Interview: Gary Aspden on Spezial and the globalisation of culture

Interview Gary Aspden on Spezial and the globalisation of culture by The Daily Street 01

Words: Alex Synamatix
Photography: Alex Synamatix

On the eve of his debut collection for adidas Originals dropping, we sat down with Gary Aspden to discuss the first Spezial collection, why he’s done it and how the globalisation of culture has affected brands like adidas.

It’s always a pleasure to have a chat with Mr. Aspden, whether it’s on or off the record. He’s a man with a vast knowledge of culture, especially British sub-cultures over the decades and almost always through an adidas blue tinted lens. When approached to interview someone there’s always the worry that they won’t be too open or revealing, or that they’ll give you short uninteresting answers. This is never a worry with Gary, as I often find myself having to try and unwantingly keep conversation short. It’s no exaggeration to say that I could happily hold a conversation with Gary all day. With this in mind, this interview isn’t really an interview and more a window into a conversation. This metaphor is almost literal at the beginning, as a friendly catch up started providing answers to several of my questions for the interview and I scrambled to hit record on my dictaphone before too much was lost to memory. Due to this, the interview begins without a beginning, but it also means that it reads like a conversation because it was a conversation. These make for some of my favourite interviews to read by other people and I hope you enjoy reading our conversation as much as I enjoyed having it.

As I mentioned before, Gary has an exceptional knowledge for British sub-culture, mainly thanks to living through a more than healthy (or unhealthy) amount of them himself. One thing that has always interested me about adidas is the difference in perception that the brand has in the North and South of England and this formed a decent chunk of our conversation, which is logical as it was a conversation between a Northerner and Southerner with a shared passion for the brand.

I’ll stop holding you up and let you jump into the conversation …

Interview Gary Aspden on Spezial and the globalisation of culture by The Daily Street 02

… Last year I was visiting home and I went to Ewood Park to watch Blackburn against Burnley. I came out of the ground and saw my godson walking up the road and he was with probably about 30 or 40 of his mates. They all go to the game together. They were all in adidas Hamburgs, adidas Handball Spezials, adidas Gazelle OGs, just a sea of adidas on all these 15, 16 year old kids. They don’t wear it in quite the same way that we wore it, it’s like a new take on it, so they’ve got tight jeans and Arctic Monkeys sort of quiffy hair styles [laughs], but they’ll have a bit of Stone Island or a bit of Ralph and adidas shoes. It seems to have taken on a completely new resonance with a new generation.

At the same time you’ve got things happening like that whole Palace thing where you’ve got UK skate kids who are into styles and brands that were essentially born out of football culture and using it as a reference for what they are doing. So again you’ll see skate kids wearing that stable of brands, but they’re kind of wearing it in a slightly different way than your traditional, older casuals would wear it. I find it really interesting and it’s definitely a UK thing, without a doubt. In the North that look has probably got far greater resonance than it has in London. It seems like in London people get excited about new hype streetwear brands from the US and Japan, whereas outside of London it’s almost like there’s a certain set of brands that men trust and on the whole stay close to. It’s a certain style and a certain way of wearing things. They’re very cynical and suspicious of marketing, so it’s a very different thing in men’s fashion I think, once you get outside of the capital.

It’s crazy because it’s really not that far away either, compared to America for example. The scale of change in such a small amount of distance across the UK is pretty large in comparison ….

