Interview with VP of Global Design Nic Galway | adidas Originals Tubular Global Launch during PFW SS16
Paris Fashion Week is always a flurry of guests scooting from one event to another, ensuring they see the latest collections from their favourite designers, all in addition to being seen themselves. Collections are shown on the daily, but it’s the global launches that really shine; they utilise the international arrivals in Paris all the while making memories with a showcase of spectacular events. For the launch of their Tubular footwear series, adidas Originals took their presentation to the next level through location and performance.
In a dimly-lit location in the 8th arrondissement, a performance of parkour showcased the architecture of the space and the runners’ footwear: the SS16 adidas Originals Tubular range. Highlighting silhouettes through movement amongst the pillars in the concrete venue, tones of grey, black and white were accompanied by flashes of light, keeping the audience mesmerised on the well executed conceptual performance. The striking light display accompanied a contemporary score by prolific Parisian sound engineer and DJ Michel Gaubert (there was a lot of ARCA which suited the situation extremely well) and the two-floored venue allowed all angles of the Tubulars to be seen as runners glided through the intricate underground space.
The launch unveiled the SS16 adidas Originals Tubular range consisting of the Nova, Doom, X and Defiant styles and their qualities (lightweight and agile in performance) and aesthetics (minimal). The Tubular collection consists of a monochrome colour palette, EVA sole unit accompanied by a strong silhouette altered slightly for a ranging and adaptable identity. It’s a modern design, suited for an ever-evolving culture.
Style at the forefront of innovation, the Tubulars are created by the adidas design team directed by Nic Galway, Vice President of Global Design at adidas Originals. Galway was behind the Stella McCartney, adidas by Rick Owens and Yohji Yamamoto (Y-3) collaborations, along with masterminding the new footwear styles Pure Boost and Y-3 Qasa. Working with the adidas archives, Galway took inspiration not only from the adidas Tubular 93 but its prototypes, stating “I saw the samples and they just jumped out at me. I saw them as something that needed to be explored, and my work with adidas has always been very experimental. I’ve always somehow had the opportunity to do whatever I liked in this massive company. I’ve always played with this, even from the early Yamamoto shoes, I’ve always played with proportions, silhouettes and archival elements in a new context. With the Tubular we really hit something exciting.”
What differentiates his methods from those before him, is Galway’s background in industrial and automotive design, two industries that heavily influence the lifestyles or progression of a society. How can one implement this responsibility into an everyday object which has been designed many times over? We speak to Galway about the key design inspirations behind the SS16 Tubular range, designing for a global audience while still being considerate of mass consumption, and how collaboration is a key to a successful future for design.
ON HIS NEW ROLE AS VP OF GLOBAL DESIGN AT ADIDAS ORIGINALS
“It’s a real honour I have to say. I’ve been at adidas for 16 years this year, and I’ve just had the most amazing journey in this company. And I’ve worked now in every single part, so Originals for me is the full set. It’s so cool. My whole time there has just been learning. From Yamamoto in 1999, to Stella, all the projects we’ve done in the past couple of years – it’s all been learning for me and now I want to take that to Originals and make it much more democratic. When I joined in 1999, I joined as a Sports Performance Designer. I’m a transport/car designer by trade, and I came into adidas because I like making things. adidas allows you to be very hands on. At that time, Yohji Yamamoto had contacted adidas and wanted to work with us. He selected some samples he liked, and they were mine – so it was just a very nice chance. I got to know him, and from that day forward it just changed my whole perception and you can’t get a better intro into this industry than having the chance to work with someone like Yohji so it was incredible.”
“There’s two things: there is the aesthetics and the bit that is almost more important for me is what I get out of collaborations. You get to see how other people think, and challenge how we think. I really like that, and to take that back to my team is incredible. And it’s also funny that I worked with Rick Owens on his first sneaker and I sent him 3D renderings that we had done in our office. He was saying “Wow, how did you do this?” and you get that kind of sharing of information and sharing of mindset. It just improves you! Just being in Germany you can get very 1 dimensional as a sports brand but these collaborators allow us to think differently. I really always appreciate it.”
ALL ABOUT TIMING
“I started working on the Tubular concept quite a while ago. My feeling at the time was that we should be more provocative. I would say, it was probably 4 or 5 years ago that I started it. The thing about a product like Tubulars you have to be confident. It’s not for everyone, and I like that about it. Stan Smith, anyone can wear them. Something like a Tubular, it gives you a different personality. I thought that was needed in the industry. That’s what people expect from a brand like adidas. We have this great back-catalogue that’s amazing, but we also have to be this pioneering brand and connect with others. That’s what the Tubulars all about. As a designer, it’s my natural drive to go ‘come on, let’s go’ but sometimes you have to get the right moment. What I really love about Tubular, is I created a silhouette which I wanted to provoke and create debate, and I had in my feeling that people would accept it and like it. I love that with the Tubular, the customer creates his look and this world, rather than us trying to impose on them.”
