Gary Aspden started his journey with Adidas UK in the mid 90s where he worked with entertainment marketing and was later promoted to the Global Marketing Team. Aspden subsequently went freelance and has initiated many amazing marketing projects for adidas, such as the global launch of adidas Originals, the European launch of Y3 and collaborative projects such as Bathing Ape, Kazuki for Originals by Originals and many more. Since 2014 Aspden has curated the adidas Spezial collection as a brand consultant and designer. We at Sneakersnstuff are very excited for the upcoming adidas Spezial Spring/Summer 2016 collection and took therefore the opportunity to talk with Gary Aspden about how the process was like creating this Spezial collection and many more.
What’s the source of inspiration for this first drop of the upcoming adidas Spezial SS16 Collection?
With adidas Spezial it has always been about adidas referencing itself through my lens. We wanted to create a modern range with echoes of the traditional adidas sensibility and aesthetic. We examined the idea of brand identity and how the formulation of identity comes from one’s roots, experiences and background. Applying that philosophy to the adidas brand meant that all the references certainly in the establishment of this range needed to be essentially European – as that’s where it all started and was born out of.
For the first couple of seasons the design references and inspirations were Germanic and Austrian but we wanted to create a collection that acknowledged the influence of France in the brand’s history. We set out to marry up the understated style of the French with the iconic adidas aesthetic. From a personal perspective I have always been a fan of the way the French exude effortless style. I am also very fond of that part of the world after spending a lot of time around the South of France on my inter-railing excursions as a youth.
In this collection there are old models coming back to life, but also new models that never have seen the light until this release. How was the process recreating and creating this models?
The two shoes I am possibly the most proud of are the Lacombe SPZL and the Cote SPZL, both of which are hybrids that were created by me and the team. I personally love the Lacombe SPZL and think it has the potential to go a lot further than Spezial which is essentially a very limited capsule range. It was inspired by an adidas Newcombe that my friend Digger owns. We changed the tooling to an alternative style (Rod Laver Vintage instead of Tobacco) and completely overhauled that shoe by using better materials, removing any padding and substituting some of their weaker elements. The tongue and heel branding on the Newcombe were made of a nasty, cheap green plastic. The Tobacco tooling used on the OG was very different to what adidas currently reissue Tobacco on which also inspired marrying the upper with a different tooling. The final piece in the puzzle of getting that shoe right was to take a few millimetres off the foxing – this was the masterstroke of getting that sophisticated silhouette that the final production version has.
The ZX400 SPZL specs are pretty much 1:1 with the original ZX400 shoe which I borrowed from Robert Brooks (hence the RB on the tongue graphic). Those shoes are such an accurate reproduction – even down to the stitch line below the collar crashing through the third stripe. I love ‘sharknose’ toes on vintage runners like the Boston SPZL from the first season of Spezial but with the ZX400 (as with the New York SPZLs and the Waterproof SPZLs from past seasons) doesn’t have that toe box so despite my temptation to change it we opted to keep it true to its ancestor. The toughest thing with any reissues are the limitations of tooling availability coupled with the availability of the right lasts. The last will ultimately determine the look of the upper shape. As we have a limited number of sample rounds we sometimes have to kill Spezial shoes after the first sample as we get a strong indication that within the timelines and resources that we have available we will never get the shoe close enough to the look we are trying to achieve.
What sneaker has been the most difficult to recreate?
These were all fairly smooth in their creation. The Cote SPZL was tough because there are so many versions of the adidas ‘Beach’ that inspired them. We had 3 versions for reference and I believe that what we have created a look better than any of the OGs. ‘Purists’ may disagree because they always defend all things vintage but I consider myself a purist and I sincerely believe these are better.
How true are the recreated models to the original ones?
The only thing that differs between adidas 350 SPZL and OG adidas 350s that were made under license in Japan is that the Spezial version is made of much better leather.
The blue Hochelaga SPZL are pretty much 1:1s of adidas Montreals. There is perhaps the slightest difference on the tooling but it really is so, so minimal. The grey Hochelaga SPZL are a colourway that the Montreal was never originally made in and I thought we should try a grey translucent sole. It worked so we kept them in.
What is the most exciting thing with this release?
It is always great seeing the response from true adidas fans. The Internet and social media can be an ugly place so to get so much love and positivity about the range is a buzz… The most exciting thing is always getting a few pairs of trainers and some great new clothing for myself to wear. Never forget that I too am a huge fan of the brand – and I believe people who buy the range somehow trust that and know that I do my utmost to make these products as good as they can possibly be.
The adidas Spezial Spring/Summer collection will be released at Sneakersnstuff March 19th.