From the ground up

After having presented earlier this week an interview with Verbal, about his new partnership with Reebok Classics, we of course also had to follow up with Swizz Beatz at the Tokyo launch of the Reebok Reethym Of Lite campaign. The news of him joining Reebok came as a big surprise, but after having talked to him, it makes all much more sense. He likes a challenge and is continuously involved in creative partnerships these days. After having worked with Louboutin and Audemars Piquet he moves onto Reebok and Lotus this year.

What exactly is his involvement? Does he see himself as a designer? What will we be seeing from Reebok and Swizz in the coming months? All that and more you can read about in the interview here below.

Highsnobiety: How did this creative partnership between you and Reebok come up. How did you two collaborating even become a topic?
Swizz Beatz: The collaboration between me and Reebok started off because of a mutual friend. I was looking to do an endorsement to reach the younger culture. After Louboutin, I wanted to touch a younger audience. I went into a first meeting, where 5 people were sitting in front of me, writing down every word I was saying. I was like ‘Ok…’. It just went off from there and instead of an endorsement deal, I wanted to do something that I can stand behind and really have an impact on. I wanted to change the brand, be on the creative director side and have impact globally. I have to have the freedom to do that and be able to show results.

H: What is your personal history with the Reebok brand?
S: I am a fan of Pumps, Classics… Reebok was always one of the most comfortable sneakers you could wear. People started looking less at comfort, but we have that plus of being able to do both. That thinking was already re-introduced with the Zig and I want to re-introduce it on the lifestyle side.

Read the full interview after the jump.

H: It is much more than an endorsement deal. What does your creative director position with Reebok really entail?
S: It entails a lot of work. I don’t really like titles. I am a partner and everything that is wrong I want to fix. My job is to come up with great concepts that will appeal to masses worldwide. To come up with great designs, also with Verbal, and to create something unique that speaks to different cultures and youth globally. My job is to take this thing up the mountain?

H: Is there some sort of structure to your job? Do you have like a monthly meeting with Reebok?
S: Its a business and there is definitely structure. Wether I go to Boston or they come to NYC, we always make it work. I just had a meeting with the president to check out the new campaigns. Everything is a meeting – me approving or not, keeping on working in certain areas. I am very involved.

H: So you actually touch all areas of the brand, from marketing to design? You add your thoughts everywhere in the chain?
S: Yeah, absolutely.

H: Verbal recently joined the team. Did that come through you?
S: They brought it my way. There were a couple of people that they were looking at and for me Verbal was right away the guy. I knew Verbal for a while through somebody else, Nigo from A Bathing Ape, and I knew Verbal was in the group. I knew he had something special and without actually pinpointing it out, I knew he would be the right fit for Asia. He has not even started yet – he is not scared to take the risk and those are exactly the people that you need. Everybody is scared, so those that are not you need to push.

H: One of the most interesting things that we have been noticing in the fashion industry these past years, is that a lot of brands tend to start these partnerships with non-designers. People that are technically not educated as designers. Nicola Formichetti for Mugler, OC for Kenzo, a heritage high fashion brand. Those are interesting moves. How do you see this trend in general and why do brands hire these people, which seem to give them more than ‘real’ designers?
S: I think technically we are all designers. There are just different forms of design. There is straight cut designers, risk taking designers, creative designers… in the end of the day everybody is a designer, depending on what is needed. Its like me doing music. I don’t play the piano professionally, but I have over 300 Million records sold. Probably the average person that went to school to play piano, cannot even produce one record. I think it is all about how you balance it out. Having no boundaries is in my opinion the best way to be. If you get stuck in your professionally that is the worst, because you go by the book. I am self taught in everything, it comes from an honest eye. The way it has to be is the way you want it to be. Those companies understand that the traditional way is over. Thats why people like Verbal and I are chosen for these things. Those are big business moves. Its like me become vice president at Lotus.

H: Are you maybe more able to speak to the new customer that these brands want to speak to?
S: Being able to reach a certain demographic is certainly a key asset today. And thats why I want to take advantage of this ability and take things to the next level. Thats why we have launched the Kamikaze sneaker and have done something that was completely new to Reebok with the Rhythm of Lite Campaign. If you go on Youtube, its the number one played commercial in the world. Reebok never had that exposure before. And if you talk to the youth today, they tell me that they have not considered Reebok for a long time, but are now wearing the brand again. For the first time since the late 80s and early 90s.

H: The Kamikaze is the one product that best shows your involvement until now. A well designed shoe and a surprise coming from Reebok. How did you work with Reebok on that shoe?
S: I was looking for something that was innovative for the launch of our partnership. Everything is about setting a tone. Me going from Aston Martin to Lotus is the same. People might not understand at first, but these moves give me more space to be creative and to come out with something that the other companies would not allow me. Its more challenging, more fun and it shows my worth. What I come out with Reebok and Lotus is ground-breaking and if its not, than I am not interested, because than its just like another endorsement deal.

H: It needs to be a brand that can technically make it happen, but does not manage to?
S: 100%. I want to bring in new designers, a new approach and make use of the existing resources to bring something truly innovative to the table.

H: How would you compare your Lotus partnership with the one with Reebok?
S: I feel its the same. Another outlet to inspire and to let people know they can do whatever they want to do. If you like cars, make cars, if you like sneakers, make sneakers. I just want to be the renaissance man for my generation. There is no blueprint. There are much more things out there than being a rapper, or a designer. I want people to see that they can also do a lot. Sky is not the limit, it is just the view. We can keep pushing, lets take this to the next level.

H: What are you most excited about in terms of future Reebok product?
S: I am excited about the Basquiat collection. I curated that. Art is my love. It gives me a chance to educate people on art, rather than just selling a product. Art is cool, Basquiat is cool. Maybe Basquiat can inspire you like he did me. He did thins his way. He came from a good family, but still decided to take the hard route and become an artist. ‘If I have to sleep on the streets to do it, I will do it’, Basquiat gave everything for his dream.
We have lots of new interesting and innovative product coming out that you can look forward to!

H: Thanks for the interview and we look forward to see this partnership evolve!

Photography: Highsnobiety

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