Saturday, 29 October 2016

Part Two – adidas Archive
Trefoil Square. This giant trefoil is an advertising sign which lights up.

After a coffee we went to the archive and Martin G gave us a presentation about the purpose of it which was extremely insightful.  So what is the archive? It is a collection of adidas articles dating from the pre-war Gebruder Dassler era up until relatively new products. For a shoe fan like me I guess I imagined it as an Aladdin’s cave of lost treasures all waiting to be viewed and touched (but only with special gloves on and very carefully). Actually there is much more to it than that and the archive includes textiles, bags, sports equipment and match balls. There is also a stack of documents (all now scanned into a computer) of catalogues, advertisements, company memos, videos, technical drawings, patents and legal documents. There are even some handwritten notes from Mr Dassler and a short sound recording of him speaking (the only known recording of his voice). So basically it is the history of adidas all in a giant vault, stored in optimum conditions including temperature and humidity control, as well as in specially constructed storage boxes.

Is it complete? No, but I think for a company with such a long history that would be impossible. The bulk of the collection is German made or came from factories associated with Germany (Taiwan, Yugoslavia etc). They are missing quite a bit of the French range and also Austrian. So where did the stuff go? A lot of stuff was lost, binned or destroyed;- either accidently, through inattention or for security (as an example when the foreign licence deals began to wind up in the 80s adidas insisted the companies destroyed the moulds so they could not be used to make counterfeit goods). You also have to factor in adidas was a forward thinking company, always expanding, moving forward – thinking of the future. There simply would not have been enough space to keep everything and if you are creating new products all the time then why keep the old stuff? Of course we have to thank Adi for starting the collecting by keeping samples and shoes he liked and adidas got into the habit of requesting shoes from winning athletes, often signed or sealed in bronze or gold for perseveration. In 1994 long term employee Karl Heinz Laing found Adi’s old collection in a basement under the IT department while looking for an unfinished Adi design for inspiration for a new one. Realising the value of the find, the collection was soon rescued, restored, catalogued and archived. Since then it has been added to as more products have been found and new ones created. Old products have been found from everywhere within the brand and they have been forwarded to the team to be archived, while new products are donated by the designer to become a future part of the company’s history.
A collection of different box styles from the 1950s to the 1990s. Part of the archives collection.

One of my favourite stories from Martin H was the rescue of around 20-30 foreign licence shoes. Foreign licence companies were requested to send adidas sample manufactured products so adidas could check of the quality of the range. Some of these models ended up in a storage room which eventually ended up being cleaned out and refurbished. An employee decided to go the rest room and saw workmen carrying some bin-liners, enquiring what was in the bags she found all of these shoes and thought ‘I think Martin would like these’. So a toilet break ensured the shoes survival!
The entrance to the brand archive. I have idea what the numbers mean but they just make it seem more top secret and official.

What purpose does it have aside from being a historical record? Well it can be used for modern design and innovation. For instance if a designer wanted to make a new leisure product for women they could look for inspiration from an archive product. Perhaps a ski boot may have an innovative system of fastening which would suit the new model. The History Management team has six full-time employees and they are each assigned to a different historical function. The team may be requested to research for the release of re-issue, a new design, for brand communication, to create an exhibition or contribute to a video project. They work with all departments from design, to promotion and even the legal team.

Part 3 to follow shortly
Adidas Visit Part One

Left to right, me, Mr Dassler and Craig.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the adidas Archives at their Head Quarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany. I went with Craig Butler the designer of the AOA books and actually it was the first time I had talked to him in person, which I guess isn't that unusual when you think of the trainer community and how we interact on social media. I have to say we got on great and he is a really top lad as well as being very creative. We arrived the evening before, stopping in a hotel in Nuremburg, the largest city nearby and where many adidas employees actually live, as Herzogenaurach is so small. After a  chat, a meal and a few drinks I retired for the night hoping to get some quality sleep but knowing full well I'd be like a kid the night before Christmas! It is something that as an adidas fan I have dreamt of doing for a long time, especially after seeing the pictures of the archives when other people have visited. In case you are now madly scrambling to book a flight to Nuremburg, you have to know it is by invite only! That isn't because adidas don't care about their consumers, in fact I discovered during my day actually how much respect they do have for collectors. It's because this is a fully functioning corporate HQ where design, business, finance, research, legal, HR etc. all take place. So tours of the campus (as they call it) are guided by staff  which takes up a lot of their time. Also while I wouldn't say it is top secret there were certain areas where photography was forbidden - because who knows what unreleased product you might snap in the background that adidas are currently working on!

This library had books about the history of sport, sports heroes, rules of sport, fashion, design, marketing and of course the brand itself. It wouldn't have been complete without a copy of AOA Volume 1 of course!