But if you think about the whole thing in the ‘80s, there were always regional differences even differences between neighbouring towns in some cases. That’s probably why there’s always these arguments about that whole ‘Casual’ thing. There will always be the arguments about where it started. People can’t even agree on a name of it. In some quarters it’s almost like by naming it you are doing it a dis-service or making yourself sound like an outsider to it. It’s like “No, we weren’t Casuals, we were Perry’s”“No, we weren’t Perry’s, we were Scallies”“No, we weren’t Scallies, we were Dressers” … There were all these regional differences with it for sure. It was before my time but in London people talk about the whole Soul Boy thing that happened down here which some down here say is where the casual thing began. In the north there was Northern Soul and then things like Eric’s in Liverpool and the whole Post Punk thing with Zoo and Factory Records. I think that since the advent of the digital era the differences have in many ways become more prominent than ever. It seems like what I’m witnessing happening in culture globally is a real homogenisation that’s been born out of peoples obsession and fascination with American culture. It is probably driven by the fact that Hip-Hop has been such a prominent force in music culture for the past few decades. There’s a lot of aspects of American culture that I really like but when I was growing up we took inspiration from it and made it our own. Things weren’t as easily accessible then, and it feels like since the advent of the digital age I see a lot of people with a very literal take on America who may never have even been then. Sometimes I’ll go on Twitter and there’ll be lads on there talking about how they’re “stoked” and about their “steez” and “copping their sneaks” and I think to myself … “You’re from Huddersfield mate. Why are you talking like that?”

But then the other side of that is you’ve got Drake adopting British slang lately, and on a less recent scale Rhianna wearing UK streetwear brands.

This is the thing with Spezial – all the design references are European. I wanted to do something contrarian and against the grain of what’s happening in popular culture. I picked up an adidas Originals graphic tee in the adidas office one day and it had a picture of a ghetto blaster on it and “This is how we roll” and I’m like “That’s not the adidas that I know” – yes it’s one aspect of it but the adidas brand is far broader than that.

The only time that adidas really conquered the American market was when it was doing what it does best, which is making great sports products designed out of Europe with a European aesthetic. I’ve said this in a few interviews, but I once interviewed Ken Swift from Rock Steady Crew and I said to him “What’s your take? Why did all the graffiti writers and B Boys go for adidas and PUMA?” and he said “Growing up in New York, because they were European they seemed exotic to us. There was something sophisticated about those brands to us” and I was like [snaps his fingers] “That’s it!”. It connected with me because it was the same for us. The fact that I used to get shoes in those blue boxes with “The Brand With The Three Stripes” written in French and German, and the shoes had names like Stockholm and Zürich and München. I don’t know, there was just something about that that I just connected with and that I really loved. With Spezial it’s almost like it’s Super European. It’s like a fantasy of Europe. It’s more European than Europe actually is now. It’s a Europe that I used to go to when every country had its own currency. You would be in France and you’d get on the train and go to Italy, and the kids in Italy would look completely different to the kids in France, then you’d go to Switzerland and they looked different again. I found those differences interesting and exciting, where as now I travel the world and what I can get in London I can get in New York, what I can get in New York I can get in Tokyo.

I was discussing this recently actually, having come back from New York a few months ago. I spent a bit of time over there digging for some USA only product, but it pretty much doesn’t exist any more, especially if you go to a branded store. The stock offering is almost exactly the same. It may alter slightly, but not like it used to. It’s the effects of the general globalisation of the market post digital age. It seems like movements such as Special are the beginnings of people and brands attempting to counter the effects of that global streamlining because as good as it is, it’s almost made everything too accessible and too uniform now. As you say, it’s washed away any difference.

Moving on … When and how exactly did the idea of the Spezial collection come about and what relation does it have to the Spezial exhibition of last year?

Well I’d already submitted a proposal to adidas to do a range at that time, but I was being extremely tight lipped about it. We do what are known internally as Statement Ranges. Palace is a Statement Range, Neighborhood is a Statement Range, Pharrell Williams is a Statement Range. They are those ranges where it’s adidas for the most part works with third parties and they’re sold in top tier distribution. Going back a couple of years, I was asked my opinion about Statement Ranges and I felt that there needed to be something within the Statement Range offering that had a really strong brand personality, and adidas identity, that could almost counter when people want to be experimental. I have no real issue with adidas being experimental even though I know some people, particularly in the UK, do. I think it has its place but there is definitely an adidas audience here who have a very traditional idea of what they think adidas should and shouldn’t be. I understand that audience.

