adidas Spezial Exhibition

adidas consultants Gary Aspen and Mike Chetcuti stepped out of their corporate roles to wear their (possibly more familiar) ‘enthusiast shoes’ and share their experiences of adidas over the years. And they weren’t alone. Collectors such as Robert Brooks, Noel Gallagher, Jason Jackson, Scott Jenkinson, Stephen Morris, Jason Place, Michael Kopelman, and Hardy Blechman – and actually even some younger, child-collectors Wilson Aspden, and Art and Uma Chetcuti – took the risk too and shared their most special shoes for all to see. With some tight security and thick glass panes between the viewers and the trainers, an incomplete – yet still quite magical – strand of German sportswear history unveiled itself in round about six to seven hundred odd pairs.

As Gary put it, “it was a case of getting a van, driving around the Northwest of England, going to various places where my shoes were stashed, putting them all together in my mate’s garage, and he was panicking like ‘no one can know these are here, they’ll come around and tie me up!’”. We burst out laughing along with him in the pre-opening explanation, after which he told us numerous stories, discussing his early overlap with the brand, his initial work with collaborative partners such as Nigo from A Bathing Ape, larger scale projects like the adidas Supstar 35th Anniversary, and (one of his not-so-favorite series) the adicolor range. The highlight of his historical illustrations was probably the point at which he told the story of the Haçienda collab, a shoe made to pay homage to a club in the UK, but the twist was that he was having his first child during the production and once he’d returned from the labor unit (where he’d been making calls to Peter Saville and adidas Germany whenever possible) he found some infant and child sized Haçienda’s on his desk, the only one’s on the planet. At the time of telling us this story his son had just outgrown the child sized ones.

Meanwhile, Robert Brooks, the ever-smiling, pleasantly calm designer shortly shared his overall thoughts on the showcase saying simply: “Part of it, for me, was to share the history of great shoe design.”

It certainly was. Gary explained to us that pairs existed for vintage lovers (various leather leisure shoes, the infamous tech-flop Tubular, sicko Streetball’s or Powerphase, and rarities like the Trekking, Tokio, and Bavaria Hi), casuals fans (terrace classics such as the City Series, Tobacco, or the heavily overlooked adidas Swiss), streetwear or hype heads (for instance all the Neighborhood and Mastermind collabs, 35th Supes, adicolor kicks, aZX series and even the fabled ZX 8000 finale), high fashion fetish folk (Y3, Jeremy Scott, Kazuki Kuraishi), and of course the true performance shoes as well (adidas One, Micropacers, Primeknit, and Boost, to name a few). There were even some custom-made shoes, sprayed up Stan Smith’s and Goldie hand-painted Adilettes.

And you wouldn’t have known even half of these model names or specific releases; as Aspden said in his media speech pre-opening “even the most ardent adidas fanatic is gonna see things they’ve never seen before”. So the solution to organizing the chaos was to produce a coffee table book, or as they liked to call it ‘the catalog’ in which all of the shoes on display appeared with their proper names (or nicknames in some cases). Instead of bogging themselves and the readers down with factual details (all the true shoe nerd stuff like article and factory numbers, year and place of production, et cetera) the catalog comforted the profile shots with quotes and stories from celebrities, collectors, and connoisseurs throughout the globe. Certainly a good read, and even more so applaudable was the design, as the book was made to look as though it were a vintage adidas box. In fact I even mistook the boxes of books for boxes of trainers when I saw the foot size diagrams on the bottom, poking out of the cardboard stacks!

But good design wasn’t the only glamorous diva making a presence; shoes were showcased featuring signatures from superstars such as The Streets, Massive Attack, Eminem, Jamiroquai, Tracy McGrady, Mogwai, The Beastie Boys, Jade Jagger, Stan Smith, Lily Allen, Arctic Monkeys, Steve Jones, Steven Gerard, Nerd, Pharoahe Monch, Mos Def, Dizzee Rascal, Anothy Kiedes, Noel Gallagher, Mark Gonzales, Paul Viera, Missy Elliot, Snoop Dogg, Shaun Ryder, Mobb Deep, Busta Rhymes, Ken Swift, Public Enemy, Nas, Liam Gallagher, and Clipse. And what’s more, as if that’s not enough starlight, as the night rolled on, celebrity appearances such as Ian Brown, Bobby Gillespie (from Primal Scream), and even Run DMC came through, gazing about at the trainers, puffing funny smelling ‘cigarettes’ in the alleyway between the gallery and the backyard bar, and signing people’s catalogs. In fact, for those star-struck that weren’t in attendance, we’ve a special surprise contest so don’t forget to enter before the end of the month!

After the exhibition the night continued in a variety of London’s clubs and pubs, adidas itself footing the bill for a healthy gang of folks: friends, family, media, and even a rather large Size? crew they came out to support the event as adidas’ distribution guests of honor.

From the uncertain future of adidas’ next generation, the revival of the infamous and incredibly bizarre spoof project Dead Shoe Scrolls, and our own whispers of treasured goodies for our readers, I would have to call the night one of dreams and desires, defined by the past but completely driven by what’s to come next. Thanks adidas, for keeping us all inspired (as the Gary Aspden says in the Spezial book) literally “every step of the way”.

For those that couldn’t make the opening, the event will be available to the public from the 19th to the 27th of July, 2013, at Hoxton Gallery in London. Go feast your eyes on something truly ‘spezial’.

written by Dylan Cromwell

photography by errol

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