Interview: Kerwin Frost and adidas Are Having a Blast
Kerwin Frost describes his adidas partnership as a ‘dream come true’ when speaking with Sneaker Freaker, and over the course of our conversation his demeanour is certainly that of someone living out their dreams. Seated in the backroom of his 60x60 ‘Kerwin’s Kingdom’ installation at ComplexCon, Frost is lively and animated – letting out many a hearty guffaw and even encouraging us to try on his personal pair of Superstar ‘Superstuffed’ sneakers. We discuss his new Forum ‘Humanchives’ and ‘Benchmates’ colabs, touch on his personal design ethos and even talk about Jeremy Scott and Chief Keef! Check it out below.
How are you feeling, man? This is a really big weekend for you!
It’s been crazy. It’s gone so well. I haven’t even had a chance to step back and take it all in yet.
Do you feel like you’re floating through it?
Yeah, man. I have to, just because this whole experience has been so wild! Seeing my concept come to fruition has been really cool.
How did your partnership with adidas first come about?
It always felt to me like how someone would go about getting a collaboration back in the day. It wasn’t a long-ass email chain or meeting with 40 different people – it was me hitting up John Wexler for two years, checking up on him and telling him what I’d been working on. I was knocking on the door and proposing this new reality to him, which was a really great experience to grow through. There was even a point where my deal [with adidas] was just going to be me doing social posts, so to look at what exists now is insane. They really listened to me and gave me a shot.,
I see you’re wearing your Superstar ‘Superstuffed’. How did working on the ‘Humanchives’ and the ‘Benchmates’ differ from making the ‘Superstuffed’?
The 'Superstuffed' was definitely a tone-setter. [adidas and I] didn’t know what the whole vision for our partnership would be when we made that, but we did know that it was a shoe that had both of our DNA in it. From there, we were able to hone in on what we wanted to do, which was pushing things in a unique direction and breaking boundaries. If you look at the Superstuffed and the Humanchives, they’re both very unique, but have a lot of classic adidas flair to them too: the Superstuffed’s base is a classic black and white Superstar with a gold foil stamp on the tongue, and the Forum is an original white and blue colourway. I wanted to keep the sneaker’s original soul but enhance its history, you know what I mean?
Sure, evolve it but keep it classically rooted.
Yeah man, you have to! You can wear any of my sneakers in your own way – they don’t have to be dipped in ranch dressing [laughs].
Where does your appreciation for these original colourways come from? Did you grow up wearing Superstars and Forums?
Oh, for sure. The ‘Benchmates’ colour palette is a testament to a time in my life when I was actively collecting sneakers in the early-mid 2000s and all these brands were doing patent leather kicks with really wild colours.
While we’re on the topic of the ‘Benchmates’, where did the inspiration for the characters on the side come from?
Have you ever seen CoComelon?
I can’t say I have.
It’s this animated kids show with a bunch of 3D characters, and they all have this super f*cking blank stare. You can’t tell if they want to kill you or if they want to cuddle. I thought they were so weird and was like ‘I gotta do characters like that’.
Let’s talk about the ‘Humanchives’ a bit more. Where did the inspiration for them come from?
I don’t exactly know, to be honest with you. It just made sense to me. I really was just like ‘eyes, mouth, hair, face’. [The 'Humanchives'] was supposed to be a little companion, like a pet rock or something.
Can you tell us whose eyes are on the shoe? I know it’s a closely guarded secret.
I still can’t answer that… I’d go to prison [laughs]. Just kidding!
You’d mentioned the hair, and I noticed that in one of the teaser posts for the shoe it had a ponytail, which seems to be absent on the final release. What happened there?
Yeah, so with that – here, actually take a look at this [grabs a Friends and Family ‘Humanchives’ box]. I wish everyone could get one of these Friends and Family sets because I know they’d make a lot of people’s days. This is actually A$AP Rocky’s pair [shakes the box]. Sorry ‘Rocker’.
[As Frost eventually manages to pry the box open with some help, he shows off a set of ‘extensions’ for the ‘Humanchives’, which even a special brush!]
This version comes with hair that you can secure to the heel with a little clip. Even some hair ties and a little pair of scissors so you can really make it yours. The original plan was to release every shoe with the hair kit, but testing and sampling would have just taken too long.
Tell me about having Chief Keef in the lookbook for this collection. How did that come about?
Marketing is always one of my favourite parts of any project. I don’t care if something is projected to sell out really quickly or not – my main goal is making something people can experience. Having Keef being the face of the collection was really exciting, because I love how he’s paved the way for a lot of people, and I also realised that nobody’s ever shot him in a really ‘respectable’ way, so I wanted to do that.
That’s definitely not the kind of setting you’re used to seeing Keef photographed in. It’s an interesting juxtaposition because you have all these bright colours and bold characters, then Keef, who has this really unique sinister grin that almost matches the characters.
Yeah, exactly! I really love collaborating with artists from all walks of life – graphic artists, contemporary artists, anything.
Speaking of artists and people who inspire you, I know you’re a big Jeremy Scott fan. One similarity between his work and yours is that you both understand the importance of infusing fun into your projects. Can you talk about why that’s so important to you?
It’s important to me because I really and truly think people want it. There’s so much of that post-apocalyptic, earth-toned bullsh*t in sneakers these days, and that’s cool but I feel like everything else got exiled in favour of it. We’re coming out of our version of the Great Depression, and everyone wants to bring their best out and have a good time. Fun is a part of that. People should really f*cking care about what they’re putting out and the impact it can have.
Fun is definitely important to you, but one thing that’s not is resale value. That’s interesting because resell value and sell-out times are the only real barometers of success to a lot of people these days.
Which is ridiculous right?! What the hell!
Right there with you. To you, what are the barometers of success for a collaboration?
There’s a big divide between people who buy sneakers to flip them and people who buy sneakers to collect and wear them. When I was doing my research, I locked in on the second group and thought of what they’d look for. Someone like that might have a closet full of OG Dunks and Air Jordan 1s – which are all very simple colour-wise – but then they’ll also pull out something like the ‘Chunky Dunky’ SBs, which is one of the most ridiculous sneakers we’ve seen in the past 10 years. It’s completely contradictory to the rest of their collection, but they love it anyway. I think having this sneaker appreciated by those people makes it a success to me.
Final question: what’s been your favourite thing about this whole process?
Yesterday I got to see people react to the shoes in person for the first time. They seemed to get what I was trying to do off the rip, with no explanation. That was so fulfilling. Also, DMC [of Run DMC] came by with his son and grandson. We were both wearing Superstars, and he brought me an autographed ‘Superstuffed’. That was a complete knighting moment.
The Kerwin Frost x adidas Forum Hi 'Humanchives' and Forum Low 'Benchmates' will release globally via the adidas Confirmed app and select retailers on November 17. Check out our 'Where to Buy' list here.