Kara Messina x adidas Pro Shell

  • DESIGNED BY: Kara Messina
  • MADE ON: --/12
  • ART.NO: G64146

The adidas Originals Consortium series has always been about collaborations and making friendships, but with the Spring and Summer 2012 Your Story pack, the three stripes have taken it one step further to celebrate the 20th Olympic games that their footwear will be worn in. Nine designers were chosen, each from an Olympic city around the world, and Kara Messina was the pick from London. Her rendition of the Pro Shell silhouette is quite arguably the wildest of all the ten pairs released (nine from external designers and the tenth being done by adidas themselves). A design of this style may be a hit or miss for some, but it got our hearts beating like drums and our minds racing like cheetahs to find out exactly what Kara’s inspiration was for her work with adidas. Tracking the busy entrepreneur down was no easy feat, but once we touched base she turned out to be a friendly, down-to-earth, and incredibly eloquent young lady.

Hey Kara, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. To start, tell us a bit about yourself… what do you do?

I run my own men’s street wear label called Y’OH. Prior to that I worked in fashion for around six to seven years now, however it was mostly for high fashion companies and I did a hell of a lot of pattern cutting.

Must’ve been a relief to get out there on your own. When did you start up Y’OH?

It wasn’t overly planned out to be honest. I was working on various research projects which took me in the direction of street wear. Initially I wanted to make a range of African shirts, which then extended to parkas, and it just grew from there. I launched the website last November, but there were images of my first collection on various blogs for a few months prior to that.

And what do you guys sell at Y’OH?

Wax cotton parkas, printed shirts, bomber jackets, cagoules, tees. It’s specialist fabric (shirts have to be cut out one by one) so consequently it’s all very limited stuff. It’s slightly odd because it’s “street” in that it sits well in that market but in terms of quality and production it also lends itself to high-end clothing.

Definitely a unique mixture you’ve got going on there, it’s no surprise why adidas lept out to you. In fact we’ve heard that Y’OH is often described as being a combination of hip hop, grime, and African tribal prints. Is this true, and if so what inspired you to mix these elements?

More than the aesthetic of grime I’m inspired by the ambiance of it. Same with hip hop. It’s not solely the look but the whole concept of the movement, from music to art or film and so on. I love subcultures in general and the importance of clothing within them. The African fabrics were relatively separate. I wanted to pay tribute to the checked shirt (which transcends a few subcultures including grunge) without using checked fabric. I think the African fabric fits into the same category as the check, camouflage, and leopard print. I guess in short it’s a union of my interests.

That’s the best way to design… working on something that you appreciate and are interested in yourself. What about the Your Story project; how did you get involved with adidas?

This was the first time I worked with adidas. They approached me last year and asked me if I’d like to be part of the project. I have always admired adidas as a brand. In particular their support of subcultures from hip hop in the Run DMC times right through to the more recent “This is London” campaign. It’s something I felt I could identify with in my own work. Being given the opportunity to be part of that is a massive privilege.

No doubt! So why’d you pick the Pro Shell?

What the Pro Shell represents for me is a very significant time when sportswear made a transition into fashion. Although prior to the 80′s designers such as Chanel and Calvin Klein used the concept of sportswear to inspire their work, it really wasn’t until then that hip hop adopted sneakers and tracksuits and we saw sportswear (specifically designed for sports) being worn as fashion. That era featured heavily in a lot of the research I did prior to launching my label so I wanted to pay homage to it.

You’ve certainly managed to pay homage alright, and in such a bold and wild way! We’re dying to know: why the pseudo leopard print?

Even though I was representing London, for me the Olympics have always been about countries uniting. So I wanted to create something universal, something that represented competition in general, seeing as it’s present in most activities in our everyday lives. We compete against each other, we compete against ourselves, and we compete as groups against other groups. Using a leopard print seemed to function best to characterize this animal instinct. The print isn’t a straight up leopard print, it’s actually a traditional African print recreated using leopard print colours. The use of African print is something I use in my own work as a means of paying tribute to London’s multicultural ambiance.

What can you tell us about the quote you’ve put on the inside of the shoe?

The “Peace Brother” message on the inside of the shoe derives from my understanding of sportsmanship as an attitude of courtesy toward opponents and grace in victory or defeat. As sentimental as this may sound, its intention is to promote a more benevolent approach to life.

Kara, that’s a beautiful and honorable way to to approach life indeed. Before we part, is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just a thank you. I am genuinely very flattered that y’all are interested in my work.

It’s been our absolute pleasure to have you join us for this interview. If anyone would like to check out Kara’s work, pick up the Pro Shell at any Consortium stockist or slide on over to her online store to see what Y’OH is all about.

written by Dylan Cromwell

photography by errol