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Big Sean x adidas Originals: From Detroit Player to the Hall of Fame

August 27, 2013by Aaron Kr.
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As a brand, adidas has a long history of representation, relevance and consumer devotion within the hip-hop world. It all started with Run DMC back in the mid-80s. The pioneering Hollis, Queens rap trio were the ultimate champions of the Three Stripes (particularly the classic Shell Toes), and it wasn’t because they were getting paid to wear the shoes – it’s because their passion for the brand was so truly organic and the fact that their endorsement of adidas came from a place of real love and not a contractual obligation. As a result they helped make adidas sneakers a way of life for a new generation and demographic, and forever cemented the brand’s timeless and historic standing in the hip-hop universe.

Rather than to be skeptical of a still young and misunderstood art form like much of corporate America at the time, or afraid of the rough image and leathered-up street look of the Run DMC crew, adidas recognized what they were doing for their products and showed love right back by embracing the group and even creating exclusive shoes and gear for them. The special relationship they forged has stood strong for almost thirty years now, and along the way, it’s paved the groundwork for adidas to work with other musicians and artists in a similar way that feels like a natural fit rather than something forced just for the sake of attaching a marquee name to their shoes.

Nowadays, it seems like every hip-hop artist you can name has their own shoe or an affiliation with some brand or another, but despite the rush by sneaker companies to sign any rapper they can find to a deal, adidas has managed to stay selective and true to the formula that made their marriage to Run DMC such a success in the first place. A passion for the Three Stripes comes before all and if you don’t have it, they’re not going to try to force it on you. For one of the biggest names on their current roster, the partnership couldn’t have been any truer to that blueprint.

Before signing with adidas, Big Sean was actually getting pairs of Pro Models customized for him on a regular basis, and that made it a no-brainer to team up with the emerging rap star so he could bring some of those concepts to life in a more official capacity. For their first joint-offering, Sean put his own personal spin on his beloved Pro Model II, wrapping the shoe in a luxurious bright red snakeskin-embossed leather and setting it off with shimmering gold accents. Dubbed the “Detroit Player”, Big Sean’s first retail offering with adidas saw an extremely limited release, and in effect, a lot of his fans were unable to secure a pair of the highly sought after collaboration.

The scarce availability left the people hungry for more and adidas has responded with a follow-up, that while still slated to be limited, will be more widely available than the first go-around. With Big Sean’s second studio album, Hall of Fame, releasing today, he and adidas have whipped up a more toned down and sophisticated version of the Pro Model II, still using the luxe reptilian leather upper, but this time blacking out the entire shoe with the exception of its metallic gun metal accents. Featuring call-outs to Detroit on the insoles, some lyrics on the lining and a “HOF” lace dubrae to futher tie in the new album, personal elements can be found throughout the shoe, all while balancing a clean and classy aesthetic with a little bit of tasteful flashiness thrown in for good measure.

The shoe captures Sean’s personality and unique sense of style in a way that feels completely at home within the “adidas meets hip-hop” lineage, and the future certainly appears to be bright with regards to the coming endeavors that await. The blacked-out “Hall of Fame” Big Sean Pro Model II will hit select adidas Originals retailers as well as adidas.com this coming Saturday, August 31st, but before it does, you can get a better look at the shoe and learn a little about how it came together. Continue on as adidas Originals Design Director, Brian Foresta gives us the scoop on what it’s like to work with Big Sean and what he brings to the table for adidas, as well as some juicy hints at the future of the Big Sean x adidas Originals partnership.


Sneaker News:  What made Big Sean a good candidate to team up with for an adidas Originals partnership?

Brian Foresta:  Well, I think the important thing to remember is that we’ve been working with Sean for quite a while now. It’s actually about three years on the trot. So, we always try to work with people who we believe stand for the values of the brand. And I know that sounds really corporate, but just that ability to have someone who’s unique, brings something new to the table,

and isn’t just a copy/paste mentality of what’s already out there in the industry. His mixtapes, when he first started doing stuff, they were definitely circulating pretty heavily throughout our design studio, but also he’s got a real chill, smart, calm demeanor to him and we just thought he’d be a fantastic partner.

SN:  How does adidas view the notion of creating shoes for entertainers rather than athletes, and has there always been an emphasis on representing music and culture within the brand or is it something that’s just happened on its own?

Brian Foresta:  I think for us, it’s been around for a while. How everybody talks about Run DMC for us, but when it comes to the fusion between music and style – it’s not that it’s old hat to us, but it’s kind of our foundation particularly when it comes to Originals.

We’ve never gone a period of time where we haven’t done this stuff, so with respect to the competition, I just kinda feel like it’s true to the core of who we are as a brand.

SN:  What’s the general process for working together on a shoe with Big Sean as far as his involvement and what you look for from him going into these kinds of projects?

