Gary Aspden, adidas consultant, expert, collector and all round obsessive is the man behind adidas Spezial. In concrete three-dimensional form Spezial presents itself as an exhibition of over 600 deadstock, collaborations, rarities and one-offs. Using his own sizeable hoard as a starting point, Aspden contacted fellow enthusiasts around the world, bringing together a collection that would have any fan drooling on their shell toes. A mission in itself, the exhibition spawned a rather special collector’s catalogue. Aside from neat rows of some superb examples, personal stories from the likes of Ian Brown, Jeremy Scott, Shaun Ryder, Peter Saville, Vicky McClure, Goldie, Kazuki, Yohji Yamamoto and DMC shed light on the brand’s continued allure. So, naturally, we had some questions and Gary was good enough to take time out from overseeing the launch at Hoxton Gallery to answer them. Get to know Spezial at the click and check the gallery for our tour of the exhibition.
adidas Spezial – Hoxton Gallery, 9 Kingsland Road London, E2 8AA 19-27 July
Images:Ivan Ogilvie/Selectism.com. Group Portrait:adidas
-Before you joined adidas, what did the brand mean to you – especially
Growing up in the ’80s in the North West of England adidas was a staple – and still is. Lots of sportswear brands (and casualwear brands) came and went but adidas were constantly coming up with new ranges and never lost their relevance.
adidas kind of became part of the identity of working class kids and that legacy seems to have endured. This was all going on long before trainers were embraced by the mainstream in the ’90s. We had our own subculture I guess – the fashions weren’t music related, none of the bands we followed really dressed like us at that time. I personally loved electro and early rap music but American style was basketball led and those shoes weren’t readily available to us. I got into Hip Hop around 1981 and Superstars didn’t really arrive in the UK until the late 80s. I remember buying a pair of RUN DMC Ultrastars in Geese in Manchester around 1989, although to be honest it was an impulse buy. I had years of watching Hip Hop videos and seeing people in shell toes that I was unable to buy (we used to improvise with adidas Centurys) so I had to have a pair. Although, at that point in my life I was also going to Acid House parties in brightly coloured adidas Torsion running shoes…
-What was the shoe when you were a kid?
There was a time in the early ’80s where pretty much everyone I knew under the age of 21 had a pair of adidas Samba. Gazelles were massive too. Everyone would mythologize about pink Gazelles as they were only available in blue, red or green. All the peg shoes (LA Trainer, SRS, etc) and those flat suede training shoes were popular – I remember the grey Madeiras and brown Samoas which we used to call ‘poor man’s Gazelles’ as they were a fiver cheaper at the time. My favourite shoes of that era were probably Marathon TRs which I used to wear around 1985 and have periodically returned to many times over the years – they bridge the gap between the simple aesthetic beauty of classic 70s adidas shoes and the more techy look that came through in the 80s. I also love both of the ZX ranges although the first ZX range is my favourite of the two.
-How did the initial idea of the book come about?
We put it all together relatively quickly for various reasons – timing of the exhibition, resource/budget, etc. It could easily have been a coffee table book had we had more time and the inclination to do such a thing but it’s a bottomless topic once you start. It’s like you could always add more to it – that’s why we called it ‘incomplete’ – there is no finish line on a project like that unless you consciously set yourselves one.
I spent a weekend driving around the North in a van with Gary Watson (the graphic designer) to the various locations where my trainers are kept and then filled Lee Stanley’s (the photographer) garage. We set up a makeshift studio in Lee’s house where all the shoes were shot. Lee was terrified that someone would find out that the shoes were there! Once they were shot they came down to London and shot Robert Brooks, Noel Gallagher’s and Mikey Chetcuti’s shoe in my office. I was happy to work with Gary and Lee as I knew them both from growing up – Gary used to go to Europe to get hold of adidas trainers and Lee was the DJ at the Sett End and the Blackburn raves in the late ’80s.
Gary Watson had a holiday booked right in the middle of it all so Lee Smith and KB (two young heads from Manchester) stepped in and finished bringing it to life. I personally had to copy edit the bulk of it as the copy editor needed to have knowledge of the products to ensure that they were correctly named. Horrendous job.
-How has getting 650 pairs of shoes under one roof been?
That was the fun bit – far more preferable than creating the catalogue. We had to edit about 300 pairs out which wasn’t easy.
-Which particular models were you really excited to find?
It was nice to combine mine and Robert’s vintage ZX shoes, although Robert is the man when it comes to vintage ZX.
-Meeting and talking to collectors, has there been a common thread
that has brought them back to adidas again and again?
Because it’s the greatest sportswear brand of all time? For me, it is more culturally relevant than any other brand.
-Interesting to see people’s approach to collecting when it comes to
footwear. Did you find the real hardcore fans generally kept them
boxed or wore them out and about?
A bit of both. I have some unworn shoes but many of my collection have been worn (unless they aren’t my style that I just kept for posterity because I worked on them). Robert Brooks and myself were discussing this as he has a few vintage pairs that he has only worn once or twice so they have been christened but have then gone back
into the box. If you aren’t going to wear them then maybe look to collect something else.
-The book/exhibition is packed full of examples from well-known faces,
who really stood out as an adidas obsessive?
Robert Brooks is number one. He’s the only person I know whose collection is on a par with mine. Noel Gallagher has a great collection although he gave a number of pairs to his local charity shop in 2005. I don’t relate to that kind of behaviour but he said he wanted to put them ‘back into circulation’ – we have had some laughs about that one. Noel has 6 lock ups full of anoraks, trainers, artworks and platinum discs. Ian Brown’s adidas collection is pretty huge and he has the best BAPE archive of anyone I know.
-What’s your favourite from your own personal collection?
I love the FAC51-Y3 crib shoes – it meant a lot to me that adidas made those especially for my son. I don’t really have one favourite – that’s like asking a music fan for their favourite album.
-Is there a shoe you’ve yet to track down?
ZX802 – I’d love a pair of those.