Sneakers
From the ground up

In this day and age of the all-conquering YEEZY, Ultra Boost and NMD, there’s no doubt adidas holds the title of sportswear’s hottest brand. Yet that wasn’t always the case, as BuzzFeed investigated in a new long-form article with adidas creative director Paul Gaudio.

As things stand, Gaudio took charge of 650 designers that oversee everything adidas makes — from sneakers and apparel to social media posts. The article explains Gaudio’s backstory and his unorthodox route to power at The Brand With the Three Stripes, which came about by way of a stint at British legacy brand Norton Motorcycles. Rather than performance, adidas now holds a more diverse and fashion-conscientious target audience in mind — even referring to itself as “The Creator Brand.”

After making the bold decision to relocate from Herzogenaurach, Germany, to Portland, adidas’ sales in North America have jumped by at least 20 percent compared with the year previous. Once again, the brand is now the second most popular in the U.S. behind Nike and ahead of the upstarts at Under Armour.

Below are some of the interview highlights:

On revamping the company organizational structure

It’s a collective consciousness rather than a set of directions. The brand is a narrative — it’s an idea that people both inside and outside the company have to buy into. My role is to shape the narrative: ‘What do we stand for? Why are we here? How do we think and feel and act?’

On the rise of athleisure

“The culture of sport is so pervasive that everybody wants to be a part of it in some way or another. The product has to be relevant whether you play or you just like the way it looks and feels.”

On the influence of fashion

“The energies, and enthusiasm, and attitudes of sport — that’s what fuels us. But when you’re on the soccer pitch putting on a soccer cleat, you want the same emotional benefit that you want when you put on a pair of jeans: ‘How does it make me look? How does it make me feel? What does it say about me?’ For me, that has to be the starting point.”

On the Ultra Boost Uncaged’s gestation and how it was influenced by the public

As soon as we saw them doing that, boom, we got it out there. That’s how we want to work, to learn from our consumers and redefine what an adidas running shoe can look and feel like.

On his design philosophy

As a designer, you can geek out on rationality and reduction, but I think that sometimes leaves people cold. What we’re trying to do, and where I think you see the brand changing, is bring in some excitement and more of an eye-opening component to the products.

Set aside some time and read the mammoth piece over at Buzzfeed here, and then check out the latest adidas Consortium effort with Sneakersnstuff.

What To Read Next