Homage to a Classic: Adidas x Hender Scheme

PORT sits down with Adidas Originals and the iconic Japanese leather atelier, Hender Scheme, to discuss their latest collaboration

The adidas x Hender Scheme Micropacer

Fashion has long tried to redefine the concept of ‘luxury’, and to figure out what it means to consumers in 2017: just because something is expensive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s luxurious. Over the years the focus has moved on to the design process and, even more so, the craftsmanship needed to manufacture a product. How long did it take to make it, and how long will it last? Arguably, luxury is a combination of all aforementioned factors, and a high price tag the inevitable outcome from that.

Adidas, the German sportswear giant, is not a stranger to expensive fashion. Over the years it’s worked with various designers – everyone from Yohji Yamamoto and Raf Simons to Rick Owens and Alexander Wang – on short and long-term projects. At the same time, the bulk of its trainers and apparel are affordable and accessible, the definition of democratic fashion, as opposed to luxury. As such its latest collaborative partner, Japanese leather experts Hender Scheme, perfectly illustrates Adidas’ ability to scale ‘luxury’ in order to offer different types of products to different customers, without losing its DNA and brand personality.

The adidas x Hender Scheme Superstar

Founded by Ryo Kashiwazaki in 2010, Hender Scheme makes a wide array of leather goods, though is best known for its ‘Homage’ footwear line. In it, Kashiwazaki recreates various iconic trainers, from the likes of Adidas, Vans and Nike, using his signature ‘nude’ leather. The rawness of the material makes the craftsmanship that goes into the handmade trainers evident for the wearer as well as distant observers. Because of this, Hender Scheme might seem like an obvious collaboration match for the cherry picked brands, but in today’s design climate, with corporate trademarks and the red tape of intellectual property, it could also have lead to an expensive lawsuit.

It’s this that makes the Adidas x Hender Scheme project even more relevant. Based on a mutual respect, it is the ultimate collaboration in that it combines three mainstream Adidas silhouettes with Ryo’s intricate and limited interpretations. The styles – the NMD, Superstar and Micropacer – have all been stripped of its technology and remoulded in Ryo’s fine leather. They are no longer digital sportswear icons, but wearable and analogue pieces of art. PORT sat down with Kashiwazaki and Erman Aykurt, Senior Design Director for Adidas Originals Statement, to discuss the design process, the role of psychology in footwear and how Kashiwazaki retains ownership of his trainers.

The adidas x Hender Scheme Micropacer

Ryo Kashiwakazi, you studied psychology before going into footwear. Have you ever had any use of this experience in your current job, in an abstract or concrete way?

When you manufacture something, you always involve a group of people who actually make the product. I can apply my knowledge of psychology when communicating with them. The process of shoemaking involves a lot of divided labour, or divided roles. To make a shoe like this you probably have about fifty people involved one way or another, from the leather supplier to someone stitching them together, so it’s always important to create a shared goal among all of them, and to make everyone feel valued and involved. So, yes, psychology comes in handy!

You started out as a cobbler. Do you think that formal shoes are the foundation of footwear? Is that why you wanted to start at that end of the industry as opposed working with trainers straight away?

From my experience of repairing shoes I gained a lot of knowledge about how shoes are worn, and what happens to the shoes once they’ve been worn for a while. That helped me build my shoes and trainers, trying to foresee what will happen to them once they’ve been used for a while.

The adidas x Hender Scheme NMD

More than shoes you also produce other products, but what runs through the company is the use of leather and colour. What qualities does leather have that makes it so great for you?

For me, the thickness and tension are very important. For example, leather can be shaped into softness. If you don’t shape it, you can keep it hard. And the reason I use this natural colour is that you can see aging very clearly.

There’s a sense of purity to this colour, which makes it a great starting point, no?

Usually we dye from this colour, so this is starting point. It’s very delicate and sensitive; it can easily get stained as it’s basically untreated.

Another thing that strikes me is that you’ve borrowed existing silhouettes, and you’re using a colour that lends itself to the wearer putting his own stamp on it. So how do you retain ownership? Are you even interested in that?

Not sure it explains the ownership question, but the point of re-creating existing styles is to show off the work of the craftsmen, to introduce the work they do. So I suppose the product making is more important than the ownership.