Brian Foresta:  I think with any artist we work with, and obviously with Sean, we’re looking to get the things that when he wakes up in the morning, and he’s thinking about what he’s gonna work on that day – an album, a tour, whatever – the things that are making him passionate about what he brings to the game. It’s great to have someone who’s so articulate and comfortable in their own skin to be able to talk about what their style is all about and what they’re looking for, and he’s been great in that way. Also, that he has that mad hometown pride – repping Detroit and what it means to him,

which I think is something that will stay with him for his whole life. So it’s nice to hear his history and his own personal outlook on style and how those things fuse together with Originals. Working with him has been really good. He’s mad busy like most people, so it’s great to get that interaction, but we get kinda these sharp snippets about things he likes and doesn’t like and what he’s looking for as he transitions out of just mixtapes and his first album and hits into who he really is. So, it’s been really good and he’s been a great partner.

SN:  Getting a little more into the specifics of this latest shoe, can you give us the breakdown of why certain materials and colors were used on the Big Sean Pro Model II?

Brian Foresta:  For us, he’s always that mix of luxury and grit, and with the first shoe, we definitely took that luxe approach – made in Italy leather, really top premium stuff, real gold plating on the component, and so on. So for this, just in a simple thing from working with him and everything he wears, we thought it would just be great to go triple-black to the floor and get that grit back into it with the gun metal finishes. It’s kinda the duality to him, where the first shoe was the luxury side of him and this is pretty much the

same shoe, but just black to the floor. I always think of that initial G.O.O.D. Music photo where they’re all standing there and everybody is just blacked out head to toe – that was one of the things we talked about with him. We looked at what he was wearing as well. When we first started working with him three years ago, he was having Pro Models custom made, where he would have the stripes done in like snakeskin or leopard.

SN:  So Sean was customizing his own Pro Models before he even signed on with adidas?

Brian Foresta:  Yup. If you remember those original shots of him, there’s one shot where he’s sitting on the floor while he’s rhyming with the mic in his hand, and his feet are in the foreground. And I remember finding that image and being like – whoa, what Pro Model is that?! I didn’t even know where it came from, so that’s part of the conversation piece. We knew he had that passion for the brand to the point that he was like – if you guys aren’t gonna do it,

I’ll do what I think would be best for the Pro Model. So he would actually bring people in and hire stylists to modify them for him. And that idea of originality – Originals, O by O, you know, that whole idea – we stand for originality and we support artists who do that. It was great to see someone actually taking our product and kinda one-upping it. It was fantastic!

SN:  So far, both Big Sean shoes have used an existing adidas model. Is there any chance we’ll ever see him get his own original silhouette?

Brian Foresta:  Yeah, I know this is a real cliche interview answer, but the Pro Model is cool… What’s about to come right after it is, I don’t know how else to say this, but f–kin’ ill!  In a way, it’s great that there’s love for that Pro Model, and it’s a silhouette that I have an affinity to, but with his new album and all this other stuff coming, we’ve got something really special in the pipeline that we’re just working through right now. I don’t know when we’re gonna drop those images. I was hyped to talk about it, but we can’t right now.

SN:  That’s already plenty just to spark people’s curiosity in the meantime.

Brian Foresta:  Don’t get me wrong, that all black Pro Model is gonna be a good, dope go-to piece in anybody’s wardrobe, but this next one is kinda next level. That’s what he’s looking for. He’s in a great time for a transition in his career, so that next shoe is really gonna push it up.

SN:  Anything else you can tell us about this intriguing third Big Sean shoe and the future of the partnership?

Brian Foresta:  I wish I could talk about it. We do a lot of good stuff, but it’s been a while since a sample has come in and everybody who’s seen it has been so hyped. So I just can’t wait until we can show the public the next shoe.

SN:  In the meantime, Sean’s second shoe is getting broader retail distribution this time? Was it always the plan to make a splash with a limited release followed by a more widely accessible one, or did that come about as a result of the strong consumer demand demonstrated during the first go-around?

Brian Foresta:  The plan was always to come with multiple offerings. If you look at our bigger drops, we don’t go for crazy volume off the bat, and to be truthful, rarely will we look for a kinda takedown strategy, particularly when we work with people who we think are really special. So whether it’s what we do with Teyana Taylor, the GLC is obviously the model it came from, but Teyana’s shoe stays where it is. We’re not gonna shift it down into something else.

And with Sean, we have a cadence to how we wanna bring that stuff out, so we wanna keep the numbers capped so that those people that do go out there in rough weather and stand in line for a shoe know that they have something that isn’t gonna drop two weeks later at 20 times the volume of when it first came out. We’ve always done that as a brand, whether it’s what we do with Bape or Neighborhood, we’re not gonna push major pairs ever into the market. We never have and we wanna stick to that exclusivity.

SN:  And that’s what keeps people wanting them.

Brian Foresta:  Yeah, I mean, you have to be true to the culture in which you build product to. You know, we have a broad enough and big enough line that we put other models out that are good essential pieces for people’s wardrobes, but when we do something special, we wanna keep it special.