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Behind The adidas Berlin Zx900

Date: November 14 2011

By: Sneaker Freaker


Earlier this year adidas honoured the city of Berlin with a super limited 'Made For' ZX900. It was a thing of supersonic beauty, bearing gently distressed suede and carefully creased chrome leather lining for a jet-age retro feel. Limited to 150 pairs it ranks as one of the most collectible releases of the year and is destined to land on many end of year best-of lists. Our fam at Sneaker Freaker Germany caught up with Noah Bernard, the Global Business Unit Director for men's Originals to reflect on the shoe and get a sense of how it embodied Berlin's thriving sneaker scene. With a similarly impressive Made in Tokyo Superstar set to drop and more impeccable Originals heritage projects slated for 2012 it's an exciting time for anyone who savors the Three Stripes. Thanks to Julia Schoierer for the images.

 Tell us a bit about your background and your role at adidas.

I have been working in the industry for 14 years in various capacities (sales, marketing, communications). I came to adidas three years ago to manage the footwear product marketing team and now manage the men’s footwear, apparel, and accessories team for adidas Originals.

Why did you choose ZX900 for the 10th year anniversary colab?

My team were the ones who came up with the idea. The ZX 9000 is an iconic silhouette for adidas, and the ZX family has been the most celebrated series there over the past 20 years in Berlin. It has found its place in the club, football stadiums, and the streets. The ZX9000 launched in 89, which is when the wall came down. This was the aspirational shoe of that time in West Germany. You can imagine what they symbolized for the newly reunified East Germans. There is a mutual appreciation forged there that can never be destroyed.

Why a ZX 9000 and not the more common ZX 8000?

You’re right, the 8000 is more common, and an excellent shoe, but we often don’t do 9000s . I felt they deserved as much love as the 8000s. This was a chance to do something different, and knew Berlin would appreciate it.

Looks like Berlin got right on board!

Berlin is a city with a huge adoration for the ZX and the adidas brand. We love this city back equally as much, and we wanted to give something back to the people of the city that have given us so much passion over the years. This shoe is 100% for Berlin. It is also important to note that the Berlin ZX9000 was made in Germany to further enhance the connection to the product and the city.

So tell us about the all silver colourway. How does that relate to Berlin?

Berlin is a grey city from the weather to the architecture. Looking at one of the most iconic buildings in Berlin, the Alexanderplatz TV tower, its easy to see where our colourway inspiration came from!

You guys also threw a big flea market on the day of the release. What's the vintage scene like in Berlin

Berlin is no stranger to flea markets, vintage collecting, and a love of all things unique. There are a lot of really fantastic adidas collectors in Berlin, and when you go to see their collections it’s incredible. A lot of these dudes have some of the rarest shoes from our history, and they wear them daily. This is a really dope way of collecting, to really wear and enjoy the product instead of hoarding it in your basement closet. We wanted to celebrate this mentality, to make a collectable sneaker that’s already beat in. It’s impossible to keep these pristine, so you might as well wear them. After all, what goods a shoe if it is not on your feet? Also, the vintage materials fit the look and feel of the city.

Where does the obsession brands have with making their stuff look vintage come from?

People want products with soul. There's an inherit uniqueness to something vintage. It feels warmer. Some people don’t want to look like they’re new to a scene or a product. They want people to know this is who they are and have been for a long time. This is what a vintage looking product does for people, as strange as it sounds it is instant authenticity. To some, wearing a brand new crispy white pair of shoes just feels too manufactured and synthetic, both emotionally and physically. It puts the human back into it. And if you’ve ever been to Berlin, you know they celebrate the gritty. It's a beautiful city, but has a certain wear to it that we wanted to honor.

Vintage distressing isn't something we've seen too much from adidas. Is this set to change?

We've done a bit of it here and there, but nothing to this level. Mostly companies use vintage treatments on 70’s products and on just the midsole/tooling. We thought we would flip that mentality a bit and do a 90’s runner, and treat only the upper, which is a bit more complex to figure out. We did a lot of trials on different materials and developed new  techniques to get the look right. Comparing them to all our vintage trainers around the office, I think we nailed it and we couldn’t be happier with the results.

The Jacket is also your design?

Both the shoe and the jacket were designed by our color and material design guru. He is American living in Germany like me, so I knew I could rely on him to do the right thing.

What do you think about adidas and the future? Are we going to seem more performance features in the lifestyle segment?

The future of adidas is really strong. We have been growing and growing. And the brand is really hot. It is exciting time to be connected to the brand and we are looking to the future to try some new things and shake the industry up a little. I would never rule out anything for a brand like adidas.

Are there any hidden gems in the archive that you think need to be bought back?

One of the best things about working with adidas IS the archive. We have over 60 years of archive opportunities and Mr. Dassler was one smart man. So I am sure you will see us unearth some great new products to rework.

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