A lot of what we’ve done over the last few years has been very much about connecting with a younger audience, a teenage audience if you will, but I believe that a lot of the people who have real influence are a little bit older than that. So I wanted to create something that had the adidas brand personality, but was a little bit more mature and a bit more sophisticated I guess. That was the starting point for it really. I put a proposal together and I put it to adidas in Germany and they were like “This is kind of interesting. It’s a different take on what we’ve been doing”.

How about the name? Why Spezial and what is the connection with your curated Spezial exhibition?

I wanted it to have a German name, but I wanted it to be a German word that was easily understandable in English. I had a couple of potential names kicking around, but it’s really difficult these days to get names because everything is copyrighted it seems [laughs]. Spezial was a word that just felt right to me. The Handball Spezial is one of those shoes that for me is an adidas design classic and has been a constant fixture within adidas since the early ‘80s, but it’s never been a shoe that’s been adopted by ironic hipsters. It’s a serious product with enduring appeal. When you think about what the shoe was designed for versus the audience that it became popular with here it is the ultimate symbol of adoption. Handball is a sport that bears absolutely no relation to working class youths from the north. They used the word Spezial on a lot shoes around the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, so I just felt it was a word that was synonymous with adidas.

Now, as all this back and forth was going on about the collection, I don’t remember the exact chronology, I was planning the exhibition. I felt that using the Spezial name would build equity into that word should the range go ahead. It would become a word that was synonymous with that tradition, very European idea of adidas. Then when they signed off on the collection I knew exactly what I wanted to do to launch it because what happened with that exhibition last year was that it was really well received and in the time since it happened it’s almost taken on a mythical status. The Hoxton exhibition wasn’t on for a long period of time and for a lot of people, by the time they’d found out it was on, it was over. The exhibition book started changing hands for more money and became quite a collectable thing. Anyone that’s an adidas collector almost has to have a copy of that book. Initially after it there was all the rush of “When are you gonna bring it to Liverpool?” “When are you gonna bring it to Leeds?” “When are you gonna bring it to Glasgow?” and I didn’t know exactly what was gonna happen. Then when adidas gave the green light to the range, I was like “Well this exhibition is a great launch pad for it, because what this exhibition can be is something that gives it context. It’s a foundation for it. It’s the roots of it. I also like the idea of doing a global launch from outside of London – I felt it would be a bold and honest statement of intent.”

Interview Gary Aspden on Spezial and the globalisation of culture by The Daily Street 03

How did you approach the design process for the collection, what with it being so archive focused?

That’s the interesting thing with Spezial – the way I tackled the clothing is different to the way I tackled the footwear. I see adidas sometimes reissuing apparel products that I wore when I was younger and I go “Oh that’s cool. I had one of those hoodies when I was at school”, but the reality is I don’t want to wear that same hoodie now at my age.

With the clothing I would take an original archive piece and use that as a foundation. I would ask myself “What is it about that product, outside of the Three Stripes and outside of the logo, that makes it adidas?”. That’s why I say I’m not a designer, I’m a curator. The design had already been done years ago, but it needed somebody with a concept and deep brand knowledge to be able to curate the bits that really suggest and adidas identity and personality.

With the footwear they were like “What do you want to do? Do you want to do colour-ups? New materials?” and I’m like “I don’t want to do very much to be honest” and they were like “What do you mean?”. I say I didn’t want to do very much with regard to the materials and colours, but I actually did want to do a lot on getting the specifications of the upper patterns as near as we could to their original form. That meant finding the correct lasts and adjusting stitch lines by millimetres to get the uppers as close to the vintage look as we could get. I believe on the footwear side, a lot of adidas footwear styles are bonafide design classics. Most brands have a couple of design classics in their back catalogue, adidas has got hundreds. So for me, I think a shoe like an adidas Gazelle or an adidas Stan Smith or an adidas Samba are as valid as a desert boot or a brogue as pieces of classic design. You’ll be able to pick up an adidas Gazelle in 20 years time and they’ll still look good because it’s got a timeless aesthetic to it. I believe that if you’ve got a design classic that is well executed then you don’t need to rely on nostalgia for its appeal. You don’t need to rely on guys of my age who go “I want one of them because I couldn’t afford one when I was a kid and my mate had a pair and I always wanted them”. If it’s a design classic, it’ll resonate with a whole new audience because that’s what timeless design does. And I feel that with a lot of adidas footwear, that’s the case.

