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Through adidas, Kerwin Frost Is Creating A Surrealist Sneaker Legacy

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Looking at Kerwin Frost‘s immense body of work would give you only a fraction of the entire picture. Frost’s career, which is laden with moments one can only dream of, has placed him in the presence of — to name a few out of a much, much longer list — Virgil Abloh, Kanye West, and Jeremy Scott, the latter of whom continues to be both a mentor and friend to the burgeoning multi-hyphenate.

And having experience as a DJ, being the head to an eponymous film festival, and a designer to not just one but multiple adidas offerings, Frost has outgrew any and all epithets, labels, adjectives, and the like. In his words, he “never had a title for himself.” And, honestly, it might be best that way.

If you were to ask Jeremy Scott what it is Kerwin Frost actually does, however, Scott would simply say he’s “a creator.”

Welcome To The adidas Family

Kerwin Frost always seems to be on the precipice of announcing something bigger and even greater. Once he left the Spaghetti Boys to lead with his very own name, his plate quickly filled to the very edge with collaborative projects. Pioneer, Beats by Dre, and even 7-Eleven are in the man’s corner, teaming up with him for his inimitable vision, playful attitude, and willingness to work to burnout.

But among Frost’s ever-growing portfolio, his unquestionably earned partnership with adidas may be the most cherished. Having an immense admiration for the brand since childhood, he fought hard for the eventual “Yes.” And once it came, once the Three Stripes finally welcomed him into the family, Frost said “it felt like a prank.”

Together, the two turned an icon bigger than it ever was… literally. The “Superstuffed” Superstar was an astonishing display of form, a marvel of production that few could have imagined. “The fact that this shoe exists is a symbol that anything is possible,” Frost said previously, which rings even truer, even louder with his next collection.

The Humanchives And The Benchmates

The style icon’s newest line-up of offerings takes yet another classic out of its comfort zone. The Forum, in low-top and high-top variety, is thrust through Frost’s lens, his world, coming out the other side with two drastically different designs, both of which are slated to hit adidas Confirmed and select retailers on November 17th.

First, the Forum Hi — dubbed the “Humanchives” as made up by Frost himself — is a patchwork blanket of positively eccentric inspirations. At its foundation, though, the shoe is colored in an OG-resmiscent fashion, flaunting the simple white and blue scheme that greeted the world upon the silhouette’s recent revival. But try as you might, the colorway will not lull you into any semblance of familiarity; rather, it only delays an inevitable shock that will set in as the anthropomorphic features come into focus. A collage straight out of an adidas-sponsored fever dream, the pair loops eyes through its laces, places a nose right atop its vamp, and a toothy grin along the toe box, combining both references to Jeremy Scott and Walter Van Beirendonck, two of Frost’s biggest influences.

Where to Buy

Make sure to follow @kicksfinder for live tweets during the release date.

Kerwin Frost x adidas Forum High "Humanchives"
Release Date: Nov 17th, 2021 (Wednesday)
Color: Cloud White / Bold Blue / Yellow
Mens: $250 Style Code: GX3872

Dubbed the “Benchmates,” the Forum Lo effectively grounds the entire pack with a make-up that wouldn’t be out of place during the 2000s. Like many a release from that era, crazy colors appear in droves, painting the panels with “Clear Mint,” “Bright Blue,” “Solar Yellow,” and many an equally bright shade. This visually serves the graphic that overlays atop the side, amplifying the various characters whose surrealist feel was brought to life thanks to Frost and artist Keith Rankin. And if any of the figures evoke any sense of nostalgia, that is surely intentional as they are inspired by the mascots that often accompany a nursery or daycare.

Where to Buy

Make sure to follow @kicksfinder for live tweets during the release date.

Kerwin Frost x adidas Forum Low "Benchmates"
Release Date: Nov 17th, 2021 (Wednesday)
Color: Clear Mint / Multicolor / Multicolor
Mens: $180 Style Code: GX3873

The Clothes (Featuring Special Guest Chief Keef)

Kerwin Frost’s ideas are not only limited to the footwear. In evident complement, the upcoming apparel collection — which is Frost’s first alongside adidas — references bygone trends, some of which are gradually making their way back to the cultural forefront.

Thematically, many of the pieces follow in the footsteps of the “Benchmates.” Nostalgia lies at the core of every garment, especially the jean shorts whose graphic touches and chenille patch emphasize this feeling to a striking degree. The characters themselves even make a cameo, blown up not just on the denim bottoms but also some graphic pieces and tracksuits. And save for one top in particular, each of the four frontmen are given their own individuality, allowed to stand out across their respective styles.

