NMD, Yeezy And The Changing Face Of adidas: Nic Galway Interview
The face of adidas Originals is changing but make no mistake; heritage is still very much at the core of the brand. The new adidas Originals favours minimalist design, embraces material innovation and is unafraid to stray from familiarity. The man leading this evolutionary charge is Nic Galway – the designer that was key in the development of Tubular, helped introduce Y-3 into the Three Stripes' stable and made Yeezy's footwear ambitions a reality. 2016 means big things for adidas and Nic’s latest innovation – a brand-new line dubbed NMD – is at the forefront. We sat down with Nic in NYC to learn why the NMD is a must-have addition to every sneaker rotation.
Thanks for chatting with us today Nic. NMD, in your own words, what’s it all about?
It’s an opportunity for me to connect the past and the future. That was really what I discussed with the creative teams at the beginning. We have the most amazing archive, I believe, in the industry and at the same time I believe we have the best innovations in the industry right now. Boost for me is unrivalled. So, to have these two elements and not do anything with them would be wrong. I really like that opportunity of bringing both together and bringing it into a new context. We make products for the best athletes in the world but they are out of reach of many people. This was a chance for me to say ‘you know what, we all love the iconic elements of the past but we don’t live in the past’. There is always a place for the Stan [Smith] and the Superstar and the original EQT shoes, and I’m a big lover of those myself, but we also need to connect with a new generation and be pioneering. So, that’s what it was all about and then also looking at how we live our lives: being busy, travelling and a product you’d want with you when you are going through those experiences.
With the construction of the NMD, we saw, in the build up to its unveiling, that the Micropacer, the Boston Super and the Rising Star were all hugely influential in its creation. How did these shoes influence the design of the NMD?
One of the terms we use a lot in Originals is collective memory. Basically, what we mean by that is if you close your eyes and think of a brand, what are the things that stick, especially with the classics? For me, you don’t need to reference the entire shoe, it’s just certain elements – certain colours or materials, gold foil text, serrated edges or whatever it may be. That is really the collective memory. I love the shoes from the 1980s because it was a period of such ambition and future thinking. It was the time of computers entering the home, which would have been impossible the generation before, so product design of that era is very much of that spirit. The Micropacer was an incredible shoe with wearable technology and no one had any technology in their homes to use it with. So, it was just that real pioneering spirit which I loved about it and the materials on the soles of those shoes as well, with their very iconic colour blocking, which you can see in the NMD. Those colours weren’t picked because of the colour design or something like that, they were just simply the colours it came in and I think that’s also really nice. They wanted different densities, so that’s what they could get it in and it informed very much how the look of the shoe came to be. So, I wanted to pick up on that but I didn’t just want to do it as a visual exercise. We wanted to make sure that each of those iconic elements played an important role in the new shoe too. So, the colour blocking on the sole provides support to the Boost foam to give you a bit more support for when you wear it for longer periods of time. It’s that thinking of the past but appropriating the right modern materials.
Speaking of the colours, can we expect any heritage-inspired colourways down the track?
Yes, you can but you can also expect us to go into different areas too. I thought for the launch, it was really important to reference that because, when you see the shoe from a distance, you see our brand instantly because you recognise that iconic blocking. And in a snapshot it could maybe be one of the old shoes but, when you get close and you see it’s something new, that to me is the message we really wanted to send with the first iteration of it. As we go forward with it, there are many ways of connecting with the future. The colours are one way, so I would like to keep it open and see where it takes us.
To us, the most interesting part of the shoe is actually on the inside – the Boost midsole is exposed right through the footbed. What’s the purpose behind this?
The reason you see that is that the Boost has such a strong memory as a material. If you were to see it compressing in slow-motion you can see that it has so much memory that other materials can’t keep up with it. People often ask why Boost is white. The reason is that the coatings don’t have the memory of the material so they would fatigue too quickly and, you know, it sounds like an easy thing to do but its really not. Now if you encapsulate Boost and you close the holes on the sole and the footbed then you’re basically laminating it, like with plywood, and you are stopping the material from working. So it’s very visual but it’s visual for a function, the same as the outsole. All the cut-outs, they aren’t just design elements, they’re allowing the Boost sole to move and adapt, and allowing for you to get the maximum cushioning from it.
Your other big creation to release this year has been the Yeezy Boost line. You’ve been the man that’s brought Kanye’s vision to life, to translate it from pencil and paper to the shoe it is today. What is it like working with the man himself?
It’s very interesting, I have to say. I spent the last two years really getting to know Kanye and the first six months or so of that was really getting to know him. We did a lot of studies, a lot more than you would do normally because Kanye was transitioning himself into the way he wanted to go in the future by partnering with us. We were getting to know him and that was the most valuable part, because, once we started to click, that is when you start making the really great products. The key to working with Kanye is having an open mind. He has so much energy and such strong vision that we’d never try and push something on him. That’s not why we wanted to work with him anyway. I have to say that I always read the comments and whatever, but I don’t think people appreciate how much energy he has for design. How much he reads. How much he cares. For him to come twice to China with me to work in a factory, that is incredible and, you know, he is pretty successful. He doesn’t need to be China but he wants to be there and he wants to be hands-on and it was really eye-opening for me.
Outside of his influence, are you surprised at all by how much the sneaker community took to such avant-garde design with the Yeezy Boost line, something that was so completely unlike anything else on the market?
I’m not surprised. That’s what Kanye can do. There are so few people in the world with his level of belief and one of the reasons he wanted to work with us is that we have these innovations and because he knew that through the partnerships we had done before, whether it be with Raf [Simmons] or Rick [Owens], that we’ve always given very open freedom for our partners and I think that was the attraction for both sides. Kanye was very clear from the beginning that he has to create something that represents him today and that’s more challenging for people but that’s absolutely true to who we are and who he is and that’s why we partnered with him and I am very proud of what we have been able to achieve with him.
adidas Yeezy BOOST 350 'Moonrock'
Lastly, the big question every sneakerhead wants to ask, what can we expect from the Yeezy line in the future?
We have to wait and see. Like I said, when working with Kanye, you need to remember why you work with each other and I’m always in conversation with him. He surrounds himself with great people and we have so many great ideas and we’ll keep going in that direction.