The Secret To Adidas' Success Is Kanye, Pharrell, & Fashion Girls

Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
For nearly a century, adidas' identity has been inextricably tied to its athletic roots, which makes sense — these are sneakers, after all. But, the past several seasons have seen a spike in the brand's popularity that goes way beyond the track, tennis court, and football field. The adidas Originals collection in particular, which includes revamped versions of iconic retro styles like the Stan Smith and Superstar (also known as "shell toes"), has seen a 29% sales spike this year alone. Who's to thank? According to CEO Herbert Hainer, adidas owes its popularity to both celebrity collaborations and street-style cred.

Hainer explained the line's success on a recent conference call: "The Superstar quickly became the shoe of the season," he said, citing 50 new colorways and the brand's collaboration with Pharrell Williams, that "brought the franchise to new levels."

And, say what you will about Kanye West's fashion cred, but Hainer credits him for another recent success story: the Yeezy Boost. Following West's ultra-hyped fashion show last season, plus Instagram endorsements from the likes of Kylie Jenner and Justin Bieber, the $350 sneaker-boot hybrid sold out immediately. "The launch of the Yeezy Boost, our first shoe developed in collaboration with Kanye West, [caused] long queues in front of stores," Hainer said. 

Of course, anyone with an Instagram account knows that adidas' popularity has been bubbling up for a few years now. In addition to these celeb endorsements, the sneakers also scored approval from a slew of It Girls, making the brand hot in a way it hasn't been since its '80s hip-hop heyday. Superstars in particular have been going strong on fashion blogs and in street style photos since 2014 (ousting the previous fashion-girl go-to, the Stan Smith — a.k.a. the official sneaker of normcore). Recently, Gigi Hadid further cemented their status when she sported the white sneakers at Rihanna's Met Gala after-party and the morning after, too (how's that for double duty?).

Hainer considers that street style love a ripple effect from the celeb endorsements. Following the Pharrell collab, he said, "sales and sell-through spiked the growth of all channels around the globe, creating halo effects far beyond the [Superstar] itself."

It's a fine line between sneakers becoming trendy and becoming too  popular. Over the past several seasons, adidas has managed to tread this tricky territory perfectly. Celebrity-designed styles like Yeezys are limited-edition, making customers eager to buy and hungry for more (regardless of price). Meanwhile, the brand acquires a patina of coolness that drives sales of non-limited styles. And of course, adidas has such a deep catalog that whenever the shoe of the moment becomes played out, there's another one waiting to take its place. So, what's next after Stans and shell toes? Judging from the celeb fanbase and the growing It Kid obsession, our money is on the Gazelle... (via Complex)

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