styles, opinions and directions. There’s no way we can or would want to please every rider with every style. That’s why our product range is so diverse, so individual riders can find something that speaks to them.

This range with adidas reinforces the fact that Burton thinks beyond the actual slopes themselves. You’ve already gained a huge following from a street level (through things such as the Idiom product line), but is this something that’s considered at the start of each new project? Or is it always about the core snow angle to begin with?

We’re a snowboarding company. So every inspiration and design is somehow rooted in that culture.

Were there any concepts or products from the Burton perspective that didn’t make it to the production line for this project?

There are always different rounds of designs in every product development process. But we’re really happy with how the final line turned out.

Many people will already know that you’ve got the perfect credentials to put together a project like the adidas and Burton collaboration: can you break it down for the readers who don’t know? You used to be a professional snowboarder, correct?

Ben Pruess: Yes I was, but to be honest I am not sure being a pro rider more then 20 years ago gave me the perfect credentials. Sure, it played some part, as it was part of the path that led me to where I am now. More important, my continued love of the sport has been what happened after when I join the business side. The value of such a diverse experience working in action sports and streetwear for the past 20 years and the insight it has helped to make this happen.

This was not about me but two iconic brands with great teams working together (An adi group and a talented crew with Greg at Burton) to make a project they felt the market would benefit from. Sure the fact that the core group that worked on this project are riders that helped us to speak knowledgeably to create products consumers would want to wear.

You worked at Salomon before joining adidas Originals: was there much of a transition from being immersed in a performance-orientated brand to steering a respected lifestyle brand?

Working at Salomon was a great experience and I owe a lot to Jean Luc Diard for bringing me into that team. They thought about the performance side and the hard goods side of product marketing; it was all about feature and benefit and consumer performance. This helped a lot when I went on to manage Bonfire, as the technical apparel game is very similar. What was also clear from the start was the understanding that success in snowboarding doesn’t come from purely a performance point of view. Snowboarding, like all action sports is first an emotional approach and a lifestyle. Without making a commitment to this side of our market, you will never create a meaningful offer. In snow or skate, looking good and feeling good go hand in hand. Being real is more important then how you think about buying into a brand. Great product is important but without a credible approach is doesn’t matter. This is why even some brands that make technically superior products don’t successfully make it to market. Working on making sure Salmon or Bonfire lived up to what it meant to be a real snowboard and lifestyle brand allowed me to develop the skills needed to find the transition to streetwear so easy. Very few brands are as emotionally connected to street and pop culture as adidas Originals. It really is the original lifestyle brand.

I know that you’ve answered this question before (specifically in your Sneaker Freaker interview a while back), but what advice would you give to someone wanting to get into the industry?

Know what it is that you want to do in this business and why you think it’s for you. Understand that it is a business and whether you’re a designer or a marketer, that’s what success will be judged on. You need to know from the start that if you work for a big brand, a start-up or a shop that this is not an art project or 24/7 fun and games. It takes work, passion and a willingness to listen to what consumers want. It is a great career that can allow your creativity to be seen. Ultimately it can and will expose you to great people and give you the chance for a professional life so that you never give up on the things you enjoy.

Obviously, this interview will be on our website, but I’m from a traditional media background originally – and that’s something I always want to keep an eye on. Whilst I like a lot of the news sites and blogs, my aim to try and create a lot of timeless content that will be just as interesting to read five years down the line. What do you think about how information is communicated these days?

I think that there is a real need to be aware of the relationship of speed versus value. It is a trade off that many consumers are happy to make right now, but at what expense, I don’t know. I see a risk in the disposability of content, both products as well as media.

At the same time, the ability to react and effect so quickly has a huge positive result. In the end, I think we will get a better understanding and respect for what each approach offers and not try to replace one or the other but rather nurture both. Unfortunately I think we will have to go though a period of serious disposability before consumers realize what they miss when time is not given to refine a thought on a product. After so many shoes, many that we still love today would not have become the classics had the market not been patent enough to allow them to develop. Same holds true for music: many people say that we will not see brands like The Stones or GNR be able to become the icons they did because the market does not allow the time any more.

Greg, could you break down your personal and professional background? I’ve read about your early interest in sneakers (before the term ‘sneaker culture’ even existed) and how you became interested in fashion and design along the way. Did you consciously set out to become involved in the design industry?

Greg Dayshyn: To be honest, I’ve had some pretty eclectic experiences. From urban bike courier, snowboard and sneaker store hustler and philosophy student to Russian military conversion consultant, I can’t really pin down a linear path to here. But what I can say is that everything I’ve done in my life led me to getting here. I have always been a boardsports and street culture junkie, and that combined with a passion for design, international business and love of the Burton brand all came together in getting me here.

When I came in, all creative was sourced outside of Burton, and so with my love and background for design I started doing my own designs and taking the initiative, and then wrote my own job description. I turned it into the job I wanted, not the job I had. Sometimes people have their head down and they’re working so hard that they can’t see it that way – but you have to make your own opportunities But beyond that I don’t look back. It’s about what’s next, personally and professionally.

Were you always interested in snowboarding? Were there any other sports or pastimes you were interested in that shaped or influenced your career?

It really all started with skateboarding for me. I was into it from the beginning. I loved the whole counter culture, and the vibe and the lifestyle, and the new crop of athletic heroes that it created. I was never huge into the team sport thing. I did the prerequisite ‘football at middle school’ type thing, and a little bit of hockey (hey, I’m Canadian), but for the most part it’s always been about individual sports. Cruising on my bike or skateboard back in the day, that’s where it was at. Then snowboarding came along, and it just fitted me perfectly. It was super fun and cruisy and had the surf feel, and I learned with all my family and friends at the same time. So it just instantly became a lifestyle for me, and even though I lived in the city (Toronto) at the time, I would head up north every weekend to snowboard, and started taking riding trips out west for more snow and then finally found my way to Vermont which has an awesome local snowboard scene.

What does your day to day routine at work look like? Are you involved very much with the design team?

To start, I am waging a protest against the intrusion of alarm clocks. Really, why do we need to be on such a schedule all the time? Let’s just do our thing and it will work out. Unless you’re catching a flight, and then a clock can save your ass…. I keep a sick vintage Cartier travel clock just for that purpose. But I think the workday should start mid to late morning and then go well into the night. That’s when true inspiration comes anyway. And as for how it works with my team, I am really hands-on. My day is literally full of product reviews and product talk, covering all phases in the development timeline, for all categories. So it could be looking at board graphics one meeting, then outerwear designs or sales samples at the next, then it will be a conference call with an artist or designer or potential partner for something that could hit in two years. It really makes for a diverse day which is both challenging and rewarding.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to get into the snowboard design industry? I can imagine it’s quite a competitive environment…

I think the design industry is very unique. Some careers are a defined skill set that could progress in status/skill/rank. And some careers are strictly about managing others with that skill set. But in product or in creative, there really is an opportunity to do both. You can be the artist, and/or you can be the one who manages the artist. There have been designers who want to design and those who want to manage and in creative you can take either path. I like being a blend of both, so that my actual DNA is built into the products, while also being on the directional end of managing a team of designers. With experience comes the ability to choose your path. As far as newcomers to the industry you just have to be patient. And don’t assume that you have to get into a brand only through the product department, because that is where you ultimately want to end up. Be willing to get in the door however you can, ie., through customer service, retail, internships, etc., and then make sure you get on the radar of the Creative and Product teams. Ultimately, you’ll get in if you earn it. But check your ego at the door. Being humble is a key requirement of success in product design and development.

