As the design director for men at adidas Originals, Paul Mittleman has his hands firmly on the creative steering wheel. Excited about the Tech Super and Torsion Allegra being reintroduced next year, we caught up with him for a chat about vintage adidas runners and his creative inspiration.
Apparel or sneakers? Which do you prefer to work on?
I like both. They are both very different. Colouring a shoe is more like graphic design, designing a shoe is much more complicated. I’m not a shoe designer, but I can concept a shoe or connect the dots between many models. I don’t really look at footwear with one lens or filter. Shoes are part of the cultures I have grown up with. I look at the style and feel and how they might be worn. Shoes are more a question for me. Apparel is an answer. It’s creating interchangeable items that can combine to create moods and styles. Creating a collection is a great challenge.
You were at Stussy for a long, long time. Is it hard to change your allegiance and creative energy?
The transition is fascinating. I have not changed allegiance. My life is street culture and being a creative nomad. I still love Stussy and what I learned and achieved with them. I am honored to be part of the adidas family and very proud of my new role. I just have a bigger family now and new friends. The creative energy is grand on many levels, very complex, but always evolving.
Well 2013 is shaping as a good year. Kazuki is back, Jeremy Scott is still crazy. What are next year’s highlights you’re personally looking forward to?
Not easy to say, I am looking forward to a unique new part of history that is not written yet. We have many blank pages in the book yet to fill.
Well I look forward to reading that. Runners seem primed but where do you think we are at right now? Are minimal shoes finally at the end of their cycle?
The world is fast – running shoes are always new and pushing technology. A vintage running shoe was once the most advanced, and a contemporary model will one day be outdated. Running shoes reflect the world, creativity, environment and progress in manufacturing. Running shoes will always be fascinating for me.
If you had to pick a colour for 2013, what would it be?
I always say black.
Where do you look for inspiration? I’m guessing it’s not in Herzo where the adidas office is. Tokyo seems to be lacking in fizz right now. Do you agree?
Inspiration is everywhere, I think the real question is how you look at things and engage with ideas and objects in the world. Tokyo is still great. I just think again it’s how hard you want to look and what you are open to seeing. Tokyo is a wonderful city, but understanding Tokyo is a much greater task than a walk down Meji Dori.
Ok, let’s talk shoes. Tell us about some of the retro adidas models. The Tech Super is already a big hit. What’s the history of this model?
The original Tech Super came out at the same time as the Equipment series in 1991, so it was often overlooked. Even within its own product family this shoe had some tough competitors including the Tech from 1990, the Tech Road, the Tech Comp, Tech Lite and not to forget the Oregon Ultra Tech. The design of the shoe is also a combination between two decades. It bridges the honesty of the 80s design language with a more organic, highly inspired 90s one.
The Torsion Allegra is a little mysterious.
Torsion Allegra is part of the big Torsion story adidas started to tell in 1988. The Allegra was one of the first shoes which had the next generation of Torsion bar (called cross torsion) evolving from the bone shape to the cross shape. It was also one of the first shoes moving towards a more fluid design direction, and away from the more constructed way of designing footwear that was popular in the 80s.
Any other adi-runners ready for the comeback trail?
Yes and many new shoes that will take us into new spaces.
And finally, answer me this Paul Mittleman. All day I dream about….