While at the adidas headquarters in Herzo, Germany, we had the chance to sit down and speak to Rebecca Jury, VP of Product for adidas Originals Apparel and Accessories, with whom we discussed the implications of sportswear's omnipresence, redefining adidas Originals classics and much more.
Had there been a sneaker zodiac, 2015 would be year of the adidas. The sports brand has never really fallen out of popularity, but now it's been welcomed with open arms into the high-fashion community. Raf Simons, Rick Owens, Juun.J and Yohji Yamamoto are just a handful of high-end designers who have ongoing collaborations with the sports house, producing footwear and apparel that perfectly combine their own individual style with adidas' storied legacy. But it's not just their output that suits high-end fashion, it's high-end fashion that has appropriated some of the brand's most classic styles into their repertoires.
The Stan Smith was officially re-released last summer and has become a regular fixture at fashion weeks, seen on both men and women, regardless of age or personal style. It seems to be the most all-encompassing footwear choice, leaving no demographic of society untouched. And the same goes for the Superstar 80s, with those iconic Three Stripes quickly becoming a trademark of fashion week Street Style Reports.
While visiting the adidas headquarters in Herzo, Germany, we had the chance to sit down with VP of Product for adidas Originals Apparel and Accessories, Rebecca Jury. During our time, we discussed the implications of sportswear's omnipresence, the adidas Originals style and redefining classics.
Please introduce yourself.
My title is VP of Product for adidas Originals Apparel and Accessories.
What were you doing before you started working for adidas?
I've been with the brand for 13 years, 12 of which have been spent with Originals. I started off from the bottom as a Product Manager, working with Footlocker Europe, and then had the opportunity to go to Portland, where I looked after the key accounts for brand apparel over there. Then I was offered the position of Director of Originals for North America. In between I had twins, and took some time off, and then I came back to Germany because I missed products a lot. I was asked to be VP of Women's Product, which I did for a couple of years. There was a restructuring recently, and I became VP of Apparel and Accessories.
So inside and out you are allied with adidas Originals?
I'm a real adidas girl, and I love the brand. I started out in sport performance but I only spent a year there before moving to the blue boxes.
What does your day-to-day entail?
It can vary greatly, depending on where we are in the season. Right now we're preparing for the big global brand conference, which means that we present the Spring/Summer 2016 range to our markets, and then after that our key retail partners. My days at the moment are being spent rehearsing for presentations. We also just received all the samples, so we are going through those to make sure they are up to scratch. Last week I was in LA in the very luxurious position of having lunch with Pharrell to discuss his new collection, and the week before that I was in London, meeting with Rita Ora, who is a key brand ambassador for our women's collection. The days can be exceptionally varied.
How was working with Pharrell?
It was great. He is as nice off-camera as he comes across on-camera. He is totally genuine, loves products, loves the brand. He's a cool guy. In a way, he personifies what adidas Originals is about. He wants classic things but he wants to be able to customize them. He has his own level of creativity.
How do your days now compare to when you were working in product?
When I worked in product, I focused on the individual pieces. Now I set the vision, and then determine the objectives and the strategy in order to achieve those goals. I have a reasonably big team – a very specialized team of experts who makes sure the product is executed in the right way. Back in the day that was what I did.
How does the adidas style translate into accessories?
Essentially it's an extension of the apparel. We need the products we sell to embody our heritage – we are the original sportswear brand. You've seen the archive. We want to make sure that every piece we release, be it a classic or a reinterpreted product, is in line with the story we tell. We are trying to strike the same balance between classic and contemporary influences that you seen in our apparel with our accessories. I believe that accessories are the easiest element of your wardrobe to buy, and I think that you buy them out of love for the brand. That's why we make sure that our accessories are branded, because you want it to represent something.
So you're mostly focused on lifestyle or performance?
Lifestyle. The brief for the team is to make the best sports-inspired streetwear. We have amazing sports and performance departments here that are making the fastest, lightest, most breathable products possible. For us it's more about the aesthetic, but inspired by our connection to sports.
Is there ever any communication between the two departments?
Absolutely. There are a number of collaborations we are working on to take the court to the street, or the catwalk to the field. You'll see more and more of that in the future. Originals working with the basketball category, or the tennis, or the running.
What inspires you throughout the creative process and keeps you moving?
I'm inspired by what's going on in fashion and on the streets. I'm inspired by what happens on the pitch. I'm inspired by our travels, by the design colleagues that we work with.
What about the moment of inspiration? I guess it's kind of intangible, isn't it?
I really do want to create, and, cheesy as it is, I do want to be the number one sports-inspired streetwear brand in the industry. In women's that is what we are already. We're the ones who started it and we can be true to the original.
Everybody always talks about high fashion and sports coming together, but it’s surprising how quickly the Three Stripes have been integrated into everyday wear. A guy at our office regularly comes into the office in track bottoms and it looks great.
We've seen girls wearing our classic Firebird pants with heels. It's fantastic. New York Fashion Week saw high-end designers take inspiration from our Stan Smith last year. It's a good time for us. We've done a number of extraordinary collabs over the last couple of years. The fusion of our best with our partners's best has produced amazing results. Sportswear has become so pervasive. Our work with Topshop is one of, if not the most credible collaborations of its sort.
The whole point of a collaboration is to have two brands come together and produce something new. I feel like so many brands just miss the point by laying themselves over the top of the partner brand. Seeing the first Yohji Yamamoto sneaker that he ever produced for adidas was such a revelation in that regard.
Both sides had so much respect for each other. Yohji loves the sports side of the brand, and he wouldn't try to change that. What he can bring from a high-fashion perspective though is just so cool. Last season we had the Mary Katrantzou collaboration, which was very similar in tone.
Mary Katrantzou is known for her prints regardless, but she went ahead and made special ones for that collection using the trefoil logo. It really was a perfect collaboration.
The collabs that work best are the ones with partners who love the brand as much as we do. The ones that don't work are the ones where one party tries to morph the other into something they're not.
The consumer is usually surprisingly well-clued into that. Last year saw the revival of the Stan Smith, and now the Superstar is making waves again. How do you redefine these classics?
It was hard. The Stan Smith is my favorite shoe of all time. We didn't redefine it. We may have embellished it, or made it relevant to the present day, but really we just celebrated it. There are some franchises that we try to keep up in a respectful way, while still releasing new iterations. It's a balancing act.
You try to reposition it without forcing it into an unnatural realm.
How do you feel about high-end brands dipping their toes into the sneaker market?
I think it's great. It’s expanding the love for sportswear as key fashion pieces, and not everybody can afford the high-end stuff so it opens up new spaces and new distribution for us as the authenticators of it. I don’t see it as competition, a lot of them do copy our key stuff but it’s a compliment.
It’s an interesting change in dynamic where originally the trends trickled down, but now instead we have high-end luxury brands emulating sportswear styles.
It can be difficult from our perspective to therefore manage product life cycles and plan because everything happens instantaneously now. So we really have to be on it to be successful.
What is your favorite adidas Originals piece?
I love the Stan Smith. It was my favorite shoe back in the day, the one with the three velcro straps. I loved it so much that my team made a customized pair for me and my husband so that we could wear it on our wedding day. Even my twin girls have matching pairs.