Obviously, this interview will be on our website, but I’m from a traditional media background originally – and that’s something I always want to keep an eye on. Whilst I like a lot of the news sites and blogs, my aim to try and create a lot of timeless content that will be just as interesting to read five years down the line. What do you think about how information is communicated these days?

The world is a small place these days; in fact, it’s about the size of your 11 inch laptop screen. Everything is accessible to anyone. The fringe is the mainstream. So you have to work harder to stay on top of it, and stay ahead of it. For me, pop culture, global news and current events come from everything around me and everyone around me. Get outside your comfort zone. Travel. Don’t be “anti-TV” when we thrive in youth culture. Don’t be afraid to get into movies, books and magazines outside of your industry. Think big. Get inspired. Play hard. And in the end, inspiration, quality and integrity will never be out of style.

adidas ObyO KZK x Neighborhood Luker Superstar 80s

adidas - ObyO - KZK Superstar 80

I missed out on Neighborhood’s 35th Anniversary Superstars. As much as I loved the shoe, I wasn’t about to spend all night outside Foot Patrol in London on New Year’s Eve. As a result of my sleeping, I couldn’t get a pair and I watched prices shoot through the roof on eBay as everyone proclaimed that the all-black vintage Superstar was perhaps one of the best of the entire series. Since then, I’ve acquired a few models that are personally more interesting now (a one-off/all-orange Superstar Skate is on that list for sure), but even though I managed to pick up the Union and Foot Patrol Superstars at later dates (shouts to Harputs in San Francisco) I still hold a candle for the Neighborhood and Undefeated models. It’s not gonna happen, unless I find an extra $700+ in my bank account.

So when I saw the first set of photos of this new collaborative Superstar from the hands of Kazuki (the ‘KZK’ in the name), you can imagine my delight. OK, it’s not the Vintage silhouette, sure, but the 80s Superstar shape is a close second favourite. And the colourways covered the angles nicely: a touch of both the Neighborhood and the Undefeated 35th Superstars. The sample versions spotted on Crooked Tongues were simply amazing – other details aside, the tumbled leather on the uppers really raised these a level, reminding me a little of the embossed adidas x Bathing Ape Superstars from 2003. And although these were set to be limited, enough online places were set to get them for me not to think too much about it.

adidas - ObyO - KZK Superstar 80

When both pairs arrived, courtesy of Crooked Tongues, I was pleased overall, but a couple of things would’ve made the purchase more satisfying.

The released versions are slightly different and, in some ways, slightly disappointing when compared to the sample versions. Why on earth they dropped the tumbled/crinkled uppers and used standard leather is beyond me. It’s a small detail and in the grand scheme it’s not important, but it makes a difference when you see them in the flesh. You’re getting a very nice Superstar instead of a premium Superstar in my opinion. I’m not a fan of lace jewels personally, but it would have been a nice nod to the 35ths if there’d been some included with these. And the stock laces are terrible. The standard polyester lace is what you’ll find in your shoe when you open the box – a little digging around in the box reveals some spare cotton laces, but only in the opposite colour (if you get the black shoe, you get the white cotton laces and vice-versa). I bought both pairs, so a swap is in order, but it would’ve made sense to sort this detail out.

And on a personal tip, there were no UK 8.5s to found anywhere: my UK9s are a bit big and the UK8s were too small. Grrrr.

Whinge over.

adidas - ObyO - KZK Superstar 80

So, what’s good about them then? A hell of a lot, as it goes. It’s a good shape, for a start. Those few who oppose the stretched-out look of the Vintage silhouette will automatically prefer the 80s shape here. If you’ve got big feet, this is pretty complimentary. The details that have carried over from the previous ObyO/KZK releases are present – stitched footbed label, nice heel tab and slightly vanilla-dyed midsoles – look great. The typographic embellishments on the side are also nice.

Even with the few gripes, I do like them a lot and they sold out quickly as expected.

adidas - ObyO - KZK Superstar 80

adidas Skateboarding | Danny Kinley

Trashfilter: We’ve had a few emails recently from people asking how they can get into the shoe design industry – mainly from students or skaters who are trying to work the angles and find a way in. What’s your role and what was your personal journey to get where you are now?

Danny Kinley: I think you can go all different routes, but I went a more traditional route: I went to design school for industrial design. It was a five year program, which seemed like an eternity when I was in college! I did that for five years, had a bunch of internships but my first introduction to working on footwear was working for Salomon, which at the time was in Colorado. I worked on some trail shoes and that kinda thing and then after college I got a job at DVS. I worked there for a couple of years and then came up to adidas.

I’ve known a lot of people who’ve gone from graphic design into footwear, such as C-Law here, so there are different ways you can translate those skills into footwear design.

Do they cross over much, do you think? Is having a background in graphics advantageous to design footwear?

Yeah, I think especially for lifestyle shoes there’s more of a crossover, because a lot of the time it’s based on a graphic or a focus on logo placement. I think on the Performance shoes, there’s another level. I think there are a few Performance shoes where the focus has moved away a little too much from the graphic side of things.

What’s your official job title at adidas?

I’m the Senior Designer for Skateboarding. I work on footwear, apparel and accessories. We have an ad agency called Juice who handle the ads, website and everything else.

Ahhh… They’re the guys down in San Francisco, right? I think we pitched against them once! They’re really good.

Haha! Yeah! They get the whole skateboarding thing, which is great: Dennis Busenitz will call into their office to see stuff and they know people in the city down there, so they’ve got a good handle on what’s going on. We work quite closely with them, especially when it comes to catalogue time. They’ll have certain ideas on what they want to do and we’ll go through it together. It’s nice to work with guys you can really trust to do things properly.

Trashfilter: So what is the process you go through to create a skate shoe? How do you take it from concept through to final product? Do you get briefed on what’s needed on every project?

Danny Kinley: Yeah. Marc Holcombe – our crack marketeer, I guess you could say! – will come up with a plan for the whole season. How many new shoes we’re gonna do and how many colourways of each shoe and, if there’s a new shoe, what direction it should be. He does a really good job and we work well together – he’ll give me a loose idea of what’s required, not too constraining.

From there, I’ll go and sketch for a week and work on it over and over again and then sit with Marc and we’ll refine it some more. We’ll have lots of arguments and discussions along the way, but we’ve been working together long enough to communicate really well and we’re on the same page usually.

