You might not know Matt Irving's name but we can guarantee you've seen or indeed own some of his handiwork. With a knack for geometric flow and a natural flair for clean lines, his style is instantly appealing and offers snippets of humour in unexpected places. From his own work under the banner of Delphi, which included some great designs for Element, and more recently one of our shoes of the year in the Milk Blazer SB, he has had his finger in more than a few pies. Right now though, he's taken on a pretty big job handling all the visuals for the embryonic adidas Skate team. From the ads to bongo vans and videos of the Gonz in full flight, Irving is all over it. The trefoil is in good hands...
How and when did you start working on adidas Skateboarding and in what capacity do you work for them?
It all started about a year ago. My friend Brett Critchlow and I were approached separately by adidas to create concepts for their ads. We were both too busy with other projects so we decided to team up and the next thing you know we got the gig and started working on it full time. We handle everything visual for adidas Skateboarding except for the actual product design. So it’s things like ad campaigns, commercials and video projects, catalogs, website design etc. Two weeks ago we were asked to redesign the paint job for a 1970s split window VW bus for adidas Brasil. Our projects can be really random at times.
What’s your overall goal with adidas Skate? Where do you want to take it?
Personally, I just want it to be sincerely focused on skateboarding and not try to be too much of a fashion thing. Just shoes for skateboarders, and if other people seem to like them, then that’s cool too. I like that the team is solid and respected by skateboarders and adidas is being very slow and steady about what shops carry the program. Being a little bit picky isn’t necessarily being exclusive and snobby, it’s about committing to the skate shops that have been around for a long time and supporting the scene.
How do you, in general terms as well as specifically in regards to adidas Skate, feel about non-skate companies entering
the skateboarding world?
It’s all fair game in this day and age. There aren’t any rules about who can and can’t have a skate program. I think that skating has changed a lot since I started doing it. When I was a teenager I probably would have hated it if the bigger companies were getting involved because skating was something to break away from the mainstream. These days skating isn’t what the outcast kids are doing, it’s something that is considered cool. That doesn’t mean that there is a right and a wrong, skating continually eats itself and neglects its roots.
What do you think adidas Skate can offer to skateboarding?
I think they can offer up some really good quality shoes and support some of the best skateboarders to push what is possible on a skateboard. They have a level of quality in materials and production that is much higher than most of what is out there. If they can last longer than an average pair of skate shoes, then that’s good for everyone. I think it’s also really cool that the majority of skate shoes out there have always looked to many of adidas’ classic shoe designs for how they design their shoes. Like the Shelltoe, Stan Smith, Rod Laver, Campus, Gazelle or even just the iconic stripes on a side-panel.
What projects are you working on right now?
I just got back from five days of filming in Berlin with the adidas Europe team. It was a really fun time and super productive. That team is so driven to get out and skate. Right now we’re out in New Zealand to shoot Mark Gonzales with a small film crew and studio. It’ll be a three minute film about Gonz out in New Zealand because he has been living out here with his lady-friend while she gives birth to their child. That happened a few weeks ago and it’s a boy.
What new product can we expect from adidas Skate in the future?
Well there’s a new hi-top style of a shoe called the Roster Mid that will be coming out in January, as well as a vulcanized version of the Campus. The Gazelle was just redesigned with subtle improvements so it’s totally skatable. I really like how that shoe turned out and it’s not going to smash the crap out of your heels because of a lack of padding. Then in the middle of 2008 there will be a redesigned Shelltoe coming back that is modeled after an original late seventies model of the shoe. It’s completely dialed in, looks amazing and is true to the style of Shelltoe everyone used to wear in the early nineties.
How do you juggle working for adidas and your other projects?
Lately there hasn’t been a lot of juggling actually; Brett and I have just been focused on it as much as we can so the foundation is set for this first year. I still manage to do a few outside co-op projects in the evenings but I’m making a conscious effort to dedicate more time to that sort of stuff. It’s been nice to take a break from Delphi projects and personal artwork. I think I overdid it and kind of got burnt out on work. Now it feels fun again and the ideas flow naturally, I can have a fresh approach and know that it’s art or design projects for that very sake. I can live off the adidas work and keep the personal projects focused on new ideas and personal growth.
What other projects are you working on at the moment? What about Delphi?
I did a bunch of stuff for Nike ACG before I started working for adidas. It’s a Delphi/ACG design co-op collection that drops this spring. I just wrapped up a board, sweater and tee for a German skate brand called Hessenmob. Some shirts and a jacket design for a clothing line in Paris called Sixpack and some board graphics for Element. I might actually get to have some of my photography on wine bottles for Francis Ford Coppola’s winery, but we’ll see how that turns out.
What is floating your boat at the moment? Music? Art? Drinking?
Traveling has been consistent this year and that’s always great. Going to new cities, meeting new people and seeing different art and architecture. I think it’s important to rip yourself out of the your everyday life, it’s easy to get complacent. I also get really hyped on seeing friends starting to gain acknowledgement for their artwork. It’s inspiring to see people become successful at their random ideas and eventually to a level where they can live off of it. I have a friend who shapes surfboards under the name Mandala and his impeccable craftsmanship is blowing up. I don’t really even surf, but I certainly appreciate how cool-looking his boards are and the level of quality that he demands out of himself. I like that, it’s rare!
What keeps you motivated to work in this industry? Inspires you?
I grew up skating and it kept me out of trouble. I’ve always loved it and for some reason the love hasn’t gone away. I really only enjoy working for things that I believe in, and skating happens to be one of those things. Any design work I do out of skating is usually in the streetwear realm, I only do that because I like that world too. It’s young and energetic; I just don’t like the ‘trophy-hunter’ aspect of it.
What’s your take on the current state of skateboarding and how do you feel about the constant reference of skateboarding in streetwear, despite the fact the majority of streetwear brands have little, if any, history in skateboarding?
That’s a weird one. I actually think that streetwear is loosely tied to skating because a lot of the people that run the companies tend to be skaters or ex-skaters. There’s an entrepreneurial spirit that is sort of consistent from watching skate companies come up and get successful. In many ways, streetwear of today reminds me of the skate companies in the early 90s and I think that’s why I like it.
By Steven Vogel
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This article appeared in Issue 11 of Sneaker Freaker. Buy it here