“One thing I would say about our archive is, you can look at it in two ways. It can be a museum or it could be a resource, and I always see the archive as a resource. I don’t think you should be too precious with it. People say to me ‘is it ok to do this to this shoe’. The founder wouldn’t have done [be too previous], the people in the generations before would have done it too, so we shouldn’t. The whole starting point of the Tubular was…there’s the shoes that you know that were from the 90s… but what’s really interesting is the samples that got them there. There’s four or five prototypes, all handmade. They started with ZX – we cut them and ground them and put them together. These were the shoes that really inspired me. Not any product, but the tests and the samples – that’s where you get this mixing of components. It’s all collective memory and that’s really incredible. Everyone knows and loves the classics, but I think we’re so much more than just shoes. It’s the stories behind them: things that work, the things that went wrong and why we couldn’t make something before that we wanted to make but can make now. That was the starting point of making the Tubular. If you look at my original 90s Tubular shoe, the idea is so simple. Based on a car tyre, the realities of making a sneaker were a bit different. You have this tube, and then you have a plastic plate etc and somehow the tube got lost. It was ahead of it’s time. I wanted to strip that back. I see there are two paths you should take. When you bring back a shoe, you really need to do it justice, treat it with respect but also be bold and confident to do something new. For me, provided the new looks new and the old is respected, it’s perfect. If you do something in the middle, I don’t want to do it. It has to be one or the other.”
“There’s two sides to the word innovation. There’s innovation in technology and if you look at a material like Boost for example, anyone that tries it on thinks it’s just the most incredible thing. You can decide if you like, or dislike the aesthetic when you put it on and it’s undeniable. Materials like this are going to become so important. the simplicity of Boost is just right. How do you change something that is just purely athletic into something that is culturally relevant. Mix unexpected textures, colours, tonalities and silhouette. Once you start to mix these elements together, you create territory. Really, we have just started. Tubular products we have coming in the season I am very excited for, but really I see this as just the start. We have such an incredible archive, and I don’t want it to be one-directional. Not everything has to be loud or futuristic. The Supercolour with Pharrell is very innovative, but it’s not technically innovative – it’s just the idea of giving this choice (50 colours) and making that shoe so democratic, yet in a way that connected with fashion and culture. This is also an innovation, so there are so many opportunities we can explore.”
FAVOURITE SHOE IN THE TUBULAR RANGE
“I love the Tubular Doom. I think this is the higher cut, Primeknit sole. I like this for two reasons: I directed it but I didn’t personally design it, that came from my team. That’s really nice to see that I started it, with Qasa with the Y-3, but it’s now a part of the way my team thinks. To see that happen, it’s very rewarding. Ofcourse the first Tubular shoe, the Runner, the Qasa, these are very personally important shoes because I had a moment when I thought this is what we should do.”
“With everything we do, we need to be true to who we are. I think people love our company, and if you step away from what people love too far you lose them, and you shouldn’t lose them. We all have brands we love, and when they’re not true to themselves you can see that, and they think ‘well, I’d rather buy that from someone else’ so the key to me is: what do we stand for. Like I say, we have an archive, but it’s not just all shoes. It really is this pioneering, forward-thinking company. I believe it works when you connect what people love, and what they remember – collective memory – but do it in a way which takes dialogue somewhere new. I think if you do that with a product, if someone likes the product or dislikes the products, they will respect you for that. The other thing I always tell my designers is not to just draw things, but to make things, because when you draw you only look at this thing from the side. It’s the exploration which is so important, it takes you on a journey.”
ON A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
“Personally in adidas we don’t shout about ourselves environmentally, because that’s not the purpose of it. The purpose is to do good. I don’t know the exact numbers, but we’re rated very highly as an environmental company, and there’s a lot of measures that have been put into place over the last decade or so. In the way we source, the way we work. It’s very important to us, but it’s not something we should shout about. It’s something we should do, and live by. It goes much further, as challenges as a designer are not just about how things should look, but how they’re made, where they’re made, what technologies or processes are used – because it’s all changing. You can order products on the internet now which you couldn’t do in the past. They don’t have to be made in big numbers, they can be made to order and in different countries. All of these give me different challenges and will affect how the product ends up looking. The other thing is, make products that inspire people because then they buy them and the worst thing you can do is to make products which don’t get sold. Products which are loved and worn, that’s a good use of a product.”
Image credits: Getty Images and Monica Feudi
Thankyou: Simon at Adidas UK, Sophie at John Doe Hub
Special thanks to all at adidas, as well as Alex at The Daily Street, Almass at Individualism, Megan at Complex UK, Morgan at Crepe City and Ry at The Drop Date for the group questioning to round out the in-depth interview.
Find the adidas Originals Tubular Runner and Runner Primeknit shoots in Ala Champ Magazine Issue 10 and online across all UK channels.