After you’ve worked out the sketches to take forwards, what’s the next stage?

So, yeah, the first thing is the sketches, which I’ll refine to a point where we’re happy with the initial look. Then we’re in a position to take it to the German office and we’ll get feedback and make adjustments based on that. So after the presentation stage, we go to the sample making process. If it’s something we’ve never done before, like a new technology, we start the sampling process a bit earlier.

After a month of sample making, we go to Asia and revise all the samples and make sure the salseman samples are ready.

When you take your designs to Germany for sign-off, does everything translate easily? I don’t mean in terms of language, by the way! I just see the US skate market as being slightly different to the European one. We certainly get different models and colourways here in the UK to what the US stores are carrying.

Luckily, it’s a pretty international bunch of people in the German office. As long as we’re confident in what we’re presenting, they’ll back us up. The only conflicts are if there’s something they’re already working on that might crossover too closely.

Do you have to do different products for different territories specifically? Do certain areas take certain colours and models?

As far as Skate goes, it’s generally all international these days. I worked on some projects that were under the Coastal division category that were more targeted, but not any more. Some of the lifestyle models tend to be US-only: things that are catering for the shopping mall crowd, with bigger logos and graphic treatments.

Trashfilter: What’s it like to work on a pro model shoe for one of the skaters? Do the skaters generally want to have a lot of input?

Danny Kinley: Yeah. I’d say that each person is different: some pros are more involved than others. Dennis Busenitz was really involved in the design of his model. In fact, he just called me and is still trying to tweak things on his shoe, even though it’s been out for over a year and a half! Which is good, because it gives us the chance to continually evolve the design.

Some other guys just trust you to make it cool and you’ll show them the sample and we’ll just revise it from there.

So which skaters have you designed shoes for? You did Tim O’Connor’s model, right?

Yeah – those were all colourways of the Roster. We have our pro colourways of existing models and Dennis’s shoe was the first full-on pro shoe we did. The next one is the Silas Baxter-Neal shoe, which (at the time of this interview) is due out in a month or so.

And Pete Eldridge’s shoe was another colourway, right?

Yeah – in order to keep the product line tight, we can take an existing model and just adjust things a little bit to tailor it to the skater. This time it was a colourway and adding his name to the shoe, but next year it might be something else.

With Dennis’s shoe, that really surprised a lot of us who were waiting to see what was coming. The absolute antithesis of bulky skate shoes, it looked more like a football shoe. It seemed like a really bold and brave move by adidas, considering you guys were still fairly new to the core skate market. But it was really well received – I don’t know how it went in the US, but in Europe, the stores couldn’t keep it in stock.

Nice! Yeah, that was all Dennis’s direction: he really liked the Copa Mondial model. He grew up playing soccer – as we call it in the US! – in Germany up until the age of joining junior high (school). So that shoe had a big influence on him and he definitely wanted something with that toe detail. With the tongue, we were a little nervous about it, as it was our first pro shoe in the line…

Oh – I loved that detail though! The extra-long tongue, with scissor marks to guide you if you wanted to cut it down! I thought that was pretty cool, as it reminded me of when we used to cut down our Airwalk Prototypes!

That was actually something that came in right at the end. We were down at Juice doing an interview – Dan Wolfe (Eastern Exposure) was filming – and bouncing ideas across with Matt Irving, the idea of the tongue came up. We put the text on the back and had Dennis translate it into German for us

We were a little nervous about the tongue, but it seems like it’s been well-received.

I love that shoe, but to be fair, I think that’s a perfect example of a model that you needed to see in the flesh to fully appreciate. Photographs just didn’t do it justice.

It was a challenge to get it in front of people, but halfway through the season it seemed to gain more momentum. I think seeing any shoe that Dennis was skating in… well, he could be wearing Ugg boots and it’d look good! So we definitely had that going for us!

Trashfilter: The adidas skate team is pretty much second to none. Look at the videos, like ‘Diagonal’: amazing stuff.

Danny Kinley: Totally – lots of different styles on there. Maybe not the biggest X Games type characters, but the managers here have always understood about quality not quantity.

The European and Asian team seems to be as well-respected and considered as the US team, which definitely helps. I’m a big fan of Chewy (Cannon), so there’s a sense of UK pride when I see him on ‘Diagonal’ for sure.

Yeah, Chewy‘s amazing! Jascha (Muller) has done a great job directing the look and feel of the team, just like George here in the US. All the decisions about who’s going to join they discuss with the whole existing team first. Once you have that good base of pro riders, you can ask their opinions and get a good idea as to whether certain people will fit.

I was reading something recently where a sponsored skater was being asked in a magazine interview, ‘Oh, so what do you think of this guy who’s on your team?’. And he was like, ‘I don’t even know who that is’. Dude, that’s your teammate!

I guess one other thing that seems pretty apparent here in the adidas design area is that everyone seems to be involved in skating. Do you still skate?

Yeah! I’ve got two kids, so it gets harder and harder! But I keep telling myself that I gotta keep my skills up for when they’re old enough to start asking, ‘Dad, how do I do a tre flip?’. We have a day during the week – Thrash Thursday – where we can all go out for a skate in the afternoon, which is pretty cool.

Sneaker Tokyo vol.2 | Hiroshi Fujiwara | Shoes Master book

hiroshi fujiwara

There’s no point pretending that there was some higher-level theology drawing me towards this book: Hiroshi is undoubtedly a clever guy, but it’s his aesthetic awareness that is so appealing. Without having looked through this book, I knew it would be packed with lots of images that would have me drooling – the accompanying text is almost a bonus.

Hiroshi runs through his sneaker archives by brand, featuring the usual players along the way but also throwing a few curveballs in too. I didn’t expect to see Northwave, Airwalk and Timberland sandals in amongst the Nike and adidas gems, but that just adds to the book’s appeal.

I’m a huge fan of Hiroshi’s design contributions, so it’s nice to see pictures of his HTM (Hiroshi, Tinker Hatfield and Mark Smith’s collaborative series for Nike) models and the Fragment designs. The Footscape pages in particular are great to see and the small glimpse into the Monotone series from 2001 should inspire some people to dig those out again.

hiroshi fujiwara

Shoe porn aside, the pages of copy in here are actually pretty interesting: this is far less of a magazine with a hard cover and much more of an actual book compared to some recent publications. There’s documentation of his travels around Asia, with interviews from Hiroki Nakamura (Visvim), Kazuki Kuraishi (adidas) and Takashi Imai (Madfoot) and a nice discussion section with Mark Smith from Nike.

hiroshi fujiwara

Something that would normally grate with me is the use of worn (in some cases heavily worn) shoes, but here it makes perfect sense to feature them. Hiroshi is less of a sneaker collector and far much more of an informed connoisseur and fan.

Another Japan-only publication, thanks to the joys of auction websites, you should be able to locate a copy reasonably easy.