You’ve reworked quite a few different brands. Is this the first time one of them has actually come to you and said, ‘let’s do something together’?

Yes, and because I was ultimately doing this out of respect for Adidas, it made me very happy that they respected me in the same way.

On that note, over to you Erman…  What was the initial Adidas reaction when you saw these products?

I can only say that, within the Originals department, we were really honoured. From a company perspective, there’s always two different ways how to look and deal with someone paying homage. But as we’re a global organisation with an office in Tokyo, there was already a personal relationship in place with Ryo-san. And it was very clear to us from the beginning that Ryo was working out of respect for our brand. And the mantra for everything we do in Consortium is based on mutual respect, so we wanted to meet him halfway and start a dialogue based on that.

The adidas x Hender Scheme NMD

What was it that impressed you? Was it the craftwork, or the craftsmanship?

Obviously the craftsmanship is something we admire and that we look up to. Even people who have been with the company longer than I have wouldn’t be able to do that even themselves. I know out of experience that what Ryo-san is doing is impressive. When Ryo-san came to Herzo , we gathered lots of people from across different Adidas branches and everyone was putting their latest innovations on the table, and he was known to everyone.

How did you end up with these three styles?

All of these shoes have been technological advancements of their own time. The NMD consists of Primeknit and our boost technology, the Superstar Shell Toe was high-tech at the time and, obviously, the Micropacer stands like nothing else for this sort of future-retro expression of the past.

From left: the adidas x Hender Scheme NMD, Micropacer and Superstar

Would you say that this is the ultimate in trainer luxury?

Well, what defines trainer luxury? It’s about combining a globally known silhouette with any form of limitation. In this case you have three of the most iconic sneaker silhouettes in the world, and you have, through the manual labour, one of the most authentic but at the same the most extreme limitation when it comes to creating quantities. It’s not limiting for the sake of limiting; it’s limiting because it’s not actually possible to create more!

Clarks and the Future of Footwear

With almost 200 years of footwear history behind him, chief brand officer Jason Beckley is taking Clarks Originals in a new direction, maintaining the brand’s legacy while simultaneously feeding it with innovative technology

There are a few brands that, almost per definition, transcend fashion. Often it’s reserved for the ones that have become synonymous with one type of product. Some of them find it a bit restricting and rebel against the pigeonholing. Others, the clever ones, build on it and cherish their cultural status. The trick is to continuously base parts of what you do on that legacy while simultaneously pushing forward with innovation in mind. Stagnation, as we all know, is creativity’s biggest enemy.

Clarks, the British footwear brand launched by brothers Cyrus and James Clark in 1825, has had almost 200 years to pioneer and establish its very own design philosophy, one that is equally defined by function as it is by form. Since August 2015, it’s been down to chief brand officer Jason Beckley to steer the ship. Within the footwear industry, Clarks is like a gigantic cruise liner: it has to appeal to a wide array of customers, and it can sometimes be difficult to turn it around quickly when trying to react to changes in the market.

As a direct consequence Beckley quickly set his sight on Clarks Originals, the brand’s directional line and sub-cultural force, which is now calling time on history and catching up with the future. Within Clarks it sits alongside the commercial main line, which makes shoes as quintessentially British as Marks & Spencer, Burberry and Land Rover. Originals, therefore, needs to offer a spearheaded product defined by attitude and energy.

Having worked with the likes of Dunhill, Alexander McQueen and Yves Saint Laurent, Beckley knows how to make a product high-end, and he is aware there’s plenty of work to do with Clarks. But, importantly, the core product is there: the combination of quality and legacy means Clarks has all the necessary ingredients to ‘future-proof’ its image – and that, surely, is preciously the kind of challenge Beckley will rise to.


Jason Beckley, chief brand officer at Clarks

You’ve been with Clarks for a year and half, what are the biggest challenges facing the brand?

That yesterday informs tomorrow with more clarity than tomorrow does. The other day my four-year-old daughter asked me, “Daddy, what is history?” and I said that it’s everything that has already happened, and she then said, “So what is tomorrow?” and I said the future is tomorrow. My wife butted in saying that, in fact, tomorrow is opportunity! And I thinks she’s right about that…

Clarks is still based in Somerset, and there’s a design centre in Boston, none of which are ‘centres of the world’. Were you never tempted to move the whole operation to, say, London or New York?

