Dhe year 2000 is coming to an end. It was a good year for me. I’m sitting in my office at Adidas in Herzogenaurach. The phone rings.
“Hello, are you Michael Michalsky, chief designer of Adidas?” asks a light female voice with a French accent. “Yes, I am Michael,” I answer. She is so happy that she can finally reach me, she says. She has already called Adidas ten times and no one wants to talk to her. Well, finally, she actually says “finnalli”, she can discuss everything with me in detail. I suggest she tell you what it’s all about.
“Do you know Yohji Yamamoto?”
What a question! Yohji was one of my biggest role models in fashion design. While studying in London, I regularly made pilgrimages to the Yamamoto store on Sloane Street and dreamed of one day being able to afford his fashion. The editorials with Yohji’s creations from “The Face”, “iD” and “Blitz” magazines hung on my wall. So yes, I knew THAT man!
Wow! OK. I’m speechless for a moment.
“Wonderful,” says the Frenchwoman. Mr. Yamamoto is your boss and he would like to redesign a Stan Smith sneaker. Wow! OK. Now I’m speechless for a moment.
The Stan Smith sneaker is an Adidas sneaker icon. Named after one of the best tennis players of the time, the sneaker came onto the market in 1964 and is still sold today. The elegant, timeless design never goes out of style. Yohji wants to redesign this shoe?
I tell the Frenchwoman I’m sorry, but unfortunately that wouldn’t work. We had just separated the “adidas originals” from the performance products and positioned them as a street style brand with our first store in Berlin. Besides, I say, the Stan Smith sneaker is a classic, and you don’t touch classics.
We’re both a little disappointed. Me because my hope of collaborating with one of my idols is disappearing. She because she has to inform her master of rejection. Silence on the line. Then an idea comes to me. It would be much better, I say cautiously, if Yohji Yamamoto designed Adidas performance shoes. We would then have a much wider range of options, would address other target groups and would not be limited to a single model. I suggest to her that I prepare a presentation with my team and come to Paris to show him everything.
Two days later I receive the message that Yohji is looking forward to our meeting in Paris.
We work around the clock
We have two weeks and work around the clock. I select seven performance models that we want to adapt. Boxer boots, running shoes, trail running shoes and so on. We take these models as a basis and turn them into “Yohji versions” by interpreting the shoes in typical Yohji materials and colors. My strategy is to show Yohji a wide range so that at least one model is included in his collection and we have a collaboration.
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