Mysterious Al | artist and illustrator

TF: This is probably a good opening point to get out of the way: you have never claimed that what you do is graffiti, whereas a lot of the people who’ve profited well from selling artwork over the past few years have labeled themselves that way. What are your own personal distinctions between true graffiti and the guys who are doing street art?

Al: Oh dude, Where do I start? Although I’ve always been massively interested in graffiti and draw a lot of my working process from its methods, I’m about as far away from a graffiti writer as you can get. Real graffiti artists are infinitely more hardcore than me and hold down crazy skill in intensely hot situations and spots. I occasionally paint walls and sometimes they’re illegal, but for me it’s all about the social aspect of this… Painting with friends, doing a good spot, then going for a beer… That’s what I like. I don’t see the point in street artists that aren’t up everywhere fronting like they’re hardcore. Everyone can see through that shit straight away and its embarrassing.

I totally agree with you – and I think that’s why your work has stood the test of time compared to lots of the fly-by-night guys who have made some quick money and then disappeared when people realised they weren’t what they were claiming to be.

What’s your current perspective on the street art scene in London at the moment? Is there anyone you think is doing something particularly exciting or different?

Everybody does things for their own reasons, and that’s fantastic. Personally though, street art in London bores me to tears. I’ve been almost completely out of the loop with what’s going on here since the wheat-paste invasion of 2006. It got so bad that I actually started seeing stencils on wheat-pasted posters on the street! I mean, what’s that all about? Really? What also confuses me is everybody trying to make witty jokes or have satirical remarks in their work. Stencils of children juggling grenades and all that shit… There’s one artist doing that style well enough for everybody, so I’m more interested in people creating art for art’s sake.

I feel that you were really one of the people who pioneered the street-level art scene. Back in 1999/2000 or so, when we first got in touch, your work and the things you were doing with your website really stood out to me. No-one else was doing that. Did you realise you were onto something new then?

I think what’s really worth bearing in mind is that when we all started that stuff, nobody had coined the phrase ‘Street Art’ yet. There were lots of amazing artists, illustrators and graff writers to draw influence from, but Street Art as we know it didn’t exist. I trained as a Fine Art painter (ridiculous, right?) but became more into drawing and creating stuff more spontaneous than ‘proper’ painting.

I was looking at American artists like Futura, Phil Frost, Barry McGee, Andy Howell and UK guys like Will Barras, Mr Jago and Kid Acne. For artists like myself, Chimp and D*Face, making work on the street just seemed like a logical progression from the work we were making at college or in our studios… We had no agenda, which made us very different from the kids who are doing this today.

To me, what you guys were doing back then was more akin to what Cost and Revs were doing in NYC in the early ’90s. As a genre of art, it certainly wasn’t as socially acceptable as it is now: because of the saturation, the general public don’t look twice at most things they pass in the street today. Which brings me onto another topic: Finders Keepers. Putting in time creating artwork and then having pop-up open-air events where people could grab their favourite pieces for free… For 2003, that was ahead of its time.

Finders Keepers was the brainchild of PMH, who discussed it with D*face and myself over one of our many, many nights of drinking. We’d all been doing bits and pieces on the streets at this time and a lot of other artists had started coming up, so PMH came up with an idea for an illegal street-art exhibition. Looking back on everything I’m amazed how far we got with absolutely no planning whatsoever. We invited a load of artists we knew by email to come meet us in a boozer in East London, then went on a mad drunken mission of scouring the streets looking for… Well, rubbish, basically. Old boxes, oil drums, broken computers, fridges… We collected all this shit, took it home, decorated it, then met up again a few days later to ‘exhibit’ it.

We’d emailed everyone we knew and got people to spread the word to their friends and colleagues. ‘Free Art show, location TBC’. That was on the Tuesday, or something. We really had no idea how this was gonna go down, but we found a suitable disused shop-front on a Paul St, a quiet street in east London. We mailed the artists and the public at the same time early Friday afternoon, and by 5pm people started appearing and climbing all over the place hanging work and partying. The emails must have spread like crazy because we must have had 300+ people at our first event. They bought booze, sound systems and we had an illegal street arty in the middle of Shoreditch. All the work was given away at the end. It was a massive success.

Over the next few summers we ended up doing several more of these events across Europe, and I still occasionally see some of the artworks doing the rounds on eBay for ridiculous money. How we managed to do this before Twitter or any social networking sites existed still amazes me.

How long did Finders Keepers run for?

I think we did events for two or three years, but really nothing for me ever came close to the first event. Its success was completely unexpected.

I feel that everything kinda blew up in terms of street art and people making a decent living from it around 2007, 2008… and slowly as more and more people started trying to do the same thing, it got over saturated. Maybe I should name names, but some of the absolute horseshit that was being priced for auctions was ridiculous. I’m sorry, but seeing a stencilled print selling for 50 times the price of an original Futura or Seen piece… that’s ludicrous to me. What are your feelings on that kinda thing happening?

The thing is, a lot of people who are into the work of the older masters of the scene aren’t the same people who actually BUY art. There really was a lot of stuff doing the rounds that didn’t really do it for me either. But I think that goes back to this agenda thing I mentioned earlier. I’m much happier to see artists making art that they’re passionate about rather than trying to tick boxes. That’s why I really like artists who show a real natural progression in their work and don’t just turn on their heels and paint a picture of the queen wearing a balaclava with a rocket up her ass.

How do you find it balancing your passion for creating artwork with the job of having to make money to survive? Do you find you have to compromise yourself much when you’re working for a client?

I’ve been very, very lucky to have worked on some amazing jobs with some really great brands. In that respect, I’d never put my name to something that I wasn’t happy with. As with all creative collaborations there will always be a little bit of compromise with things that can’t be done. Adidas wouldn’t allow me to put an inverted crucifix on my Superskates, and some of the original characters I did for a Yahoo! campaign were deemed unsuitable – But I never sign anything off until I’m 100% happy with it.

Like everybody else I have to earn a living. To me, ‘selling out’ is when you’re handing over your shit for a giant pay-cheque and losing control of it. Doing jobs that I like in my style and getting paid for it is amazing, but I also do soooooo many mundane ‘bread-and-butter’ graphics jobs that are completely separate from my character stuff… I just don’t tell anybody about them.

Are there any agencies or individuals who’ve really helped you out along the way? Any particularly fun projects?

Oh man, So many people and clients have hooked me up. Yourself and Russ at Spinemagazine for giving me my first job after University. You didn’t actually have a job for me to do so I sat on a bin drawing and essentially running a softcore porn site. That really gave me a chance to get on with my shit and I am so completely grateful to you both. The guys at POKE! agency really looked after me and hired me for some great illustration gigs whilst I was starting out as a freelancer, so I owe them a hell of a lot, too. My boy Tristan Eaton in NYC is always involving me in his incredible projects with THUNDERDOG and gives sound transatlantic advice when I freak out about shit, so big him up, also. And finally my family at Goodhood, Word to Mother, D*face and everybody around me that helps each other out on a daily basis.