So with the footwear, I stayed reasonably true to the original footwear, but I think I may have driven the developers to absolute distraction with it. It really tested their patience, but they got it, they understood. Maybe I was a little bit anal with it, but I know that the audience that I want this range to connect with can be very very anal about shoes [laughs]. They’re almost waiting for the reissues to come out so they can just go online and tell everybody where adidas got it wrong. What’s been really exciting since the product has been revealed is that there is huge excitement around it, but the excitement is with people who are not traditionally a ‘hype’ audience. There’s that hype culture of the kids who get their fishing stools and sit outside Supreme or SneakersNStuff or wherever, waiting for the latest releases to collect or re-sell. It seems the people who are excited about this is not necessarily that audience. It seems to have reawakened excitement about the brand in an audience who may have not felt as connected to the brand of late as they once did. So it’s been a really interesting time. I’m super super pleased by the reaction to it.

There’s a guy up in Manchester who’s one of the contributors to the exhibition called Pete Lawton. Now, if you see Pete Lawton’s collection of shoes, it’s incredible. There’s no doubt about it, that guy’s got an incredible vintage shoe collection. And he’s a purist who only really wears vintage shoes and he sent me a message last week saying “I only really wear vintage shoes, but with the Spezial footwear I’m gonna make an exception” and when lads like that say stuff like that, that’s a massive compliment to what we have done.

And how much of Spezial is about reconnecting that older audience and how much of it is about educating the younger audience who have only recently discovered adidas?

That’s a really good question actually, because my whole thing is that if I can get it right with those core purists, then it will resonate beyond that. We had a really interesting scenario which was a real indicator of where things were going. Palace were working on their first collection around the time that I was working on the first Spezial collection and they were in the adidas showroom over in East London for a meeting. I’d had to pop over there to collect my PR samples and they’d not seen my samples. When I opened the box and I pulled the samples out they got very animated about it – I’d go as far as to say that they were gobsmacked by it. They’re from the opposite end of the country, they come from a skateboard background, they’re a lot younger than me, but they got it immediately, they totally got it. I had Lev texting me last week asking me when he can get hold of the Beckenbauer tracksuit. They really dig it and that’s cool for me because what I didn’t want this to be was to be seen as a football casual section of adidas. I don’t want to pigeonhole it, it’s not about that. If a football audience buy into it, great, but a big part of ’80s casual fashion was that we took things that weren’t meant for us and adopted them. If I can see guys who go to football matches wearing this stuff, alongside young kids who go skateboarding wearing this stuff, alongside fashionistas wearing this stuff, then I am cool with that. I like the idea.

That’s why when we did the shots with Kevin Cummins there was a lot of thought that went into the casting. I wanted to use people from different generations, different disciplines, but the commonality between all of the people that Kevin shot is that they’re people who I respect for their talents. They’re not the sort of famous-for-being-famous people by any means. Some of them are less obvious choices and there’s certainly choices that sportswear brands would traditionally approach to represent them. When we started doing the project, the first four people we shot were all over the age of 50 and I was like “We’d better get some younger people in hadn’t we!” [laughs], but for me the people who are of real cultural significance to me – a lot of them are a lot older now. When we were shooting Don Letts he said “We’re finding ourselves in a situation now where the parents are bigger rebels than that kids, which is the first time in history that’s happened!” It’s certainly the first time in history where people who are in their late ’30s and early ’40s are into casual wear and sportswear. Despite what certain corners of the fashion media try to tell us about “Once you’re over the age of 30 you should not be wearing trainers, you should be wearing tailoring and a cravat” or whatever nonsense they try and perpetuate, that’s not the reality. The reality of it is, there’s a lot of guys over 30 who still love casual wear. They are incredibly discerning and incredibly sophisticated in their tastes, but their taste and lifestyle doesn’t necessarily lend itself to trying to gentrify their look and styling.