To make things even more exciting, adidas has cast Chief Keef as the star of the campaign. Photographed by Vijat Mohindra, the rapper dons the shoes and clothing against a backdrop more than appropriate.

In Conversation with Kerwin Frost

We were fortunate enough to spend some time with Kerwin Frost over Zoom. Together, we talk about the beauty of not being taken to serious, the magic behind-the-scenes of Kerwin Frost Talks, imposter syndrome, the details behind the cardboard walls of Kerwin’s Kingdom, and much, much more.

(The conversation has been lightly edited.)

You’ve been called, by publications, “fashion’s funniest man.” How do you feel about that title?

I think it’s sweet. I think it comes from a good place.

Do you feel like people take you any less serious because of it?

Before I would be on this hunt for validation, wanting to be taken serious and like — kind of day by day — I’m realizing that things will just play out how they’re supposed to. So I think it’s sweet. It’s okay to not be taken fully serious for a second. And it’s honestly just motivating to continue to keep kind of delivering.

If you could give yourself a title. What would you pick?

I don’t know. ‘Cause I feel like that was just like a tagline. It was a GQ interview — yeah, and those can go either route, you know what I mean? People pick those how they want to pick them. I’ve gotten some other ones that I’m just like “agh,” you know what I mean? I appreciate that one way more than some of the ones I’ve seen.

Throughout your career, I feel like you’ve done so much, so many different things.

Yea, it’s hard. I’ve never had a title for myself. When people ask me, I honestly freeze up. But it humbles me — I’m just like “okay,” you know what I mean? It’s kind of best that way, it can just be interpreted

With all your experience doing all of these different things — a film festival, your shoes with adidas — what do you find is the common thread between everything?

I think it’s all the same. I think music is the same as fashion. Your music tastes can match your fashion the same way you can match the films you’re in, you know what I mean? I’ll just not look at the play-by-play — it’s the same as doing a DJ set, like that’s what my collection is to me.

It’s kind of like all these beautiful ideas and takeaways and moments, they’re kind of just meshed into one. I was just trying to explain that [in] different ways. It’s like how would you say you’re hungry if you were deaf?

Speaking specifically about Kerwin Frost Talks, I feel like you kind of get in a very natural groove. Some people call it awkward, but I feel like it’s kind of authentic. What is your secret? How do you tackle talking to so many different people — especially influential people?

For sure. I would see comments on YouTube that’d be like, “Oh wait, is it an act? Is that how he is?” For me it’s super important to kind of like showcase [that] I am a fan of the game just as much as I am a player in it. And I think it’s cool to showcase that you can be like live in it, doing it while still sharing history that you know, that you’ve been around. It’s not just something that someone like an old rapper or something gets started doing when he’s 40. Anyone can do it.

It’s an ego thing and we don’t get to hear a lot of stories because of that. People wait until they’re kind of old and brittle for the book or the tell-all. They start talking in interviews more when they’re older. With anyone who’s on the show, I kind of had the luxury of being able to be selective with the curating of the guests so [that] I’m actually a fan when I’m talking to them. But also, it’s not that hard to relate when you think of creating and the process of it. Common struggles in all mediums.

Now you’re on the opposite end, being the subject of an interview. What does it feel like switching sides?

I love that you asked that. It’s funny because most of the stuff I did are designed live while doing Kerwin Frost Talks. I was doing Spaghetti Boys before, so I had to think about it, but the majority of people I think now know me from that show. Through their lens, it’s like “Whoa, this journalist is doing these weird things.” You just can’t think about it too much. You can’t get too into it and you kind of just have to be honest with ideas and treat it with the same respect.

The switch is crazy though. I did a Full Size Run episode that came out yesterday and I was like, “Oh wow.” It was the first time I did a real video interview type thing for myself. And I was surprised anytime they knew stuff about me.

Was it difficult preparing for the show?

No — they all have like OG status to their name already. I look at people who innovate behind the scenes and go hard just as the same as I’ll look at, like, artists. It’s the same, that is an art to me, gaining and carrying it through and still caring. Like how do those guys still care 11 seasons in? That’s crazy. I haven’t even completed two seasons of Kerwin Frost Talks. I always have to take a break from the show and switch to the next thing I’m into and come back to it. So major salutes to those guys.

Yea, it’s tough. When you create, it’s so easy to get in your head and come to a wall. Do you find that switching up your projects alleviates that in a way?