In the morning Martin H from adidas picked us up at our hotel and on the drive I discovered how passionate and knowledgeable about the brand he really was. After a short delay at the company car park we were inside getting our visitor passes. We then met the other adidas History Management staff including the other Martin (Martin G), had a look at their offices and took a walk around the campus which is actually a converted former US Army base. It is leafy, spacious and surprisingly calm. I imagine that it would be a lot different for some professionals who may be used to the hustle and bustle of a cosmopolitan city like London, Tokyo or New York but to me and I imagine many others that was the attraction. Martin G was telling me that when the rebuilt and expanded the adidas HQ that made the decision to stay true to their roots and keep it Herzogenaurach, which I think Adi himself would have liked. By the way the original adidas office still exists and is across town and can still be viewed.

Calm and serene at adidas HQ 

I strolled around in a half-daze while we stopped at the tourist spots for obligatory photos;- including the giant trefoil advertising light and the bronzed stature of the great man himself. The adidas campus is pretty big and there are lot of facilities like a gym, a running track, tennis courts and a football stadium. Visiting athletes can train or try out new shoes, but employees are also encouraged to participate in sports. Many of the office buildings are converted and modernised army barracks, town houses and offices and they certainly had a charm;- sometimes situated in leafy open spaces, sometimes in neat rows but always with a mixture of former military functionality and Franconian design. There were also new purpose built buildings including an open plan exhibition (which gives a visitor a whistle stop tour of the brands history) and the large central offices which were a sight to behold. Arranged on several levels with bridges allowing easy access between offices, it bustled with creativity and excitement. Having said that it had a real calm feeling about it and people seemed to go around with a smile on their faces. The brand encourages both freedom of expression but also a flexible approach to working, with employees working hours to suit them and in a style that brings the best out of them. A nice was touch was a kindergarten on campus for the employees children. If you didn't want to work in your office you could easily take your laptop to a quiet seated area to muse or an eating area to meet with other employees while enjoying a coffee. I imagine at times as with any business there would be stress and deadlines but it all seemed a world away from my own drab office meetings and work place! The floor space near the front also doubled up as a seminar area and talks were held regularly on company ethos, branding and creativity. If any high ranking adidas bosses ever read this I'd just like to say I feel you are getting it right!

That is the end of part one, I'll return with part two shortly.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

A big thank you to Quote from Berlin for sending me these Tech made in Korea 1989 in a rare colourway. They didn't fit him so he sent them to me as a present. Thanks Q I owe you one pal!

Thursday, 13 October 2016

I recently received a few copies of Obermaterial Vintage Qualit├Ąt Volume 1 from my good friend errol. It’s nice to have a book in print which I contributed to and the overall product is really slick. You can grab a copy from here.

The fifth instalment of the Spezial range launched last week and once again there was a mix of styles to suit a variety of tastes. Everyone went mad over the Manchester GT (as expected), while the Indoor Super sold well, but I’m going to focus on the Harwood which in my opinion was the pick of the bunch. The Harwood is actually based on a mid-80s running shoe called the ‘Seaside’. If the choice of Harwood as a title seems a little strange (named after a borough of Bolton in Greater Manchester), then think about the original choice. Maybe they were running out of names for shoes by the middle 80s, maybe the name was meant to conjure up images of early morning jogs on the beach or maybe it merely reflected the cross over between sports and leisure typical of the era – whatever the reason I quite like it and it fits along with equally inexplicable running shoe monikers such as ‘Jolly’, ‘Gipsy’, ‘Flip’ and ‘Zany’.

Name aside this is actually a well-developed shoe and showed the level of detail adidas were putting into budget runners in 1984 both in terms of technology and cosmetic appeal. The Seaside retailed at £20.99 which was less than half the price you what you would have to pay out for the Fire, ZX 600 or ZX 700.

The first thing you might notice about the shoes appearance is the use of accents in the detailing. Two colour blocks were quite standard on the detailing of stripes during this period but the heel accent is less usual. More than being merely aesthetic, the double heel offers further protection and stability. The use of contrasting tones can be either muted or bright dependent on the colourway of the ‘Seaside’ you are viewing (to my knowledge there were at least 9 colourways)

The upper is made oxford nylon and has velour trim in the usual places. The insole is a pre-moulded single piece designed by structural footwear specialists Texon. The midsole is made of two density EVA and sole is made from an extremely hard wearing carbon rubber. The block sole pattern on the outsole is concave to roll the foot into its correct position, while the design is a new type which adds flexibility. All in all it’s a tidy looking running shoe, more than suitable and resilient for long road runs.

The ‘Harwood’ is a close looking re-issue. The shape is pretty much perfect and the materials are of good quality and the colours are spot on. The only thing I could find which is different was the sole as they seem to have lifted the outsole pattern off the ZX 710. Why I am not sure, but possibly because the 710 has been re-issued recently, they had the tooling to hand. It doesn’t really detract from the shoe and it’s refreshing to see something a bit more obscure coming out of the archives. A thumbs up from me.

AOA Volume 2 is but weeks away and is promising to be very special indeed. I got chance to do an extra bit of writing for the boxed collectors version. If you want to pre-order a copy check out their page

Size AS 350

I did an interview with Dan Sanderson from Mundial Mag for the Size? AS 350 release. You can find the article here

And buy the shoes here