It’s all about keeping good company and having people around that inspire and are reliable.

What made you want to make the neon sign? At that time, I hadn’t seen anything like that. I remember you going through hell trying to keep the thing working!

There’s a scene in Wong Kar-Wai’s ‘Chung King Express’ where one of the main characters girlfriend leaves him. He turns to drink and narrates: "After she left, I talked to the bottles". I always loved that scene and found such poetry in those words, so my bottles were directly influenced by them, the stark neon feel of Hong Kong, drinking and having girl problems.

Your work for Volvo was one of the few times I noticeably turned my head to see what had gone past when those ads were on the buses. Break down how that project went for you.

The Volvo campaign was one of those jobs that just snowballed. One of the directors of the commercial had seen my work and contacted me through Nelly Duff gallery, who acted as my agent. I got asked to go and spend three days painting a 210ft wall in Bilbao, and took Solo One and Matt Sewell along to help me. Solo is an unbelievable painter. So fast and ridiculously on point. He really held it down when we got hit with an unexpected colour change the day before we started!

The whole experience was great – we stayed in a stoosh hotel and everyone was into what we were doing and really looked after us. I really had no idea in what capacity the ad was going to be used, but the shot of my work became quite a focal point and was used everywhere. My mum got really excited and phoned me every time she saw it on a bus, which was great at first but got annoying after the third day.

Your project with adidas obviously received a lot of attention. How did that project come about – and what was it like working with the US design team there?

Well, to me a shoe is one of those seminal projects that really means you’re getting your shit straight, so it was an absolute honour to work with adidas on those.

I was working with ex-CT design-mogul C-Law, so it was very useful to have a friend on the inside. He hasn’t really spoken to me since the project though, so I think I annoyed him. Adidas were incredible and let me do some very cool things like glow-in-the-dark and all-over-print linings. I have a habit of trying to sneak inverted crucifixes into as much of my commercial work as possible, and one of them actually made it to the very last stage of production before somebody spotted it. I had to do the footbed graphics again which made C-Law pretty angry.

Your Eastpak bags also caught a lot of attention. I saw a lot of people with the backpacks.

I was approached by Eastpak many years ago to make all-over prints for their various rucksacks and apparel. Eastpak weren’t quite as open-minded as adidas were so there were A LOT of design changes. Towards the end I actually ended up losing it a bit with the colourways, so did the most disgusting orange / red / black design as some sort of defiant pisstake. I thought Eastpak were joking when they signed it off, but they clearly know what they’re doing as it turned out to be a massive success. I even spotted one on the O.C. which means that technically I’m in with that Mischa Barton.

I remember flicking through an issue of Sidewalk magazine and seeing your Enuff graphics – and thinking how well your artwork suited skate decks as a canvas. A lot of artists seem to have their existing work reappropriated for that platform, but your style really works on that dimension.

Enuff have been an absolutely amazing client – they literally let me do whatever I want. My first series with them had crazy fluro colours and the second glow in the dark! How cool is that? I’m currently working on my third set of decks with them and these ones are gonna be the best yet. The most super-hardcore time-consuming illustrations I’ve ever done. I almost regret starting them because drawing them makes my eyes hurt… You’ll see what I mean when they drop!

What are you working on at the moment? What are your plans for the rest of 2010 and beyond? Anything exciting on the horizon?

Man, this is already shaping up to be a big year. I’m involved in design and art direction for a couple of music acts and am working closely with them on artwork for their packaging and visuals for their live shows… I can’t mention them here but trust me, if you go to any festivals this year you won’t miss them.

This year I’m also preparing to give my artwork a BIG push. I’ve been quietly observing from the sidelines for a while, and am now working on a new body of work based around the Maesoamerican calendar and 2012 doomsday predictions! Expect a solo show towards the end of the year…

Cult Streetwear | a book by Josh Sims

I’ve got to be brutally honest: while the title of this book is probably the best way to sell it to a mainstream audience, the term ‘streetwear’ makes the bile rise in the back of my throat. Maybe it’s the non-committal nature of the word, maybe it’s because every leisure brand claims to fit into the category… I’m not sure.

But, that said, this book by Josh Sims does include a fairly broad range of brands and goes beyond the usual high street selection. I picked the book up out of curiosity (and the sharp 123 Klan illustration on the cover was certainly another reason) and once I started flicking through, I realised that the content was actually much better than my first assumption. Old, jaded and sceptical: that’s me.

Google the book and you’ll simply find a load of hype blogs copy-and-pasting the press release from the publisher’s website, which isn’t very useful. Let’s take you through some of the contents…

Split into three sections – Streetwear, Sportswear and Workwear – there’s a good selection of brands, profiled in alphabetical order. Kicking off with our friends at Addict, you get a one page bio of the label, with quotes and background information, before launching into a series of spreads showing design elements, garment shots and other interesting paraphernalia.

Other featured brands in the streetwear section include A Bathing Ape, Fuct, Goodenough, Maharishi, Neighborhood, One True Saxon, Stussy, Triple 5 Soul and X-Large. There’s a great section on Zoo York, which shows some of their old adverts (pre-Ecko involvement), along with some board graphics and I liked the unexpected Mambo showcase, with the page of original display cards and adverts too.

Moving into the Sportswear area, we kick off with a little section on adidas, before moving to Burton (the snowboard brand, not the UK high street retailer), Converse, Fred Perry, Lacoste, Nike, Puma and Vans. Nothing really unexpected in there, but it’s well-chosen and nice to see all in one book for once. The Workwear section is one of the most interesting (if short) parts: I liked seeing the Carhartt catalogue covers from the ’60s and the Dickies pages particularly.

The book doesn’t try to cram misinformed statements or cultural observations down your throat, preferring to stay factual and present easy-to-digest breakdowns. For that reason alone, I think it’s well worth picking up – a real asset to the bookshelves.

The only copy-and-pasting I’m willing to do on here are the book details, so here they are for you:
Paperback / 900 illustrations / 208 pages
292 x 220 mm / ISBN 978 1 85669 651 7

adidas ObyO | MTN Boot 2

adidas - ObyO - MTN Boot 2

You can sit and approach a shoe ‘review’ in a number of ways: sitting and rewriting a press release is one way that works for some people, as does finding other online reports and copy-n-pasting their text as a quote. The day you see that here on Trashfilter is the day you have permission to extract my teeth with a hammer. I’ve had these adidas MT 2 boots here by my desk for a few weeks now, waiting for the chance to wear them: the all-white uppers aren’t going to be too forgiving in the London winter.

Kazuki Kuraishi’s subtle approach to design has long been celebrated in the Far East. Although he’s primarily recognised as one of the lead designers at Hiroshi Fujiwara’s fragment design, his work as a freelance designer over the past decade has resulted in a strong and consistent portfolio. adidas’s longstanding relationship with him culminated in 2008 with the launch of the ObyO (Originals by Originals, in case you were wondering) range: a series of products that reflect Kazuki’s attention to detail, love of technical fabrics and his characteristic muted colour palette.

