After arriving late in the sports fashion craze, Adidas has announced a partnership with Japanese deisgner Yohji Yamamoto that it hopes will catapult it ahead of Puma and Nike.
Marrying style and sports: Yamamoto und Adidas marketing exec Erich Stamminger
If Adidas came into the sports-shoe-as-fashion-item game late, at least it came in with a splash.
Last month, the German sporting goods company announced Japanese veteran designer Yohji Yamamoto, 59, would head a new department at Adidas fully responsible for taking the longtime athletic brand from the track to the catwalks.
"In the 1980s we missed the running trend and the aerobics trend," Erich Stamminger, head of Adidas global marketing told reporters at last month’s announcement. "I told myself, ‘now we have this chance, we are going to make the most of it.’ "
From the gym to the catwalk
Ever since Puma shoe designs from the 1980s began appearing on the feet of American hip hop stars and athletes two years ago, competing shoe companies have been hustling to catch up.
Puma, which shares a town in Bavaria with Adidas, announced record worldwide sales last year of more than one billion euro. Company officials said shoes from their "lifestyle" section of their brand made up a majority of their shoe sales. They also struck up a cooperation agreement with German fashion designer Jil Sander’s firm in Hamburg.
Nike, the worldwide leader in sports apparel, brought in Mindy Grossman, a designer from Polo Jeans, and saw similar success. Fourth quarter earnings this year were more than 20 percent those of last year.
Adidas, the second sports outfitter behind Nike, could no longer wait in the wings.
Sports shoes of German sports goods maker Adidas-Salomon AG on display in a shop in Magdeburg, eastern Germany.
No more retirement thoughts
Enter Yamamoto. The Japanese designer, who has excited the fashion world for more than 20 years, was actually thinking of retirement when the call from Adidas came.
Yamamoto had already used the Adidas stripes in his products in the Fall 2000 shows. The three stripes appeared on everything from jackets to handbags. He also took Adidas shoes and covered them in goat leather or pin stripes and watched as they fetched upwards of 650 euro ($631) in boutiques.
"I wanted to work against the ugly technological sneaker," he told reporters. "Young kids all over the world are wearing sneakers - I couldn't ignore it."
Neither could Adidas. The company had already restructured their product areas: The departments shoes, accessories and textiles were renamed performance, heritage and equipment.
Adidas originals stores, selling 1980s-era training suits and shoes, opened up across the globe and celebrities like Robbie Williams and Madonna began paying homage to the Adidas retro-look.
This July, the Bavarian company announced Yamamoto would become creative director of Adidas Sport Style, which replaces Adidas equipment and is solely responsible for creating a niche for the sporting goods giant in the fashion world.
The company plans to introduce the first outfits and official product name this October.
"It’s difficult to find nice sportswear for everyday life," Yamamoto said. "What I see right now, the cut, the mix of colors, is awful."