Adidas is the story of a young soldier, three stripes and a shoe-making village in Bavaria. Adolf (aka Adi) Dassler returns from the First World War in 1918 to his village of Herzogenaurach where he was born in 1900. He will do the same job as his father and almost everyone around him. As an avid runner, he created a sports shoe that was quite successful. In the impoverished and demoralized Germany of the interwar period, sports were encouraged as a means of boosting the nation’s morale and fitness. Germany’s burgeoning passion for soccer did the rest: Dassler developed a soccer shoe with cleats, created the three-stripe design, and sold his product to every club in the country.
In 1936, during the Olympic Games in Berlin, Adi presented the famous American sprinter Jesse Owens with new cleated models, which Owens immediately adopted. The shamrock logo appeared for the first time on a ball and was later displayed on the tongue of the shoes. The magic of the three stripes and the clover leaf did not happen by chance. The aura of Adidas, registered in 1949, is the result of meticulous craftsmanship, a passion for performance and a vision of sport as a means of self-improvement.
A culture of collaboration
Through ups and downs, Adidas has never ceased to attract devotees, going beyond its role as a shoe and sportswear manufacturer, to become a lifestyle and affordable luxury brand, thanks in particular to judicious collaborations, under its “Adidas Originals” section, with musicians such as Kanye West, who signed the Yeezy, and Pharell Williams in the case of the Humanrace, which will also bear the Chanel logo. The big fashion brands such as Prada, Gucci, Balenciaga, Stella McCartney and Ivy Park, Beyoncé’s label, are also jostling to mix their logos and designs with those of Adidas. Since Jesse Owens and Stan Smith, there have been countless collaborations with sportsmen and women, such as skateboarder Dennis Busenitz, but also with artists and designers such as Philippe Starck.
Celebrating with Dubai-based stylists and creatives
To mark the reopening of the huge Adidas Originals store in the heart of Dubai Mall, with its futuristic new decor, the brand invited local designers to customize its designs at the end of July. Under the theme “Curated By”, the idea was to add to its aesthetic an even broader vision by integrating that of young people, and especially young women, from the Gulf countries. Posted on the Instagram account @adidasdxb, the announcement read, “‘Curated By’, a concept in collaboration with Dubai-based stylists and creatives to celebrate our new all-inclusive in-store mannequins, seen at the Originals Flagship Store @thedubaimall.”
Latifa Saeed’s sofa
Born in Dubai, in 1985, Latifa Saeed is an Emirati visual artist working mainly in installations. She graduated from Zayed University with a Bachelor’s degree in Arts and Sciences and is a 2019 fellow of the Sheikha Salama Emerging Artist Fellowship and a 2021 grantee of the Misk Art Grant, an initiative under the Misk Art Institute in Riyadh. She enjoys exploring the intrinsic qualities of regional materials, and extrapolating complex cultural narratives.
Her take on Adidas was not a shoe, but a huge braided blue velvet sofa that added a cocoon-like feel to one of the biggest Adidas stores in the world.
Azra Khamissa’s henna designs
A chiropractor, designer and henna artist, Azra Khamissa started her eponymous brand Azra in 2015. Azra is a collaborative studio whose works involve calligraphy and henna designs, along with designing ethically sourced leather items.
Azra decorated two pairs of Stan Smiths and a pair of Superstars with elegant, mysterious and intricate lines of natural henna, right from the pouch.
Hessa Archives’ tote bag
“With a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design, I’ve reflected my Emirati culture within a physical space through design thinking and experimentation across my studies,” confides Hessa. Her brand, Hessa Archives was born after the epiphany that most of her digital work was hidden in folders on her desktop, instead of being carefully protected on her bookshelf. “Creating a public archive is a makeshift digital shelf where my creations are on display for the world to see, and now, you are a part of it — welcome to Hessa Archives!” reads her manifesto. On her website, hessaarchives.com, you can shop tote bags, stickers and sketches of conceptual interiors.
For the occasion of the huge store’s reopening, she designed a tote bag with the calligraphic words “Marhaba malayin”, Arabic for “Welcome a million [times]”, drawn like an endless blue wave. The phrase and piece encompass warmth and celebration.
Christopher Joshua Benton’s lightboxes
Finally, Christopher Joshua Benton is not Arab, but he’s an American artist based in Abu Dhabi and Boston, working across installation, photography, and film. He works closely with communities to instigate collaboration and share stories of power, labor and hope. His research investigates traces of the homeland in the diaspora. A graduate of the University of Georgia, he has completed programs and fellowships with the Rhode Island School of Design and the University of Oxford. He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Art, Culture, and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
His contribution was a series of blue, pink and yellow lightboxes hung on the ceiling of the store and displaying inspirational quotes like “I want to touch the sky, that blueness so light”, drawn from a poem, or rather the death note, of Xu Lizhi, a Japanese factory worker who committed suicide on 30 September 2014.
Having built its success on sport, Adidas has been enriching its identity with creativity and inclusiveness for some years now. The brand with the three stripes understands the word “performance” in its broadest sense.