I first met Kazuki in 2005 or 2006, when working on a research project for adidas Originals: I found myself lost in Tokyo for a week, but managed to link up with him for a short interview in the Originals store in Harajuku, before a short earthquake scared the hell out of me. Since then, I’ve watched his understated and strong design skills infiltrate wardrobes on a global level, somehow managing to make something that reads as ‘basic’ more interesting than you could ever imagine.

In his initial footwear strike in the ObyO range at the end of 2008, the black, white and red ZXZ Waterproof model really stood out to me. I’ve made enough regrettable purchases over the years to know when to leave the credit card in the wallet, but it was clear from initial rumblings that supply wouldn’t meet demand on these. With a Gore-Tex® upper, you could punish the hell out of them without destroying things – I’d love to pretend I went hiking on the fells with them, but the reality was a blur of walking round the streets of Soho, hopping on the Tube and drunken stumbling home.

adidas - ObyO - MTN Boot 2

The original MT Boot came out the same time as the ZXZ, but whilst it was nice, I went with its low-cut partner. This time around, the second incarnation of the MT Boot gets my vote. Available in two colourways (a more traditional black and dark blue combination is out there too), the white and green ‘tennis’ colourway is pretty interesting. Summer colours but partnered with a heavyweight construction means that the fear of being caught out in a rain shower can be laid to rest. A leather toebox might not be breathable for hot days, but a little style over function isn’t a bad thing. In fact, the reinforced leather toe eliminates the distress of tourist footprints ruining the ice-white look. Opinions seem divided on the strange attached-to-the-side tongue, but it actually works well, is comfortable and stops you having to fish around inside your shoe when the tongues move the side. D-ring lace fastening is all good with me too and I like the extended length right down the side of the shoe as it makes your foot look a little smaller. There’s no Gore-Tex® on these, but the ballistic nylon will meet the demands of most and looks great.

It’s Kazuki’s excellent attention to detail that really makes these stand out. The tongue labels, the green heel strikes and embroidered inner sole all give a true premium feel to a shoe that already ticked the boxes. I might return to this feature with a performance update once I’ve broken them in. Initial reports are extremely good.

adidas - ObyO - MTN Boot 2

One heads-up for anyone interested in buying them: check the sizing very carefully. The first pair I bought were way too tight, after following the same sizing as I did on the ZXZs. I’ve gone true to size on these, but it’s debatable whether I should have gone up an extra half-size in the end. Time will tell…

80s Casuals | book review

I’d read that the 80s Casuals book was coming, but it was my ex-colleague Mr. Warnett who ensured that I dug into my pockets and purchased a copy with his own excellent write-up. Like him, I’m not a by-product of the casual movement, but that certainly doesn’t mean that the appreciation of fine clothing and footwear isn’t of interest. The closest I ever had to a living reference was my own uncle. His love of Sergio Tacchini, Fiorucci, Lacoste, Fila and adidas influenced my early sport shop trips, before I went the way of Beat Street and focused on a more b-boy aesthetic. That said, my continued obsession in several items (particularly jackets) wasn’t a million miles away from the casual connoisseurs. The working class ethic mirrored my own upbringing to a certain degree: like Gary, my polo shirts were more likely to have a glued-on shark motif rather than a crocodile on them. Mum certainly wasn’t paying £30 for anything credible like that.

Dave Hewitson and Jay Montessori’s labour of love has manifested itself in this great collection of images, facts and stories. There’s a foreword from director Nick Love, which seems fitting after his recent ‘The Firm’ revisit, and a short introduction before you get right into things with the adidas footwear section. Trimm-Trab, the eponymous Lendl range and the obvious Forest Hills are all featured (amongst many), with some great in-situ photos and classic advert scans. I’m all for nice clean product shots, but seeing the shoes in the casual environment really helps to tell the story of the movement. There are a couple of great pages about the Wade Smith store, which took me back to begging friends to find me pairs of Gazelles when heading up to Liverpool in the early ’90s: if there was one place in the UK that defined the term ‘treasure trove’, this was the spot.

Seeing one of my top three shoes ever with its own page was another highlight. The Nike Omega Flame didn’t immediately strike me as being a model that tied in to this world, but my personal memories of the shoe are of trying to convince my parents that my 8-year-old size 3 foot would be ‘fine’ in the size 9 display model in the shop. I’m still on the hunt for a reasonably-priced pair.

Clothing quite rightly takes up the remainder of the book, with pages and pages dedicated to tracksuits, jackets and denim. Flicking through brought back memories of queuing for Chipie and Chevignon, whilst the Stone Island crew left me a little confused: I knew I liked the jackets, but at that time I had no true cultural reference point for them. I didn’t stand on terraces and I was more likely to be painting the trains rather than catching the 6.57 from Portsmouth.

A good sized book – A4 is always preferable to ‘pocket sized’ – with 168 colour pages, this isn’t a quick flick through. In fact, whilst it probably shouldn’t be classified as a ‘sneaker reference’ book, it’s got more credibility than many publications lumped into that whole genre. Limited to 2000 copies, the £20 price tag should guarantee that it quite rightly sells through quickly. Buy your copy from here: http://www.80scasuals.co.uk/book.html

adidas Campus 80s (House Of Pain)

adidas Campus 80s House of Pain

With the right people pushing the buttons over at adidas, the product range keeps getting more and more impressive. Confidence is definitely high, so when I heard that this special ‘House Of Pain’ 80s Campus model was coming, I had a feeling it’d be good. Initial reports I’d seen online, based off PR-approved photos, seemed a little lacklustre: even though I had decided I liked them already, I felt it was worth holding back any judgment until I’d seen them in the flesh. St. Patrick’s Day seemed to be the perfect day to put this little post up.

I’m glad I did hold back: this is definitely a shoe that looks better on the foot than perfectly lit, white-backgrounded – and then viewed on a computer screen. Even with my shoddy camerawork, you’ll get a much better idea of how the shoe actually looks in the flesh.

adidas Campus 80s House of Pain
First round visual, courtesy of C-Law at adidas

adidas Campus 80s House of Pain
Production round visual, courtesy of C-Law at adidas

adidas Campus 80s House of Pain

The first thing you’ll appreciate, aside from the classic Campus shape, is the quality of the suede. When asked what the deal was on this, C-Law at adidas says, “Yeah, it’s a nice heavy vintage looking suede called ‘Teasel’ that costs a bit more. We were briefed to come up with some holiday pack shoes that had more substance, both in design and concept than your regular St. Patrick’s Day shoes (for example, white with shamrocks all over it etc.). Production wise, everything we wanted – we got”.