I can see now the whole thing of us adopting expensive brands in our styling when we were younger was incredibly subversive. There was something tongue in cheek about it but we also took clothes and brands that were associated with the wealthy and made them our own. When we were wearing Burberry jackets when we were 15, 16 years old, they were clothes that weren’t for kids who’d grown up on council estates and in terraced houses. Deerstalkers? Flared cords? Ski hats? Things were re-appropriated and presented in ways that no one would have considered before. That was part of it. We were taking those things and we were changing the context of them. And it was the same with sportswear – this stuff was being designed for running geeks in Switzerland or whatever, they weren’t thinking that it was gonna be kids running around at football matches or all night raves wearing that stuff and wanting those things for their aesthetic value as much as their technological properties. With Spezial, it’s not aimed at any particular audience. On the whole I find it off putting when brand’s are really overt about who they are setting out to ‘target’.

Another thing that’s interesting about Spezial is that it seems the idea behind it was less about looking towards the marketplace and more about looking towards the brand itself and its own ‘personality’. We touched on this briefly earlier, but adidas have been firing all cylinders lately in regards to huge names from popular culture, with a lot of them either being from or heavily involved in American popular culture such as Pharrell, Kanye, Rita Ora etc. How does the Spezial collection fit in with or counter that strategy at adidas?

First thing you said was really interesting and is a really good point. You’ve picked up on the fact that this is not a consumer-led range. It’s a brand-led range, which is a very rare thing in the current market. Most brands are constantly trying to second guess what consumers want. The reality is that a lot of customers don’t always know what they want until they actually see it. If you had spoke to a guy who was listening to progressive Rock music in January 1976 like Genesis, Yes and Emerson Lake and Palmer, and you were to ask him if he wanted Punk Rock he wouldn’t have known. He didn’t know he wanted the Sex Pistols and The Clash until the Sex Pistols and The Clash appeared and I believe it’s a similar thing with this.

A lot of the things that adidas has done historically that I’ve really respected is where it’s just gone “This is what we’re doing, make of it what you will”. There are a ton of less confident brands who must look at the market and say “Well, there seems to be a trend for xyz, therefore we should try and do a version of it because there’s obviously money there”. It’s like, no. It’s having confidence and belief in your own brand personality and having the confidence to stand in that. It’s almost like brand self esteem. It’s like “We’re adidas. This is who we are. This is what we do”. When I started this I examined the idea of personality and identity because I kept banding around internally this idea of needing to go back to the brand’s core identity and it was like “Well what is that identity?”. I thought about myself and where my identity came from – it came from where I grew up, where I was born, how I was brought up and where I grew up. That’s what formulated my personality. So I applied that to a brand and I started to then think about aspects of German culture that I’m a fan of; the Bauhaus, adidas, Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter, Kraftwerk, LA Düsseldorf, Neu, Bowie and Iggy’s Berlin period … the list is pretty impressive. As I said to someone last week, no Kraftwerk, no Hip-Hop.

All this great stuff that has come out of Germany that have been incredibly influential on global culture. That was what I went back to to take inspiration from. I just thought that I’d rather do this as I want to do it and have it fail than go out and put something out their that’s a compromise. This is something that I’ve always wanted to do and I’ve worked with adidas now for 16 years … I’ve always wanted to have a go at doing something like this. It just feels like, for whatever reason, the timing for this couldn’t really be better.