Yeah, yeah. It keeps it refreshing and fun, and it makes you miss the other thing. I think what I’m doing will maybe be, like, [game-changing], but I didn’t invent the wheel. I think more people are going to be like this. You’re only going to see it more as we get older. We’re now at a place of access that we’ve never been before. It’s only showing where you can take it.

I think people always mention Spaghetti Boys when they talking about how you came up. What were you doing before that?

Before that I was like sneaking into concerts and just finding things in New York. New York used to do the craziest free shows and Fool’s Gold Day Off and all of those things, so I was deep into that world. That was my version of going to college, you know what I mean? It’s like this is how different people function and this is the science of it all.

That’s what I was doing before, but Spaghetti Boys was fairly early into me starting to be seen. Even during that there was like these huge chunks in Spaghetti Boys and what it was, so there would be breaks in between. When I started interning at VFiles, we did the GG Allin Spaghetti Boys shirt, but it wasn’t a big thing. Like 20 shirts were made or something. It’s almost similar to what it is now, just a baby scale of that, like a New York Rugrat version of that.

Now that you’re on the West coast, how do you feel New York has changed?

It hasn’t. And it’s weird. It feels like you unfreeze time, you like plugged back in New York. You ever see the old Mickey Mouse cartoons, when like the pipes are jumping up and down? That’s New York, like always. It’s always mechanically moving but always feels like it’s in the same spot. It’s so weird.

But it was so nice. It immediately kind of just reminds you [that] it always has that. It’s like kryptonite, it’s weird. I have so many memories on every single block. It’s crazy.

Throughout every career, there’s bound to be some mistakes and failures. Are there any in particular that have taught you a lesson moving forward?

Every mistake and failure teaches me a lesson. Like always. You have to make mistakes in order to see how you can change yourself, see who you are. That’s always important.

I think that’s even a big worry, like, I saw Michael Myers was canceled yesterday. I was like, “What the fuck? That shit’s crazy.” But Michael Myers is literally a serial killer. I don’t think he’s apologetic… but also, uh, it was a mistake. Maybe he was innocent, I don’t know — he wasn’t innocent, we saw those movies. I think that was a bad example. But overall what I’m saying [is] maybe it’ll lead to a better tomorrow.

Editor’s Note: For reference, Michael Myers was recently “cancelled” due to a scene from the 2021 sequel “Halloween Kills.” (Spoiler Alert) In said scene, Myers returns to his childhood home to find a same-sex couple living in his house. He then murders the two as expected, which has lead some Twitter users to accuse the fictional serial killer of homophobia.

I love how much language has been broken down and exited out already. And, like, we feel guilty now. Don’t you feel guilty when you watch an old movie that was hilarious? Now it feels like you’re watching some pirate, you know what I mean? It’s scary, but it’s also kind of cool, like, the next generation won’t make that mistake, you know? There’s pros and cons to it all, but it’s important. It’s interesting. It’s an interesting time.

Are there any other important figures in your life that keep you motivated?

My daughter, obviously, being able to show her this stuff when she’s a little older. But also like it growing with her and it kind of being all intertwined. She’s a huge motivation. But, also, I just feel like I have to do it. I’m always coming to that conclusion. I would regret it if I stopped, you know what I mean? Going burnout mode to do these things is worth it.

Do you ever experience imposter syndrome?

Always, always. I always feel like that. I felt like that my whole life, you know what I mean? I was always trying to prove myself worthy to be in blank or blank or around this. But recently, I haven’t — recently I’ve become more confident with it. Also everything that’s happening now, it’s kind of surreal, it doesn’t feel real. Like I always have to triple take on these adidas sneakers or the clothing. This shit’s like so wild to me.

During the Full Size Run episode, you said that you were kind of fighting for [the adidas collaboration] for a long time. How did it feel when they finally said yes?

It was crazy. It felt like a prank. It was wild. It’s hella emotional. Also it’s a testament: yeah, you can do it that way. Don’t wait for a reach out. Literally knock on the fucking door. People don’t want to do that anymore.

The way you talk about it, it seems like it had to be adidas. What made you gravitate so heavily towards them?

That history always, always that history. I also knew that if there was any chance of me really getting heard, that’s the way to go. It was a no brainer.

When you finally saw your shoes, what was it like?

I cried. It was crazy. Just holding it, staring — yeah, it’s so weird.

You’ve helped out with Yeezy Season 1 and the listening party in Wyoming. Has [Kanye] ever given you a piece of advice that’s stuck with you?

