Adidas launched a new collaboration at London Fashion Week (Februaray 15 – 19, 2019) with Korean-American designer Ji Won Choi and celebrate another new collaboration with Italian fashion label Fiorucci at a party. These multiple fashion week initiatives are a natural step up from what the brand did last February, when its sole partnership was with Vfiles: A week-long NYFW activation that saw Adidas debuting a collection with Amsterdam-based designer Danielle Cathari.
“Fall-winter 2019 has seen a number of sportswear brands teaming up with luxury labels to debut their own take on high-fashion sneakers, including Adidas, Asics’ collaborating with Kiko Kostadinov and, of course, Nike’s collaborations with Undercover and A Cold Wall,” said Krista Corrigan, analyst at retail platform Edited. “As long as ’90s-inspired and athleisure trends continue to dominate on the runway, sneakers will have a place at the table.”
The crossover between luxury brands and streetwear brands is a story that has been told across the fashion world for a few years now. It is now common to see super upscale luxury products and affordable streetwear products being sold on the same shelves to the same customer. But using fashion week in particular as a stage for its own designs and collections feels like breaking new ground for a brand like Adidas.
“While these products won’t bring in significant revenue, they help further position these mass-market sneaker brands as tastemakers that can play at the high-end low-end of the market, furthering the brand permission as they have to mean a lot of different things to a range of different people,” Siegel said.
The crossover between high fashion and street fashion has been ongoing for years at this point. Now Adidas is taking the logical next step by making the various fashion weeks around the globe, which are typically the home court for high-end luxury fashion brands, an integral part of its strategy around Adidas Originals.
At this season’s New York Fashion Week, Adidas provided exclusive footwear for Khaite’s runway show that was created specifically for the show and will not be available for purchase anywhere. The footwear comes from Adidas Originals, which is the brand’s higher-end, heritage line of sportswear. Khaite previewed the shoe’s debut on Instagram.
Richie Siegel, founder of consumer advisory firm Loose Threads said that, “Adidas using fashion week as a launching pad makes sense for more of its niche collaborations that resonate with higher-end audiences.’ Also, “The brand’s previous and ongoing higher-end work with Raf Simons and Rick Owens gives this some precedence, as does Nike’s with some of its higher-end, limited collaborations with Off-White and Supreme.”
But, beyond NYFW, Adidas Originals has been making itself known at fashion weeks around the world. Last month at Paris Fashion Week, Adidas debuted an event called MakerLab Presents: Here to Create, which saw the brand partnering up with three young fashion designers from the British Fashion Council to show their ready-to-wear designs alongside Adidas footwear on a Paris runway. (Adidas was not able to comment in time for the publication of this article, but provided background information on the brand’s fashion week strategy.)
The scale at which Adidas has embraced fashion week, including multiple collaboration launches as well as an event hosted with no other brands in Paris, has made Adidas one of the most notable non-luxury presences at fashion week this season.
“Consumers are no longer after simply a product, but they also seek an experience that’s unique to them — a concept that Adidas, for example, has seemingly mastered,” Corrigan said. “The visibility provided by the runway and the brand experience offered at Adidas illustrates the ultimate co-existing relationship between luxury and sportswear.”
Adidas is not alone among streetwear brands making use of fashion week. Kith debuted the campaigns for its collaboration with Versace to coincide with the beginning of New York Fashion Week, and Nike debuted a collaboration with Undercover at Paris Fashion Week last month. (Based on number of collabs, Adidas’s top rival Nike seems to have less of an interest in fashion week as a strategic area than Adidas does.)
Jeff Carvalho, managing director for North America at Highsnobiety said that, “Athletic footwear has been on the runways for decades, and each brand has had their own unique approach in how they’ve decided to ‘show up.” Also, “Adidas has been on the runway for years through their Y-3 partnership with Yohji Yamatoto, but today, more than ever, they want to have their presence known, and more visibly associated with fashion week, in ways that other brands, like Asics and Nike, have been more subtle about in the past.”