While visiting the adidas headquarters in Herzo, Germany, we had the opportunity to meet adidas Originals Senior Design Director Josefine Aberg, with whom we discussed how brands speak to the female consumer, adidas' collective memory and more.
With multiple sub-lines and tributary collections, not to mention the constantly growing arsenal of collaborations that adidas put out, it's a big job to ensure that there's consistency between all of them. And that's largely the responsibility of Senior Design Director Josefine Aberg. While visiting the adidas headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany, we got the chance to sit down with some of the design team. VP of Product for adidas Originals, Rebecca Jury, gave us her insights into the implications of sportswear's omnipresence and the challenges of redesigning some of adidas' most classic silhouettes, which was appropriate after having just visited the adidas archive.
Likewise, Josefine's comments on the adidas ethos of keeping one foot in the past while always looking towards the future became all the more pertinent after exploring adidas' archive, and it's visible through the brand's relaunch of classic silhouettes such as the Superstar and the Stan Smith. There aren't many sports brands that have such a legacy, and it's impressive to see it cherished throughout all aspects of the company.
With the Three Stripes hurtling full tilt into a domination of the sport - and fashion - industries, it's the perfect time to catch those behind the scenes and find out how this has all happened.
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Josefine Aberg, I’m the Senior Design Director for men's and women's apparel, including accessories and kids.
What are your responsibilities?
To maintain the vision for where we want to take the look and feel of the collection, and where we want to be in the future. Building up the seasonal direction together with the team, finding the stories, finding the fabrications and all the details. Compiling all of the foundations needed in order to build a collection. And then obviously working towards that set vision. We have so many different collections released throughout the year, so my team and I work towards creating a space for each one. Ensuring that they’re not cannibalizing each other but are instead supporting one another.
How does the adidas womenswear line differ to menswear?
We don’t use the menswear templates and translate them into womenswear, instead we create original ones for each line. Some people say, “pink it and shrink it,” but we’re determined to avoid that and instead create products that actually speak to the female consumer, not just create a female version of a menswear piece. Obviously on the footwear side we have a lot of iconic franchises that are unisex, like the Superstar and the Stan Smith. You can’t say whether these are mens or women but it’s interesting to see after relaunching both models that a lot of the sizes ordered in the highest volumes comes from the smaller sizes. It’s clearly the female consumer who’s buying into it.
What’s your personal design philosophy?
Sportswear and streetwear has always been the industry that I’ve been in, and while a lot people believe that streetwear is very urban I think it’s an everyday garment, it’s not created for a fashion show. It’s created to be worn and used by people, and likewise I want to create things that can be worn, used and loved by people. At adidas we talk a lot about a “collective memory,” keeping one foot in the past but looking towards the future. We obviously have a heritage that we want to keep and we want to continue and not walk away from, but we also don’t want to look old or be static. It’s about pushing the boundaries to a new level, but also reaching out to the consumer who feels like they're connected to the brand and understand what we want to communicate. For me, it’s important to create products that people actually want to wear, not just show pieces.
How often do you look to the past for inspiration?
Every season. There are few brands that have this amazing opportunity to access their own brand archive. When talking about our brand identity and maintaining it, there couldn’t any better way to do so than visit our archive for inspiration and combine that with inspiration from the present. Of course we have a huge consumer base who like our archive pieces and somehow I think it’s part of our brand to reintroduce new things. As long as we have a balance of newness it’s a healthy conversation to compare both.
For a brand like adidas with such a rich history it would be a shame to not look back at its past for inspiration and continue that legacy.
Yes, exactly. To work for adidas you have to appreciate the archive otherwise you would not appreciate working here. It would be a shame and a waste of such a huge resource.
You started out as the only woman at WeSC in 2000, how has that experience impacted your general work ethic?
Massively. It was amazing being the only woman! Of course there’s two sides to it. On the one hand it’s challenging, especially as WeSC’s background is skateboarding. It has definitely shaped who I am today, I learnt a lot and it was an amazing journey, and of course I’ve brought all those experiences to adidas, which is a big brand that also has a heritage but in a very different way. Working in a male dominated environment I needed to be more daring and speak up in order to be heard.
What’s the anchor that holds together the womenswear and the menswear?
We talk about an umbrella story for each season where we want to connect things together through a particular similarity. We still have our own retail where we have window displays, in store displays, and although there’s a clear differentiation between mens and womenswear we want cohesion between all the collections. And of course the archive will always connect us, but beyond that we are quite far from each other. That’s a progression in comparison to before where we were a lot more connected to each other.
A brand identity isn’t just about the final product, it’s about so many collective things.
And we have our colleagues in brand communication who are connecting all the dots and conceptualizing how we visually communicate that to the consumer.
With the recent revival of the Stan Smith and now the Superstar, what are some of your favorite iconic adidas pieces, apparel or footwear?
The Stan Smith! That’s one of my favorites, and the Superstar actually. Those are my absolute favorites. I’ve always been wearing them and I always will. There’s something very timeless about them and it goes back to what I said before about this everyday use, where it’s something that always feels right, dressed up or down. These two pieces really show those possibilities, so they’re definitely my all-time favorites. The Stan Smith was even the shoe I was wearing when I came for my job interview at adidas.
Recently there has been so many performance-focused sneaker styles, which is great, but it’s nice to see styles that are more classic.
As you say it’s a refreshing change from the technical, running silhouettes which have been going for some time now. It’s flipping the coin and creating a refreshing look which is amazing considering they’re both archive styles.
adidas has had so many huge names working on collaborations, Raf Simons, Rick Owens, Kanye West, how does adidas maintain its identity throughout?
We just came back from LA from a meeting with Pharrell and it’s obvious that he has a genuine interest in our heritage and what we stand for as a brand. And that may be part of the reason why they’re coming to us, they appreciate our history and want to delve into our archive. Obviously they have their own design philosophy or visual identity that they’re known for, and they bring that to the table in order for us both to create this unique flavor. adidas Originals has such a strong connection with fashion, with music, with art, that’s where we’ve always been and that’s where we came from, and that’s why I think it’s so natural for us to do collaborations with particular people.