Well, I live in London and the head office is in Somerset. I work there and in Boston. To be fair, I toyed with the idea of moving the HQ quite a lot actually. I grew up in Somerset, desperate to get out, and to be 6ft7, black, weigh 220 pounds, have 23 on my back and play for Chicago Bulls! But I realised that a lot of the pioneering brands I admire – Nike, Adidas, Quicksilver etc – all started outside of the city. The fact that these iconic brands come from the middle of nowhere is what makes them specific and unique and what makes them intense and focused, and that’s what drives the authenticity.

A brand like Clarks is authentic but it is authentic from a historic point of so to speak? 

But there has never been a historic brand that started in the past, all of them started in the future. There was never a moment when Thomas Burberry or Alfred Dunhill was like, “Hmm, I wonder what we wore 108 years ago?” Instead they asked, I wonder what will happen 110 years from here? It’s more about asking yourself what will happen tomorrow, what will inform us and how will people live, rather than just investigating the past.

So even though Clarks is defined as a ‘heritage brand’ you don’t have a problem talking about the future as opposed to the past?

I’m happy to do an interview about the future as the past will really never inform us: the ‘code’ is about tomorrow and the ‘code’ is what makes a great pioneering product, but that comes from the very moment of perception and I think people really get historic brands a little bit confused. Am I going to drop to desert boot? No way! Do I think it one of the most beautiful products ever created? Absolutely! So the trick is to respect the past while pushing forward.


Products need to be kept contemporary, right? So take Originals, which is so anchored in history, how do you modernise that?

Essentially what you have in the Originals is the two streams; you have the protection of icons and you need to recognise that, so why don’t we make sure those things were made as perfect as they always were and why don’t we stop pushing them so hard for volume and why don’t we recognise that what they are, iconic and perfect boots and they should almost be seen as restorations. But you also need to be designing for now. I do still think you can pioneer innovation but you have to pioneer it with the same desire as before while protecting your icons – that is certainly the way that I’m going to do it! 

When you look at Clarks Originals, the Trigenic Flex stands out because it’s quite futuristic in its look compared to the others one…

That’s the shoe that enticed me to join Clarks! I was in Harajuku in Tokyo during the time I was talking to the company about joining, and there was a girl who really just stood out to me as she walked down the street… I looked at the shoes she was wearing and it was the Trigenic in black, and when I got in I went to find out all about them. The Trigenic sole unit was developed 25 years ago in collaboration with Loughborough University. Clarks then developed the moccasin foot shape last with an added whipstitch, which is a simple way to attach the last on the moccasin. A moccasin is just a rolled piece of leather but the whipstitch changes both the look and purpose of the original shoe. So, yes, if there’s a shoe that represents the current state of Clarks Originals, it would definitely be the Trigenic Flex.

I think it’s definitely an interesting silhouette because of that. It really shows that there is this path forward for Clarks Originals… It goes back to the code you talked about, right?

I got into a BMW taxi the other day and I knew it was a BMW straight away even though I didn’t see the logo, but I had no doubt at all because the code was perfect! Or imagine if you put three fridges next to each other and one was a new Apple fridge… I don’t think there’s anyone who wouldn’t be able to pick out the Apple one! It’s the same with the Trigenic, when you hold it you’re in no doubt that it’s a Clarks shoe. That’s what the code is about.


Red Wing: American Sole

Red Wing’s headquarters in Minnesota, USA

Red Wing head designer Aki Iwasaki talks to PORT about the iconic footwear brand, Japan’s love affair with Americana and why making fashionable products isn’t on his list of priorities

With an impressive 111 years under its belt, the continued success of Red Wing Shoes‘ proves that although trends are useful, they are certainly not the basis for a long-term business. While the Americana boom – now a rather distant memory – laced the historic Red Wing brand in the spotlight and their boots in the hands of a whole new customer base, the company was able to ride the wave and, crucially, remain relevant once the ‘Made in America’ noise died down. The key to its success is a commitment to what it does best: no-fuss, tough-as-nails protective footwear.