No — absolutely not. But he has indirectly! And that’s the same thing with how other people should see Virgil, you know what I mean? It’s just him, it’s indirectly.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen an interview of [Kanye] — that guy has a lot to say. If you’re sitting down with him, he’s really gonna put you in his world and talk about his ideas. But you can be able to bring up points and talk about moments with him. We’d spent time talking about, like, Michel Gondry’s work, just a lot of different things. I love that he never feels like he knows enough. He’s always given everyone a chance.

Do you know if he’s seen the Superstuffed or the Humanchives or anything?

He hasn’t seen the Superstuffed or the Humanchives. When I saw him, I had the clothes — mock-ups and stuff — he really liked that a lot. But he was really freaking out about the announcement photos where I was a yeti.

Yea, the campaigns are almost the best part. How involved are you in the creative process of those?

Extremely. We go in-depth for a lot of our ideas all the time. For every single one of them. It’s always worth it. I’m super [hands-on] with every part of that.

And you mentioned that Jeremy Scott is a very pivotal person in your life.

Majorly.

What about his work has kind of stuck with you all this time?

It’s just more what he stood for. The boundaries he had to break and getting no said to him a million times and doing that from the ’90s. He’s literally been doing that before, during, after being weird was cool.

He was also someone who I first saw saying, “Hey, this is my name — it means something!” It doesn’t need to be around since the ’70s for that, he said that out the gate, you know, and I always thought that was cool. It’s just, like, standing on your word. That’s what I try to put into everything we put together over here. And it’s like, “Yeah, my name is on it.” The joke of it started around leaving Spaghetti Boys and having the confidence to drive with my own name. I’ll stand on it if anything goes wrong, but nothing has and something will eventually, but just like stand on your mistakes if they’re going to happen. It’s really showing belief in your idea and that’s what Jeremy’s always done.

Have you shown [Jeremy Scott] the Humanchives?

Yeah, I showed him everything as soon as I was finished designing it. I showed him the early CADs — he loved it, he thought it was awesome. He’s always giving me advice.

What’s a piece of advice you most remember? I’m sure he’s given you a lot.

It’s been a lot, yeah. We’ll meet up and talk for, like, four hours, then not see each other for a couple of weeks, do that again. But something that always stuck with me: I was explaining to him how I didn’t really have a title to what I do. And he was like, “You just create. When someone asks you, then you tell them you create and that ‘I’m Kerwin Frost, and I’m a creator.'”

That’s powerful.

Yeah, it sounds so simplistic. When you have the status, you can say that. And I don’t even feel like I’m at that level yet. I love explaining what I do and walk people through it. But it did stick with me, and it made me just confident about what I did. ‘Cause I definitely would think before like, “Damn, okay — if people get too used to me being a host, am I not able to do these things because others don’t do that” I’m just like, “Wait, don’t block it yourself. Everything is fine. You can do anything.”

How did it feel going from admiring [Jeremy Scott] to being friends with him?

Those things go hand in hand, you know what I mean? When you admire an artist, it’s because there was a language that’s being spoken that you get from the art even before you hear their voice. So that’s normally why I’m friends with a lot of artists, honestly. It’s that connection.

Speaking about the Humanchives specifically, there’s a fine line between paying homage and just copying. I feel like you kind of nailed it. Being so inspired by Jeremy Scott and Walter Van Beirendonck, was that difficult?

It wasn’t super hard; it was fairly easy. I think where a lot of people go wrong, with references and stuff, is that they’ll either call it a reference after it’s been found or try to give it this deep meaning. What they’ll do — a lot of the times — is just directly rip what’s there and then call it a reference after. And that’s not really what that is. You didn’t really make it yours at all. With what I do and the trust I’m given, I feel a strong responsibility to not let down history, you know what I mean? I gotta be honest, truly.

When you’re referencing in a disingenuous way, you’ll just take it because that’s what it is. But I think there’s so much more power in walking people through that, explaining to people what was there before, what you’re going after. But also “Hey, this is an ode to you. You fucking did this and it inspired me to make this.”

With how people are seeing the shoes on social media, they’re so quick to judge. And there’s a side that get it and another that doesn’t — there’s rarely any crossover. But for the people that don’t get it but want to understand, what would you tell them?

I don’t know — that’s up to them. I think it’s inevitable. If everyone got it, I would be in trouble. They got to figure that out on their own; I can’t force feed it that hard. I explained it pretty far out. If you don’t, after all that explanation, I’m just like, “Okay, you don’t really need to like it.” After all of that, at that point, it’s just like, “Okay, dude, it’s fine. It isn’t really for you.”

