When fashion's titans and the giants of the sneaker industry collide, there's an understandable expectation for greatness – sometimes they knock it out of the park, while at others, they falter at the line.
Given the rich history that weights the heels of many sneakers that brands offer up as a blank canvas – such as Nike's Air Force 1 or the adidas Stan Smith – designers are tasked with striking a delicate balance between celebrating the original silhouette and radicalizing it through their signature design language.
Achieving that balance is what separates the good, bad, and great of designer collaborations, and season-to-season Craig Green has continued to refine and develop concepts towards their peak.
Although his efforts with adidas' flagship silhouettes are yet to miss the mark, Fall/Winter 2022's runway show highlighted a distinct step up – a desire to push the boat out and test the limits of what's possible.
Faced with a whole herd of concept shoes and retail-ready pairs, we spoke to Craig Green to break down FW22's innovative sneaker rotation.
You’ve collaborated with adidas across several seasons now – what is it like working with such iconic silhouettes; does that come with any added pressures?
The great thing about working with adidas is, they have so much history and there are so many iconic shoe silhouettes to work with.
Last season we worked with the Superstar and it's always a bit daunting to work with something that has so much history, because you have to be respectful, of what's great about the shoe, but then also try and push it to do something different, or say something different every time. But that's always the challenge I think. Working within those restrictions is part of what makes it exciting because there are obviously certain iconic aspects of the shoe that you don't really want to change too much.
You want to celebrate them, but you also don't want it to just be another Superstar or another Stan Smith.
The first collaboration that we did with adidas, we started with the Kamanda. That was an interesting one to start with because it's obviously a well-known silhouette from adidas but it's not a Stan Smith or Superstar.
Working with adidas always starts from their history and heritage, and I think that's what I like most about collaborating with them. You have a restriction to work within, and then you have to push it as far as you can.
The Stan Smith featured heavily throughout the show, both as retail and concept pairs. What was that design process like?
We started with the Scuba sole that we did the previous season, for the Phormar. So we started with the sole that we worked on together, and started looking at iconic adidas shapes that could compliment it, and the Stan Smith came up. You could keep the upper almost exact, in some way, yet the sole would change it completely.
From that, we also worked on the show and concept shoes, based around the Stan Smith. It's quite a difficult style to work with, in some way, because it’s so iconic, and there's not too much you want to take away from it.
That’s how we got to the show shoe that’s essentially like a cast – a Stan Smith cast. We thought it was nice that you could still tell what the silhouette was, only by seeing the three stripe perforations that are such an iconic detail.
To achieve the final design, we had a custom cast made from a Stan Smith and created the shoe shape around it. So, actually, you don't ever really see the original shoe or all of the details associated with it, but your foot experiences them. We left the three stripe perforations on the external of the cast, which not only maintained that key detail, but was functional, as it allowed the foot to breathe.
BOOST also featured prominently within the collection, in a way that’s unlike anything we’ve seen before from the material. Why was it chosen, and why did you choose to use it in this way?
I'm such a huge fan of BOOST. I just love the material and where it came from, and where it originated; I think it's such a perfectly functional material. I guess, since working with adidas, we've always steered towards trying to use BOOST in different ways because I just love how it's purely functional.
It’s such a distinct look that trying to disguise it, you ruin the beauty of it. By covering the shoe in the material, the entire silhouette takes on a functional look.
At the moment, it's a prototype, in the way that it was shown in the show. I guess in some way, they're like storytelling, or they're the beginnings of ideas that hopefully, will translate into something that we can bring to market.
There are some clear through lines from previous collections, which elements did you maintain and why?
Definitely, the cording on the Scuba Stan, which we first did on the Phormar, and of course, the Scuba sole. That use of detailing that is both functional and not functional, depending on how you use it is always something that we explore with adidas.
Those cords can be used to tighten the shoe around your foot, and this season, it also became a way to create a branding element on the tongue – the use of strings and cords is something that we always do in our collections as well. We love the way those details look on the sneakers, because they either look like they could be used for something, or they have a functional use, depending on what you'll be using the shoe for.
Still, the collection feels pretty unique from its predecessors, especially where the concept and show pairs are concerned. What new design details or technologies were brought into footwear this season?
For the inflatable boot, the main body of the shoe was created with a latex dip molding factory that specializes in making things for medical use and diving suits. We had the initial parts of the shoe dipped to the “sock,” and then we joined them together, and created an internal insert for the sole. Then we wanted to create something that you could screw onto the outside, almost like a football cleat, but more raw looking.
There's something futuristic about how raw it is anyway. It was less about very modern technology and more about using something simple, like air to support your foot inside the shoe. Essentially, lots of functional elements came together to create something that you could walk in.
That's what's amazing about working with adidas, because they're really open to trying new things and pushing new ideas. Even if, in the early stages, it might not be clear where they will land, in terms of product – but that’s what's great about the collaboration, they’re are all about experimentation, new materials, and new technologies.
Of course, we have to ask. What is your favorite pair from the new collection?
I'm going to say the concept pairs because you don't know if they're going to work. I love that experimentation and development stage.
I think the concept pairs always have the most energy around them at the very beginning because you're constantly trying to work with the adidas team to problem solve and resolve issues that you don't even see coming.