The business is split into four divisions: a lucrative, workplace-specific ‘Red Wing Shoes’ range that supplies to customers in the construction and manufacturing trade; the ‘Irish Setter’ label, targeting America’s sizeable hunting community, hikers and climbers; ‘Vasque’, which provides outdoors-friendly footwear; and its newest line, Red Wing Heritage.


Originally founded by shoe merchant Charles Beckmann in 1905, the business was inspired by the army of blue-collar workers at the heart of America’s industrial boom. Today, all Red Wing labels carry subtle traces of the original 1900s collection; familiar styles are being produced but have been modernised. While the DNA remains, these performance lines cater to a contemporary audience more interested in present than past, a consumer in search of functionality first and foremost.

However, Red Wing has never forgotten its roots. While ‘archival’ remains an exhausted menswear buzzword, the company has always preserved and protected its history no matter the prevailing trend. Red Wing Heritage, launched in 2005, is the distillation of all those treasured vintage models, faded newspaper ads and promotional posters locked away at its Minnesota HQ.

Producing a collection dedicated to reproducing the best of a bygone era, required a candidate with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the brand’s timeline. A self-confessed Red Wing obsessive since his school days, Red Wing head designer Aki Iwasaki has been with the company for over a decade. A Tokyo native, he has experienced Japan’s long-standing love affair with Americana first hand.

During his tenure, Iwasaki has overseen the leap from niche heritage sub-label to household name, reintroducing a series of classic Red Wing models from the Postman Shoe to the Beckman range. Each release is a reflection of both America’s social history and the brand’s own development. Here, Aki Iwasaki talks growing up, making it in America, and why the Japanese have a taste for authenticity.

Aki Iwasaki, head designer at Red Wing
Aki Iwasaki, head designer at Red Wing

When did you first discover Red Wing?

At school, actually. I remember my friend was wearing a pair of Red Wing Chelsea boots – they were really popular at that time, around 1995. I thought they were so cool but I couldn’t buy them; they were very expensive back then and I was a poor student. I eventually managed to get hold of a first pair of brand new Pecos Western boots, which were big in Tokyo.

Tell us a little about your background…

I grew up in Saitama on the outskirts of Tokyo. I originally studied industrial design as I wanted to be a car designer – the auto industry is huge in Japan – but it was a very difficult course, so I gave up.

My second interest was fashion. I’d always been into footwear, specifically, so I took a job at a company called Midori International, which dealt with lots of major shoe brands in Japan.

How did you end up working at Red Wing?

I was very lucky, actually… one of Midori’s brands happened to be Red Wing. Whatever your role, the first stage when you join Midori is to learn how to make footwear. I had to work at a Japanese shoe factory for three months, trying out lasting, cutting, sewing, etc. I didn’t enjoy it all, to be honest, but I was able to make my own footwear, which I loved. Realising what I was and wasn’t interested in, I started doing press and marketing for Red Wing Japan soon after the apprenticeship.


How do you source material for the Red Wing archive and what is your favourite find?

I use eBay a lot. I visit flea markets in America and Japan too.

It’s difficult to choose a particular favourite; I personally always wear vintage Red Wing. The hardest pairs to find are vintage Engineer Boots. If I see those I buy them straight away!

How would you describe the differences between the Japanese and American market for Red Wing products?

The Japanese market prefers the authentic vintage styles. They believe that Red Wing has to be very rugged and very tough, just like the original work boots. They like really thick leather and a firm feel to their footwear. The Red Wing Heritage market is newer in the US and Europe, so they’re more flexible about the image of Red Wing. In general they prefer softer, more comfortable leathers. Japan’s top seller continues to be the Moc Toe boot, while America really likes the Iron Ranger.


Is ‘Made in the USA,’ still important to you?

Yes, for me personally, for the market and for our brand, ‘Made in the USA’ is still really important. For the customer, it’s about the ideas of quality, toughness and durability – the sort of thing they associate, for example, with American-made automobiles. The US is known for its trucks not its compact cars; ‘Made in the USA’ is about strength and that’s what Red Wing is about.

How important to the business is the Heritage line?