That explains the premium feel to this version – and also why the theme went a little deeper than the usual Irish iconography employed by most. Everything here seems to be top quality, from the uppers through to the detailing and embroidery.

adidas Campus 80s House of Pain

Even if you’re not the biggest fan of the band, the affiliation does nothing to detract from the fact that this is a good-looking and well-considered shoe. The initial idea for the House of Pain connection was then developed with House Of Pain’s Danny Boy, back and forth via phone calls and e-mails. In case you were wondering, the ‘Fine Malt Lyrics’ embroidery references the group’s debut (and arguably best) album from 1992.

An all-black ‘Kartel’ version to be given to the band (and no doubt a small group of friends and affiliates) didn’t get as far as the sampling stages unfortunately, but the final released product in its dark green incarnation is still my favourite of the three possibilities.

1500 pairs of this shoe have been produced and they will officially launch at Concepts in Boston on St. Patrick’s Day, along with a matching Celtics jersey. It looks like these are going to be available online at a number of different places, which should go some way to appease the people who were dreading having to scoop them up from eBay.

adidas Campus 80s House of Pain
Scrapped ‘Kartel’ (friends and family) version visual, courtesy of C-Law at adidas

adidas Campus 80s House of Pain

I’ve been sent some very interesting record label-inspired ‘anniversary’ product news that will appear shortly. With collaborations like this Campus as a frontrunner, I’m definitely looking forwards to seeing the new ranges.

Made For Skate: The Illustrated History Of Skateboard Footwear

I had the chance while I was still involved with Crooked Tongues to go to (and report on, alongside Mr. Warnett) the launch of the UK excursion of the ‘Made For Skate’ exhibition over in East London’s Brick Lane. After being introduced to Jürgen Blümlein and Daniel Schmid from ‘Made For Skate’, it was clear that this wasn’t just some backslapping endeavour for a major sportswear brand. These guys were skaters, had a genuine personal history in the skate scene and were trying their best to give an accurate account of skateboarding footwear.

At the time, at Crooked, we’d toyed with the idea of doing a sequel to the ‘Sneakers: the Complete Collectors’ Guide’, but perhaps purely about skate footwear and its influence – and to be fair, I was one of the people who discredited that idea. It just seemed too much of a job, and remembering the experiences I’d had when writing the first volume, it was going to take a lot of time to hunt down the shoes and imagery we’d need to make it a success.

Having seen this book in the flesh, I know we made the right decision. There’s no way we could have put the time in to make something of this calibre. Hopefully without sounding like too much of a cock, I’d say my skate knowledge is pretty good, but this book uncovers a lot of stuff that I’d never seen before.

Sensibly broken down into a generally-accurate timeline structure, the book is a weighty tome, tipping the scales at 400 pages, meaning that you’re not going to speedily flick through a pile of non-contextualised pretty pictures and then leave it on your coffee table. I got sent my copy two weeks ago, and it’s taken me that long to digest the contents.

I’m strongly adverse to anyone writing about anything to do with skating, unless they had some form of direct relationship with it, but this book was put together by the right kind of people. It’s not perfect, but it’s not going to be bettered for quite some time either.

Having spent a fair bit of time analysing the content, overall, it’s a really impressive effort. A slight German bias in places doesn’t spoil the writing, but it’s noticeable and there are several sections where I’m wondering if anything was lost in translation. It’s clear in places that different people have composed different sections of the text, due a significant switch in writing style.

The imagery and photography is pretty amazing: lots of archive ads pulled from old skate magazines, plenty of photos of rare shoes (albeit some absolutely battered to death!) and plenty of background content I’d never seen before.

There’s a heavy Sole Technology presence, which is a credit to them and their position in the world of skating, but I’d have loved to have heard a bit more from DC Shoes, DVS and Lakai instead of so much emphasis on the early era of skate footwear. I think a slight expansion on the past decade’s brands might resonate a little better with the audience who this book is aimed at.

That said, some of the old stories about particular times and photos are terrific: if you ever wondered the reason why four of the five handplanting Bones Brigade members were wearing Air Jordans at the Animal Chin ramp, well, that story’s in here. As is the story about who was scheduled to have the first professional shoe before Natas Kaupas. The background behind the Nike vs. Consolidated battle is laid out as well, which is amusing and interesting.

I liked the various sections on some of the brands that got lost in the ether over time and it would have been nice to hear some of the reasons why the shoes didn’t succeed from the people who bought them and were riding them (for example, I was getting sent free pairs of Axions in the mid ’90s – and, in my opinion, the real reason they didn’t take off was that the visible air bubbles continually blew out!). This slight gap is fortunately filled with words from the shoe designers and the pros who endorsed the shoes, so it’s not a deal breaker in the end.

It’s a big heavy book as mentioned above and that comes at a price that might keep it out of the hands of those who would most like to own it. At £40 (in the UK), it’s not likely to reach the full audience it deserves until it’s reprinted in paperback unfortunately. The special edition Nike SB slip cover version (and the limited-to-24-pairs hyperstrike edition Nike Blazer shoe sent to special people only) let’s those in the loop know who may have helped out – and fair play to Nike for stepping in and supporting something as adventurous as this.

Overall, this is a great book well worth the space on your coffee table. Go visit the guys over at Made For Skate and send in your own stories and images to keep this important archive and resource growing.

adidas Superstar Skate (Silas Baxter-Neal)

adidas Silas Baxter-Neal

When adidas decided to get things moving officially in the skate world, they didn’t half-step. Gonz has ridden for them for a while, but instead of ploughing all their funds into poaching 30 pro riders from other skate shoe brands, they’ve slowly grown the roster with a steady stream of amazing talent. Dennis Busenitz, Tim O’Connor, Nestor Judkins… even some homegrown talent in the form of our own Benny Fairfax. The team is a good mix of diverse skaters, picking points for style and originality rather than simply going for household names and superstar points.

adidas Silas Baxter-Neal
adidas Silas Baxter-Neal

So, to hear that Silas Baxter-Neal had joined the team was simply another step in the right direction. Having been voted Thrasher’s ‘Skater Of The Year’ for 2008 is no accident: if you didn’t already see his section in Habitat’s ‘Inhabitants’ video in ’07, you need to get acquainted. Habitat currently have a well-worth-the-download video clip (16mb Zip’d Quicktime file) of Silas on their excellent site, so definitely check that one out while it’s still there. Go on!

