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Tuesday night, adidas cut the ribbon on its four-floor, 45,000-square-feet space with a welcoming event that saw DJ Esco emceeing an evening of festivities. Other guest appearances included rappers Desiigner, Joey Bada$$ and members of the Pro-Era crew and Dave East; singers Justine Skye and Madison Beers; and supermodel Karlie Kloss.

The sprawling, stadium-inspired space features several elements that are a very deliberate throwback to high school days: staircases with fence-detailed railings, a set of mock bleachers, even areas labeled “The Track,” “The Turf” and “The Stands.”

For adidas, the decision to use stadiums as a design touchpoint was an attempt to appeal to the consumer in an authentic and nostalgic way. Paul Gaudio, the brand’s Global Creative Director was one of the driving forces behind the new store. We caught up with him at the opening to chat about the brand’s newest retail venture, why Futurecraft matters and what we can expect over the next few years.

How did a high school stadium end up being the inspiration behind the store design?

Personally I have spent a lot of time in my life in high school stadiums. What strikes me is that they are kind of a microcosm of sport and youth culture. You have what goes on out on the field as an element of the experience, with people trying to create and make a name for themselves – athletes trying to make plays and make something big happen.

You also have people training in between. Although you have Friday night football, during the week you have practice and training going on and people on the field working hard by themselves or in team settings.

Then, you go behind or on top of the bleachers and you have a whole different culture. You might have kids hanging out or kids smoking pot – that’s a whole different environment but it’s all a part of the whole culture of sport. We just wanted to tap into that culture as a brand and took a lot of inspiration from that.

You studied industrial design before coming to adidas in 1992, you then left to work in motorcycle design. Did that departure and return influence a new design approach?

The biggest influence I took away was being close to business. As a designer in a startup I found myself very close to business. Every aspect of a startup involves business: running it, raising capital, and trying to keep it alive and develop the product to create something new.

It was a great challenge and it was that sort of access and connection to business that made me realize that if we can bring design closer to business at adidas, we can have that same kind of dramatic effect that shape things beyond what shoes and shirts look like; we could actually influence how the business runs.

Essentially, I realized the power of design and business combined. When I came into this role one of the first things that we focused on as a brand was: how do we bring design into the business? At first it was more separate but my desire was to create an environment where designers could start to understand business and solve problems using design techniques.

The other side of it is that motorcycles are objects of passion or desire, but they are also objects of performance and function. When you put those two things together it’s the same as talking about what we do at adidas.

You buy a motorcycle because you love the way it looks and you want to park it outside the café and drink your coffee and look at it and admire it, but at the same time, you want it to be able to perform well. It makes a statement about you and your passion and what you think about the world in general. I think motorcycles and clothes are connected in that sense because function and style matters; you can’t separate those ideas and that’s what we really focus on here.

What is Futurecraft and why does it matter?

Futurecraft is just an idea, it’s not a concrete thing; it’s basically a journey that we all kind of go on. It’s a journey of exploration. It’s a bunch of questions, it’s trying things, it’s making things, it’s breaking things. It’s a way that we can shape what comes from modern technology, modern process and material, to innovate the future. We ask, “how do we bring that into a world where people wear things?”

You wear things on the field for a basketball game or football game, but you also wear things in the hallway or street. It’s a very personal and intimate experience. Technology can be very cold and inaccessible sometimes, but clothing is different. Futurecraft brings those things together. We want to bring the most innovative material to the apparel and footwear game and shape it in a way that is accessible, wearable, familiar and comfortable. That is what Futurecraft is about.

We have massive teams of people who live in the future. We all live in the future because our product creation process starts 18 or 24 or 36 months ahead. We also have teams of people who are working five, six, seven, eight, even 10 years into the future – they don’t have a timeline for what they’re looking at.

It’s that idea of living in tomorrow that allows us to ask a lot of questions and bring things back into the process of Futurecraft.

How do you think approaching design from the “Futurecraft” perspective will actually influence the future?

What we all love about Futurecraft is that it does not try to prescribe the outcome; it is not a set of rules. What I try to influence is the process and the questions that people ask. The answers come from 650 talented design people around the globe.

We need to ask the right questions. If we do that and pull from the right places then we have great ammunition to innovate and inspire. I don’t want to shape that outcome; I want to shape that process. That’s how I see my role as different than a conventional creative director.

You once said that, “designers tend to be copycats,” what are the strengths and drawbacks of that reality as applied to your work?

First of all, I think that statement was taken out of context but I’m not taking it back. What I meant is that we are all inspired by everything around us. Designers are trained to be observers, culturally and functionally. We use everything that comes to our brains as ammunition to create the next great idea. So if I say we are copycats it is because we see things that work and that influences and impacts us to then build on that idea.

And that’s okay, that’s how it should work. Not everything is a clean sheet of paper that has never been done before. We don’t live in a vacuum, we live in a world where we are surrounded by influence and input – it’s what you do with it that matters. It’s not where it comes from or what the original attempt was, it’s what you do with the things you learn. So really, we don’t copycat, we draw from experiences and build.

What’s in store for adidas?

We are very consciously on a journey, a journey of discovery. That might sound silly but we see adidas as a work in progress. We are a brand that is alive: we are living, moving, growing and changing. We are a part of culture, so culture influences us. We also drive culture, so we influence culture too.

This idea of a journey and where it takes us in the future is kind of unknown. We have an innovation road map up until 2022, but that’s not how we work, that’s an opportunity for us, yes, but we’re not beholden to it. We live in a world full of people and culture and passion and sport and art and design. That influences every step that we take. Tomorrow for me is 2022 and there is so much ahead even after that.

Words by Stephanie Smith-Strickland
Contributor
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