Heritage is growing, I’d say it’s around 30 per cent of the overall business. Our work boots market though is much, much bigger, which is a good sign as it means that people still want to wear them for their original purpose.

How do you balance old and new at Red Wing?

We continuously produce several products, like the Moc Toe boot, which was created in 1950. That’s more than 60 years ago and the Pecos has a similar lifespan. These styles are like an everlasting product and the consumer expects these original models from us. But to stay fresh and relevant we try to experiment with different types of leather, for example. Comfort is really important, not just for Red Wing, but for footwear in general; often, vintage pieces are impossible to break in. This is where old and new meet: our specially developed cork base and leather insoles make a huge difference.


How much, if at all, are you influenced by trends?

We recognise that part of our audience is the fashion market, so we are always aware of what’s going on. Our priority, however, is making the best footwear possible, not necessarily fashionable footwear.

What’s the future for Red Wing Heritage?

We adjust where necessary, but importantly we must stay true to our roots. For example, we see the fashion market is moving away from Americana… that bulky product. We’ve added a more refined look to the collection (for example, the Beckman line) but we’ll never change our core range. That will always remain.

Photography Tec Petaja

Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Rebooted

Port’s fashion features editor David Hellqvist takes a look at the updated version of Converse’s classic shoe, the Chuck Taylor All Star II

Converse Chuck Taylor All Star II
Converse Chuck Taylor All Star II

Never change a winning formula they say, but no one has ever mentioned anything about updating it.

Classics are often considered to be ‘timeless’, mostly for design reasons, but their iconic status has less to do with functionality. The Converse Chuck Taylor is a case in point. The canvas high top might not look like a basketball shoe, but that’s how it initially achieved its mainstream success. Today, it’s less a sportswear basic and more of an everyday staple. It can be worn in just about any life situation, even events of a formal nature if donned with confidence and gravitas. As with so many garments, its limitations and possibilities are defined only by the imagination of the person wearing them.

Famous as a trainer with a cult following, fuelled by its music connotations, the Chuck Taylor represents energy and attitude, but there’s no doubt it’s often labelled as ‘old school’ too. There are some distinctively lo-fi qualities about the sneaker, which has always been a good thing. Again, why change what works? However, Converse decided that it was time to bring part of the iconic shoe up to speed, and this comes in the form of the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star II.

“The Chuck Taylor All Star is one of the most legendary and iconic sneakers of all time,” said Jim Calhoun, president and CEO of Converse. “The launch of Chuck II is a groundbreaking moment for Converse as we continue to move the brand forward through creativity and innovation, ushering in not just a new sneaker, but a completely new way of thinking.”

While keeping its signature outside detailing – most notably, the recognisable rubber toe cap, white foxing detail and statement ‘All Star’ patch – it’s the inside that’s been kitted out with state-of-the-art technology. Through its connections with Nike – its owners and a brand known for a hi-tech approach to athletic footwear – Converse has got hold of the sports giant’s coveted Lunarlon technology. According to Converse, the mark II Converse Chuck Taylor delivers “360-degree comfort with a Nike Lunarlon sock liner, foam-padded collar and a non-slip padded tongue for a refined and cushioned fit” and is “enhanced by a perforated micro-suede liner to deliver comfort and breathability during extended periods of wear.”

Lunarlon soles are used in the updated version of the Chuck Taylor All Star
Lunarlon soles are used in the updated version of the Chuck Taylor All Star

“We listened and took it to heart that people love their Chucks and want sneakers that are built to enable them to do more,” explained Richard Copcutt, vice president and general manager of Converse All Star. “The Chuck II is the full expression of this consumer obsession, staying true to the DNA of the original.”

There’s a fine line between improving a technique and destroying an image, the trick is to innovate while respecting the heritage. The Converse Chuck Taylor All Star II seems to tick those boxes. Its iconic design remains, and anyone wearing them on the street can hold onto the old-school credentials that the boot brings with it. But, and this is arguably the point of the new launch, the Converse Chuck Taylor II trainer is now in line with 21st century technology making it an even better wardrobe staple for everyday life, and is charged with the same energy and attitude that made the original edition a timeless classic.

More info over at the Converse website. The Converse Chuck Taylor All Star II can be found at Schuh