With the current glut of skate footwear monstrosities cluttering up the sale racks, I’d suggest that maybe one in three pro skate shoes is really deserved. Silas deserves to be part of the 33.3%. And, with the Portland adidas crew on the design duties, you could be sure that they weren’t going to release a metallic silver knee-high hockey boot for him to ride in either.

adidas Silas Baxter-Neal

adidas had a big thing in their favour when starting up the specific Skate division – they’ve had a DNA strand in skate culture since people began skating. My personal affiliation was with the early ’90s EMB/World Industries scene, when everyone was rocking Campus, Gazelles and Superstars, reappropriating their intended uses and realising they were good to skate in. So whilst they’ve introduced some great new silhouettes, seeing updated Skate versions of these classic models is nothing but a good thing. Why disregard history?

adidas Silas Baxter-Neal

Silas’s shoe is a Superstar Skate – a comfier and more supportive version of the iconic rubber-toed basketball shoe – but given a thorough dousing in the 3-stripe colour swatches. Black, brown, orange, grey… The combination looks amazing and sounds even better in the official adidas colour names (‘Loam’… ‘Lava’…). The suede upper is a nice touch too, giving you serious consideration as to whether they’re actually too nice to go skating in. The forest silhouette artwork around the heel panel is a nod to Oregon’s license plates, adding a considered personal touch to the shoe.

adidas Silas Baxter-Neal
adidas Silas Baxter-Neal

I’m not about to sit down and write sprawling reviews of every sneaker that comes through the Trashfilter in-tray, but these have had people talking every time I’ve worn them and have quickly become my favourite winter sneakers.

Thanks to C-Law and Danny over at adidas for the imagery and background info.

adidas Silas Baxter-Neal

adidas aZX Series

azx

Back when I was still working at U-Dox (read this for a bit more on my background, if you’re curious), one of the last things I was involved in before flying the nest was the adidas aZX project. In short, adidas realised that the love for the Torsion Bar was greater than they’d estimated and decided to launch one of the best Consortium ranges of product yet. Each of the alphabet’s 26 letters was allocated to a Consortium partner, who in turn had the opportunity to create their own make-up of one of the models in the ZX running range.

I worked on the initial stages of the project, helping whittle down the list of potential partners and then preparing the interview questions which formed part of the visual collateral. We were flown over to Herzogenaurach (where the adidas headquarters live) to join in the process: we worked on our own shoe for Crooked Tongues, but more interestingly, we were there as a creative agency to document the entire project. You can see the resulting interview footage up on YouTube, where Gary and I had a good laugh talking to the guys involved.

azx

left to right/top to bottom: the guys from Bodega preparing for interview, in the design studio, early morning + freezing cold = headache, some of the available colour and material swatches

Speaking to the different partners was a good way to get to find out their individual memories and experiences of the original ZX range. It was pretty clear that all the partners involved were perfectly selected and we were looking forwards to seeing the fruits of their labours. Two and a half days isn’t a long time to concoct a shoe, but everyone worked hard and got things done.

azx

left to right/top to bottom: SneakersNStuff by the history wall, FootPatrol in the woods, Kendo on the courts, LimitEdition in the vast design hanger

I left U-Dox in June 2008, so although I’d seen the sample shoes in different stages of completion, I didn’t get to see the final retail products until much closer to the release date. Released in three batches (A-H, I-P and Q-W), it was clear that I’d want to buy more than a few of these models.

A quick rinse of the girlfriend’s credit card resulted in a decent haul that I feel summarised the best shoes in the range.

Not to say the others weren’t good, but here’s a quick personal review of three of the seven models that I picked up.

azx
left to right/top to bottom: FootPatrol ZX800 (with a little denim bleeding on the stripes… oops!), Goodfoot ZX8000, DQM ZX90, Undefeated ZX8000, ARC ZX7000, Crooked Tongues ZX9000

FootPatrol ZX800

Whilst it wasn’t rocket science to take the original ZX8000 colourway and apply it to its little brother, the ZX800, the use of all-over 3M was pretty sharp. Clique-N-Move’s Kahma put this one together – and he did a damn good job. This was one of those that pleased the purists (seriously, how many better colourways are there out there?) and offered something new to the hype crowd as well. Just remember to photograph this one with your camera flash off. I doubled up on these, luckily, as they have getting worn a lot and seem to be buggers to find online already.

Goodfoot ZX8000

The letter ‘G’ went to the chaps at Goodfoot, who came back with a ‘Grun’-worthy 8000. Grun is adidas’s ecological range, utilising recycled materials and packaging, but usually ending up looking like a gum-laden pile of rubber chippings. Oh, and covered in hessian. This shoe did not follow the precedent, instead opting for gorgeous grass-green toe dipping and smart grey mesh materials. For many, this was the shoe of the series, and with good reason. Wish I’d picked up doubles of this one.

DQM ZX90

What some disregarded in favour of the more regular silhouettes quickly became known as the ‘dark horse’ of the series. A narrower shape with a lightweight sole unit, the ZX90 is an ideal model for cycling in – and with DQM’s 3M and pastel finishing, it’s one of the sleeper hits. I’ve yet to ride in them, but I’m already confident they’ll be perfect for my two-wheeled adventures.

I also liked the Undefeated, Bodega, Alife Rivington Club (A.R.C.), WoodWood and Crooked Tongues models. With the CTs , it was the colourway that was spot-on: the multiple carbon/3M applications were undoubtedly appealing to lots of people as well. The Undefeated and A.R.C. models divided the followers: some believed that a one-colour dunking was too easy and the colours were too brash, but the others appreciated the fine use of materials on both of these. Bodega used a considered palette of colours and materials, coming up with something subtle that could easily have been an off-the-shelf regular product, but with an extra little something. The WoodWood is just a shoe of beauty. With it’s white and grey bodywork, it’s not ideal for the wet London winter, but next summer… Just wait and see!

Something that was interesting was the fact that once I had all of the shoes in my house, the amount of extra collateral seemed to be slightly overwhelming. Spare lace sets, key rings, lining paper… all strewn over the floor. Obviously, most normal people wouldn’t be getting several pairs at once and then insist on opening everything all up at the same time, but still. God knows what I’ll do with the 20 spare packs of laces I seem to have accumulated.

One of the best collaborative ranges I’ve seen recently. Good work guys.

adidas IRAK Rmx Equipment Sport Runner

There was a fair bit of speculation as to whether these shoes were actually going to get released. We’d seen the sample photos floating around out there, but word got back to us that the whole sub-branding/collaborative was going to be dropped by the Equipment side of adidas. My immediate thought was ‘Dammit’, but I resigned myself to the fact that unless I got lucky, I’d never get to own a pair of these.

Fast-forward a few months to December 27th 2007, and they dropped fairly unnoticed at Alife’s Rivington Club, both in-store and online. My hoarding of Christmas funds ended right there and then: I copped both colourways.

Background information for those who don’t know: IRAK is a New York-based group of graffiti writers. If you haven’t seen the words of the prophets on the walls of streets, get your Google on, watch the film ‘Infamy’ and do some research on EARSNOT.Opinion is divided on these, from what I’ve read. Lots of people think they’re amazing – and an equal amount are disgusted by the IRAK branding on the toe panels. Well, fuck that. IRAK represent getting up and getting over, so to boldly print the name on the front for all to see fits perfectly. Add some great colour-blocking, plenty of great 3M application and a comfortable shoe and you’re set. I’m not 100% sure on this, but the word was that 300 pairs of each colourway were produced. As soon as I can afford it, I’m gonna double up on these ones.

Price? $200. Stockists? www.rivingtonclub.com is your best bet, but apparently Patta had some in as well.