Like I said earlier, it’s contrarian, it’s against the grain of what’s happening, certainly in streetwear culture. It’s completely unrelated. I feel we’ve achieved what we set out to achieve. adidas America didn’t range the first season of Spezial – maybe it isn’t their aesthetic but that’s not to say that I wouldn’t want to see it available eventually on some level in America. I would love to see it out in America, but I’m not trying to try and second guess their taste and pander to that if I feel that would compromise what it is. The way it’s gone in the UK so far is really positive … There’s an adidas collector’s site called ATM and some of contributors to the exhibition in Manchester are from ATM and they’re calling the 25th of October “The Battle of Oi Polloi” because basically there’s gonna be an overnight queue from all over the UK waiting for this stuff to go on sale the morning after the Spezial exhibition private view. I don’t know if Oi Polloi are actually prepared for what’s going to happen. But I find that exciting. Brands like Bathing Ape, brands like Stüssy, brands like Neighborhood, those guys created something that has now become a bit of a formula for other brands within streetwear. You’ve got all these brands that try and take that formula to replicate the success that they saw those brands have and for me, this is completely removed from all that. It’s ploughing it’s own furrow.

Interview Gary Aspden on Spezial and the globalisation of culture by The Daily Street 04

So do you think that adidas have been too shy with their German heritage in recent years?

Umm I don’t know about too shy. They might not see the beauty in it the way I see the beauty because sometimes when you’re too close to something, you don’t appreciate it in the same way. I don’t know really, I can’t really answer that, but like I say, for me personally I see a lot of beauty there. The other big reference for the collection is my own upbringing really. A lot of the stuff that’s in the collection is inspired by my own personal experiences. Like I say, it’s a fantasy of Europe, it’s not a Europe that exists any more. So when I do the patch hoodie, that was inspired by me inter-railing in the ‘80s and the student kids you used to see on the trains would have these patches of cities they’d been to all over their rucksacks. I didn’t want to make something that looked like a pseudo-vintage piece, but it was like “Well let’s do a series of graphics that reflect that”, so it’s got Black Forest, Swiss Alps etc and the different languages. That was where the inspiration point came from. Then it was like “Let’s make them off-white and charcoal grey. All monotone”, so we produced the graphics and the patches, I’d designed the hoodie and then it was like “Where am I going to stick these?”. I was playing around with it for a couple of weeks and then I saw an image of Ian Brown’s money t-shirt and I was like “That’s the place for it, isn’t it”. When Ian saw this for the first time, the first thing he said was “My money t-shirt” [laughs]. Luckily he really liked it and seemed pleased that I’d taken inspiration from it. But yeah, it’s a Europe that probably only exists in my mind.

You mentioned earlier that the collection drew from archive pieces and archive digging. Did you start this knowing which pieces you wanted to work with or was it a case of going and finding inspiration in the archive?

The first season was a very steep learning curve. There was just a lot of stuff I’d never considered. I’m the spokesperson for this but there’s a team of people that supported me doing this. I went to my good friend and mentor, Kenneth Mackenzie, who gave me my first break in this industry when I worked at 6876 as an intern before I was at adidas. I went straight to him when I got sign-off on this to ask for his advice on fabrics. I told him what I was thinking about and he gave me some helpful input. Then it was a case of it looking at how my ideas could sit together as a collection. The pullover ‘Tockholes’ jacket was originally in purple and the team in Germany were like “Gary, but if you do that in purple, it’s not gonna sell. Everything else will sell and that won’t” and I was like “Yeah, but I like it in purple” and they’re like “Yes, but that’s not the way retailers buy things”. I was very naive really because I’ve not put a collection together before. I got guidance from other people from adidas and we reduced the colour palette.

I would take a piece like the Colorado hoodie and I would go “Taking that off [points to the Trefoil], what is it about that that makes it adidas?”. It’s the construction. So that [points to the construction on the archive Colorado hoodie] goes to that [points to the construction on the Spezial Tockhole Pullover Jacket]. Clean it up, change the fabrics, change the fastenings, turn it into an outerwear jacket with a detachable hood. That [points to the Colorado hoodie] becomes a starting point, but what comes out the other side is something that’s very different to that. Or this piece [picks up a navy vintage track jacket]. As we see it in a second hand shop, I’m not gonna wear that in 2014, but I take that and it becomes that [points to the Spezial Touring Jacket]. I put storm cuffs in it, I get rid of the piping, I change the fabric, half lined inside, proof cotton, sneaky little bit of branding here [points to the button on the collar] which is detachable. The amount of technical jackets I’ve had that I’ve ruined with pin badges … so that’s something that I’ve built into the range.

