It's hard to imagine a world where sneaker collaborations don’t exist. In the past decade, we've witnessed the scale of creative partnerships get bigger and bigger, and the products they produce get wilder. Between Virgil Abloh's Off-White™ x Nike "The Ten" – and later "The 50" – Heron Preston's Mercedes collaboration, and Aimé Leon Dore's Porsche 911SC, the possibilities are endless.
It feels like we've seen it all, but in reality, we've barely scratched the surface. If you've ever wondered what a collaboration between a sneaker brand and furniture company would look like, look no further than Reebok x Eames Office.
In the furniture game, Eames products are legendary. The brainchild of American designers Charles and Ray Eames, the brand is heralded for making significant historical contributions to modern furniture design.
Over the last few years, Leo Gamboa has been the mastermind behind some of the brand’s best collaborations. He’s also the man responsible for bringing Eames into the fold. For Reebok’s senior global product marketing manager, Eames is a personal passion. As a collector of the brand, Gamboa finds himself enriched in its history, making this collaboration a dream project.
With the release of the first drop upon us, we picked Gamboa’s brains to find out how Reebok x Eames came to be.
Before seeing the sneakers, it's hard to picture what a Reebok x Eames collaboration could look like. Why was Eames, a furniture brand, the right partner for a sneaker collaboration and vice versa?
Brands have referenced the history of Eames in the past, but this is the first time Eames itself is stepping into the footwear category. With the growing importance of merging fashion, art, and design, it was only right to explore this opportunity today.
Personal social curation is on another level right now, and I think this type of collaboration is a great, innovative way to cross-market and look for ways to connect and educate. The world of collaboration is expanding so much that everyone's looking for these new ways of storytelling, so the timing of everything is just perfect.
When you put it like that, the crossover makes perfect sense. So how did the Reebok x Eames collaboration come to fruition?
I've been collecting Eames furniture for many, many years now, and through my journey of learning the history of the family, Reebok x Eames is something I've always wanted to do.
I always used to try to go to the house, but you have to make an appointment. So I randomly drove there one day and kind of just strolled in and had a very nice chat with someone at the foundation and introduced myself. I explained how big a fan I am of the brand’s history and the story of Charles and Ray. I told them I'd love to collaborate with them and the rest is history.
How were the silhouettes used chosen, and how were the colorways and patterns matched with them?
We looked to identify the key models to help align the storytelling. The Club C is obviously one of our most popular heritage models – it's clean, classic, and has a simple execution, making it a great canvas to work with.
Going through the archives, we wanted to get stuff that consumers can identify really quickly because not everyone knows about Eames. So if you pick something too niche, it would be hard for them to identify. For the first drop, we envisioned the Eames staff all in uniform. We wanted to create a studio shoe for every day, and that's where you get the simplistic black and white designs.
As we move forward in the project, each model is specific to certain stories. For example, the dot pattern which will appear in a later drop is a super-popular textile from 1947 that is synonymous with the brand. Similarly, Ray Eames' 1939 composition painting worked perfectly as a sublimated print. There's always the connection. We're not going to do things that aren't authentic.
The Club C definitely gives you a clean foundation to work from. What would you say the Eames furniture equivalent of the Club C is?
I would easily say that the Club C can be compared to a shell chair. Both are simple, classic executions with timeless lines. It's kind of like your everyday shoe, and the shell chair is just your everyday chair. It's in your kitchen, in your living room, it's in your guest bedroom, in the airport, it's everywhere.
There's certainly a through-line, design-wise, between footwear and furniture. What are some overlaps between both communities?
Everything is super-connected. People are doing collaborations with car brands. Ten, maybe, 15 years ago, who would have thought that there would have been co-branded Porsches and BMWs in the world? It's the evolution of our market and how we expand, and I feel like the world of collaboration has just started.
It's just going to keep growing, and every season you're going to see new, unexpected stories. Unexpected is what people are looking for right now. They want to be surprised.
Reebok x Eames is certainly an unexpected project. As more product stories are shared, what is your ultimate goal?
This is a three-season program, so there are more beautiful stories to come. We want to just make quality products that the consumer sees as timeless. Ten years from now, you won't regret buying it. Ten years from now, you'll cherish it. Ten years from now, it could be sitting on your shelf as a collector's piece.
Before you go, what's your favorite pair?
On this first drop, it's got to be the black shoe. It's simple and super strong.
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