Speaking about the Benchmates, I feel like, from a design perspective, it comes from a different place. You said in the Full Size Run episode that it’s inspired by mascots.

That’s the characters, it’s just the characters that are inspired by that. But the sneaker itself is inspired by a 2007 era of just fun shoes. The colors people used to use then were so cool and the touch on the patent leather — those things.

Did you illustrate the “Benchmates” characters yourself?

No, no, I didn’t. I had this artist Keith Rankin (@keithrankin), he worked on it. He does art for the Apple music show. He’s done all the covers for that. Working with him was cool ’cause he’s one of those artists who you can just say exactly what you want, or even have your references, and he just kind of follows your lead even though his personal work is out of this world. He does really great abstract stuff.

I was just like, “This is exactly how I want to do it.” Even down to the swaddle on the baby alligator — it has the blue and pink lines — that’s a swaddle you get immediately when you have a child. The faces on the blue dog, the two different eyes, and little things like that I would kind of draw it out a little bit. It was fun creating that way.

What was the reference for the toonified version of yourself?

It was kind of like Mickey Mouse but abstracted. It’s wet, kind of… I don’t know how to quite explain it.

That’s interesting. To me, it looked like an old Japanese horror game. It’s called Ao Oni.

You got to send me that. Yea, that’s cool. That’s another reason why I don’t like explaining it too much because people have their own kind of story with them.

Speaking of the production of the Superstuffed and the Humanchives, they’re not a normal ask for a factory. How tough was the production process for the both of them?

I felt like they were both just as hard, honestly. For the Superstuffed, they had to find the tooling and figure out how to do the bigger shoe but have it keep your foot secure. And there was so much legal behind that and months and months of testing.

With the Humanchives, they had to figure out how to get that mold correct on the mouth of the toe box. That was a really hard thing for them, too, because they haven’t done that. And then figuring out the right material for the eyes — on the original sketch, it was leather. They were going to be leather eyes and I imagined it being colored in and stuff.

Was there anything that you wish could have gone into the retail release?

No, they let me get away with a lot. I’m very grateful at this point.

I wanted to talk about Kerwin’s Kingdom as well. It sounds crazy to me. You’re building a castle, there’s music acts, and you’re dropping the shoes there. Can you tell me about it?

Yeah, it was crazy. We had this idea to do Kerwin’s Kingdom even prior to ComplexCon. We just didn’t know when it was the right time to do it. And we were like, we shouldn’t rent a retail space for this. We really need to put it together at somewhere people can just enjoy it as an experience. Even though, with the production of this, we were going steep (insert Kerwin’s signature laugh). ‘Cause ComplexCon only really gave us the space. Everything else we had to figure out ourselves. A lot of people don’t know that. They’re giving us a canvas, though, which is amazing.

But we wanted to create this kind of museum experience. You’ll go in, watch this instructional video, and then you go to this next room and it’ll be like my bedroom with all my mood board stuff and things I’m into. Me and Neck Face made this coin pusher — I found it and he’s building it back from the ground up — and that’s going to be there. Then you can shop at Kerwin’s closet. I’m gonna have a closet there where you can buy crazy pieces I’ve worn before. There’ll be this hallway of museum looks and there’s going to be this 7-Eleven. I’m making a co-branded party snack with them, it’s called Kerwin’s Party Snack. The art I got to do for the label was really, really cool. I’m excited for everyone to see that — I made it with this guy named Wayne. After that, there’s going to be an adidas room; then after that, there’s going to be the performance area; and in the performance area, I’m going to be showcasing my collab with Pioneer.

Damn, you got so much going on.

Yeah! And none of this stuff was tied with ComplexCon before, so it’s really cool ’cause we were going to just shoot all of these out, but now I got to make Kerwin’s Kingdom kind of the home of it. We’re not really going to be selling that stuff — the 7-Eleven collab is going to be free there. The only thing that you can really buy is my clothes, but the purchasing of it is really only for novelty.

Can you tell me about the music acts?

The booking for that was crazy because I booked it myself. I literally called every act on that line-up and explained everything to them — beginning to end, what I’m working on, what this is about. Yea, it was crazy. Finding Tommy Wright, getting Onyx, and Kero Kero Bonito — it was a lot of fun, though, I love doing that. It’s one of my favorite lineups of all-time. I really love every artist on there.