If you’ve bought a pair of collaborative or limited edition adidas sneakers in the past few years, chances are Till Jagla and his team had a hand in their release. After 11 years at the Three Stripes, Jagla is leaving the company. Here, he speaks exclusively about his time at adidas, why he’s moving on, and what’s coming up.
For the past three years, Jagla was head of adidas Energy Concepts, a dedicated team at the brand’s Herzogenaurach world headquarters, whose aim was to create concepts and themes around special products that would bring hype to the Three Stripes — everything from collaborative sneakers to special-edition colorways or new models. Some of adidas’ most ambitious projects over the past few years have been a product of the AEC team.
Jagla’s LinkedIn page probably says it best, where he describes the AEC team as: “CONSTANT INJECTIONS OF ENERGY AND HYPE! STORYTELLING AND CONCEPTUAL FRANCHISE MANAGEMENT.”
But before spearheading the AEC project, Jagla worked as a senior category manager and later global director of adidas Originals. Through the years, he’s been involved in countless projects (in various capacities), ranging from adidas SPEEDFACTORY to, more recently, Bad Bunny x adidas.
“I reflected a lot in the last few weeks, as you can imagine, and I came to the conclusion that I'm the most proud of the people I worked with,” he says when asked which of the never-ending projects that his teams worked on was his favorite. “Of course, you probably want a product-centric answer. I’ve seen so many things. I’ve worked on more than 2,000 collaborations. It’s impossible to pick just one project; rather, I like to look back at my time at adidas in chapters.”
The first chapter Jagla highlights is the time between 2014 and 2016 — coincidentally also Kanye West’s beginnings at adidas. “During that time, I witnessed adidas really begin to understand product marketing at a deeper level. Previously, we maybe thought more about product execution and product excellence,” he says, giving an insight into the company’s mindset at the time. “From 2014 on you can really see that product marketing and what marketing means with regards to the consumer, the market, and the industry was more of a priority at the company.”
While Kanye joining adidas and the launch of adidas YEEZY was ultimately what pushed adidas to the forefront of sneaker culture, it’s another project that Jagla remembers most vividly, namely the relaunch of the adidas Originals Stan Smith. “adidas pulled Stan Smith out of the global market. The French team wasn’t happy, as that was by far the biggest franchise in the market,” he laughs. “The team made the decision to clean up the distribution to dry out the market in order to really relaunch that shoe in the most respectful manner.” And dry out the market adidas did. The Stan Smith was relaunched with a bang, and instantly became one of the most talked-about sneakers, treated to several high profile collaborations and undergoing material innovation such as Primeknit and Boost.
“That same season, we brought out the ZX Flux, which, for the modern sneakerhead, probably isn’t the coolest sneaker, but it really taught us a lot,” Jagla reveals. “It showed the team at adidas to look towards the future, because the company — at the time — tended to look more towards the past and try and reinvigorate an existing idea or product.” The adidas ZX Flux was a huge success, comparable to the Nike Roshe Run at the time, and really put adidas on the map with the mainstream consumers.
Jagla’s second chapter shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. It’s all about Boost. “At the time, I was responsible for lifestyle concepts, but Boost was pegged as a performance concept,” he says. “But the team had a feeling that it could become more relevant in the lifestyle market, which had become a bit stale. At that point, we thought Nike had gone a bit stale, and we wanted to capitalize and bring functionality into the market, so adidas came up with the NMD.”
Anyone who was around for the early-day adidas NMD releases and hype will know that the model was like wind in adidas’ already bustling sails. “If you ask me, that was a game-changer,” states Jagla. “And interestingly, at the same time, we repositioned the Ultraboost as a lifestyle sneaker. It was initially built as one of the best running shoes adidas ever created. But, as you know, the biggest chunk of business is made through lifestyle products. And we had the lucky situation that Kanye wore the sneaker in the streets and on stage.” When sneakerheads began to adopt the model as a lifestyle shoe (Sneaker Politics in the US being one of the first retailers to stock it as such), the adidas Consortium team followed suit and gave the model a big lifestyle push through collaborations and special projects.
Kanye poured oil on the fire that was the adidas Ultraboost, resulting in a firestorm of hype that sneakerheads were drawn towards like insects to light. The adidas NMD, Ultraboost, and Kanye’s original YEEZY 350 all featured Boost, and all came out around the same time. “The brand had so much tailwind,” muses Jagla. “The entire industry was attracted to us and it was one of the greatest things to witness. I’m forever grateful to adidas for letting me play a small part in that.”
Jagla tells me that he’s always felt that his team was allowed special leeway by adidas, which he is grateful for. “adidas always gave me the support and trust to experiment. That’s what a lot of these projects are: experiments,” he says. “That leads me to my next chapter: hype.”
When Jagla became the head of the Energy Unit, he wanted to establish the team as a testing ground for special projects. “It got to a point where I was telling people internally, ‘Hey, we need to come up with something very new, something that feels like a small brand, take advantage of a bigger brand, but really brings back that energy, that fire, that mindset, that can-do mentality.’”
Jagla’s team of creatives began by giving us the AriZona Iced Tea x adidas collaboration that was shut down in NYC for selling shoes for 99 cents, and the BVG collaboration with Overkill and the public transport system in Berlin, Germany. Both drops were bona fide successes and gave a glimpse of what Energy Concepts could bring to the table. “Now Energy is a hype creation unit that really puts storytelling at the heart of everything we do,” says Jagla.
Now that Jagla is leaving adidas, he reflects on his time at the Three Stripes and what’s to come. “I think the beauty between adidas and myself was always that they appreciated my hands on mentality, and they gave me all the trust,” he says, a tinge of sadness in his voice. “When I turned 40, I asked myself what I want to do for the next 10 years. Again, adidas x Till is the best collaboration I’ve ever been a part of, but I felt that I could do even more than what I’ve done so far.”
Jagla claims that he’s still adidas through and through, but that he wanted to be able to work more flexibly with other brands, and perhaps push boundaries that corporations aren’t quite ready to push. “I’m still an adidas guy, I love that brand. But I feel like I’m sitting in a golden cage. I have everything I need to do my job, but I have ideas I want to bring to market and possibly realize with other partners,” says Jagla.
As for what’s coming, Jagla can’t reveal everything, but says that education is hugely important to him and will be at the root of everything he does. “The biggest value we have as human beings and individuals is education. I want to help people get information they have never received before. I want to give people access to content they have never seen before. I want to create awareness for topics that are important for people, the culture, for our industry, and maybe even for the planet,” he says.
In typical Till Jagla fashion, he’s set lofty goals for himself, but considering the work Jagla and his teams have put in over the years, it wouldn’t be surprising to see some of these projects come to fruition sooner rather than later.
Before we end our interview, Jagla has some words he wants to share directly with his former colleagues, friends, and family at adidas:
“I have appreciated and enjoyed every second we have had together, all the success stories we have celebrated together; we came up together, it was pure joy to go [on] that journey together with my adidas family. But also I want to address a few words to the external world. For me, it's just important to tell everyone who loves something that's part of our industry, be it shoes, be it fashion, be it resale, be it whatever. Just try to be empathetic, just try to give back, try to contribute to the culture and try to also believe in your dreams, in your vision, because there's no one in the world who you need to ask for [you] to realize your dreams. Believe in yourself, believe in your strengths, believe in your vision, and then try everything you can to make it work, to make it become reality.”
This article was originally published on July 15. It was edited minimally due to certain statements being unverifiable on July 27.