Another interesting part of this collection is your focus on the tracksuit. Where has that come from?

I think the tracksuit is a mens wardrobe essential. I think it’s something that’s been demonised by the mainstream media. I don’t think those people necessarily understand it. I like to wear tracksuits on long distance flights. I like to wear tracksuits on a Sunday afternoon. But I want a tracksuit that when I wear it I don’t necessarily look like I’ve just come out of the gym, and I don’t necessarily look like I’m trying to dress like a teenager. So basically, I wanted to reclaim the tracksuit. I don’t even like to call them tracksuits, I call them leisure suits because the word tracksuit implies it’s going to be used on a track and this isn’t. The term sportswear has become this catch-all term that’s used by the fashion media for anything that’s brightly coloured or made of fleece. They’re like “Oh it’s sportswear!” and it’s like saying that anything that comes down a catwalk is couture – it’s become this catch all term. When it comes to brands like adidas and their rivals, we invest in new technology and innovation so have earned the right to use the term sportswear. This isn’t sportswear, this is leisurewear. adidas tracksuit boxes in the ‘70s would say sports and leisure wear. That was when Adi Dassler was alive and they made stuff like the Freizeit range, which is the German for ‘free time’. So it’s not pretending to be sportswear. It’s archive inspired, it’s sports inspired, but it’s more inspired by our history in leisurewear than it is our history in sportswear. It has the comfort of sportswear, but it’s got more maturity and sophistication about it.

Is that another contributing factor to why there’s a lack Three Stripes on the products?

First season, I didn’t want to use the Three Stripes on anything. I wanted to see if I could create a range where it’s got the brand identity without necessarily using the Three Stripes. It can almost become lazy, where it’s like “Well I’ll just put Three Stripes on and it will make it adidas”. I thought “Let’s leave that off and let me challenge myself to see if I can make something that looks adidas without that” and so I take that [points to another archive jacket] and I do it in a luxury Italian wool, I put a lining in it. You put your hand in the pockets and you know you’re wearing luxury because they’re velvet lined pockets. These little touches, I’ve sort of borrowed. I look at luxury brands more than I look at fashion brands for inspiration. This reflective is by a company from Paris called JRC [points to the collar on the Spezial Beckenbauer Jacket]. They measure the reflectiveness in candles. Standard reflective is about 30 candles … this is 400 candles. It’s 13 times more reflective than standard reflective fabrics. It’s £28 a metre. So basically, I’ve taken that [points to the archive jacket] and totally luxed it up. It’s a serious tracksuit – it’s a £420 tracksuit. The interesting thing is that for the second season I was asked to see if I could come up with one tracksuit at a slightly lower price point which I did and the more expensive tracksuit in the second season sold much better. i believe the guy that’s buying this wants something that clearly differentiates himself from the look of sportswear that’s currently out there. There’s method in it all. There’s thought that’s gone into all of this. I’ve had a long time to think about it [laughs].

It’s interesting what you’re saying about the Three Stripes, almost as if it’s too effective a piece of branding …

It’s a blessing and a curse. What happens with the Three Stripes, and working with the company as long as I’ve worked with them I’ve seen this happen, it has periods where it becomes quite saturated out there with it and then there’ll be a backlash and it slows down for a while. Then after a fallow period you see it again and it looks as fresh as it ever did and becomes popular all over again. It sort of ebbs and flows. I love the Three Stripes, I love it, and I love the Trefoil. I think the Trefoil is the greatest graphic by any brand, ever. I don’t care what anybody says. That Trefoil is just beautiful. It just looks natural, organic, I love it. But I wanted to put the product before the branding. The branding is sort of the cherry on the top. The icing on the cake. And to use branding where I feel it’s appropriate to use it rather than just mindlessly put it on to everything. Even the things like the Spezial box logo, that’s inspired by the adidas Adventure logo from the ‘90s and also the tongue label of the Handball Spezial shoes.