When Phoebe Philo took her bow at the end of the Céline fall 2010 runway, she was wearing a pair of Adidas Stan Smiths. It’s something many women have thought about repeatedly in the years since and something designer, rapper, and actor, Edison Chen, who founded the Chinese streetwear brand CLOT, kept in mind when creating his first collaboration collection with Adidas.
The day after it was unveiled on a runway during Shanghai Fashion Week earlier this October, I found myself in the room with Chen, standing alongside racks of Adidas x CLOT. He held up his iteration of an Adidas Gazelle and said, “I designed this with a dream of Phoebe Philo wearing it. That was my goal: ‘What would Phoebe Philo maybe wear that I make?’”
Often, I’ve heard designers name drop prospective famous customers who they envision appreciating what they create and it's not always easy to nod in agreement. Sometimes it’s actually very hard. But as soon as Chen mentioned Philo, while holding his beige Gazelle made to look like an espadrille disguised as a sneaker, with three white stripes covered in tiny beads cutting through the rope and canvas, I could see it. I could see the ultimate (minimalist) girl’s girl, with a turtleneck pulled up around her cheeks, leaning back in a chair wearing oversized trousers, with these on her feet.
Chen, who started CLOT 20 years ago and has gone on to collaborate with brands like Nike and Stussy, said this was the first time he has challenged himself to really design “through a women's lens.” He also hopes this collection with Adidas will help widen the scope of his brand, who has hundreds of thousands of fans in China but whose name might not necessarily ring a bell in America.
And yet, when Adidas approached him, Chen always knew he didn’t want to stick a big collab logo on whatever it was they would make together. He didn’t want it to be a billboard as much as something a mystifying style god like Philo would appreciate.
“If you look at all of our creations, we're trying to go logoless...well, less logo. But I always feel like a good shoe doesn't need a collab logo on it. I think that takes away from it,” he said before adding, “a lot of our stuff is logoless except for the Adidas logos.”
Adidas Originals by Edison Chen doesn’t just have an espadrille Gazelle but a heeled Oxford shoe modeled after the classic Superstar. When I saw the shoe on the runway, I thought it was simply a loafer, but when I held it in my hands backstage, I noticed the etched Superstar details—the dots on the side and the shell toe tip—that almost look as though they are encased in leather. Notably missing are the bold white stripes, but Chen still paid homage to the Adidas signature with three thin lines on the heel. When asked about the inspiration he said he wanted something, “sleek and sexy.”
But the first shoe from the collaboration that will make it to market in January is a different riff on the Superstar. Chen calls it the “shark tooth” because of its platform jagged wooden sole and it also features thick laces woven with black edges and tassels.
As for the clothing, Chen sees it as a “reality check” for fans who have grown up with him and are wondering what to wear now. The stand out pieces are the crochet sets—think tracksuits made for the beach. “A woman can wear them but I can also wear them,” he said. “Of course it's meant to be see-through but if you layer the pieces, it immediately becomes not so wide open. You’re supposed to mix and match colors—it's not supposed to just be black with black. We're encouraging people to add that layer.” There’s also asymmetrical nylon jackets and shorts in pastel colors with contrasting shades on the back of one arm or leg. For something more dressed up there are blazers and trousers that still have a sporty edge with the Adidas stripes.
When Adidas invited me to Shanghai to see the collection for the first time during CLOT's 20-year anniversary runway show, I had no idea what I was walking into. I didn't know enough about CLOT to even begin to visualize what it could look like. But I think everyone has preconceived notions of what a "streetwear" brand typically makes when they team up with a sportswear giant like Adidas and Chen did something that wasn't that.
Instead, Adidas Originals by Edison Chen feels low key and easy, the kind of collection you'd see people wearing and think were cool because the pieces themselves just are...cool and not because they loudly announce themselves as a streetwear collaboration.
When I tell Chen I can see Philo wearing those Gazelle espadrilles he gets up from his seat and walks away jokingly before coming back, “My job is done!” And I tell him even if Philo doesn't get her hands on a pair, I feel confident the type of girl who worships her absolutely will. Chen laughed before saying, “You know, that works too!”
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