Fusing sport and street culture, adidas presents the Ali Values Project, a collection reflecting Muhammad Aliâ€™s core values: â€œrespect, confidence, dedication, conviction, spirituality and giving.â€ Featuring the works of LeRoy Neiman, Cey Adams, Shephard Fairey, Eric Bailey, HVW8, and Usurgrow, the Ali Values Project culminated in a showcase featuring paintings and illustrations based on classic photos from Aliâ€™s career. Format took a moment with adidas to talk about why the streets, why Ali, and why now.
â€œThe team was inspired by the MAC and its mission and chose to bring the same values to life in a limited collection of sneakers, Tâ€™s and track tops.â€
Format: How did the Adidas Ali Values Project materialize?
Adidas: The Originals product team was visiting the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, KY soon after it opened in 2006. The Center celebrates Ali’s core values: respect, confidence, dedication, conviction, spirituality and giving, with exhibits built around each of the values. The team was inspired by the MAC and its mission and chose to bring the same values to life in a limited collection of sneakers, Tâ€™s and track tops. We started by choosing archival photos of Ali from key moments throughout his career, each signifying one of the values. The images and values were then assigned to a variety of artists who were asked to create their own interpretation of the image/value.
Format: There are several artists that contributed to the Ali Values Project, how did Adidas make its designer selection and why these particular designers?
Adidas: There are so many incredible artists out there and of course, most anyone would jump at the chance to participate in a project involving Muhammad Ali. We didn’t want to limit the collection stylistically so we looked for a range of aesthetics and importantly, for people who seem to live similar values themselves. We worked closely with the Aliâ€™s on the final list and then put it out to the artists.
Format: In 2007, Adidas implemented its End To End Project, a project similar to the Ali Values Project in respect to commissioning designers. What benefits has Adidas seen from commissioning designers in its End To End and Ali Values Projects?
Adidas: Art has become an integral part of the street culture arena – collaborating with artists on limited edition product is great but isn’t necessarily unique anymore. With both of these projects we tried to take the concept of collaboration a step further, to add another layer of substance.
Format: In the past 18 months, Adidas has done a lot of collaborations. What characteristics does Adidas look for in the companies or creative talent that it collaborates with?
Adidas: A great and unique style, relevance of course. Most important though, we look for partners who are “adidas” somehow – who share our outlook, who value originality and maybe do things a little differently.
Format: Internet blogs generate a lot of hype – positive and negative – for today’s footwear and clothing products, and young consumers, specifically, digest the hype. What are the pros and cons of third-party blogs cataloging products?
Adidas: Blogs are the most pervasive and instantly gratifying form of media out there. Brands can’t really get hung up on whether they’re pro or con blog – they need to climb on board and participate and engage. If you check out the Ali Values site for example at adidas.com/ali you’ll find links that allow you to download product shots and add them to your blog. Blogs are going to show product shots regardless so you may as well provide easy access to a great looking image and good content.
Format: Adidas’ End To End and Ali Values Projects tip-toe along the streetwear arena. Does Adidas consider these projects streetwear items?
Adidas: Sure. adidas has two divisions – Sport Performance which includes Soccer, Running, Basketball etc – and Sport Style which includes Originals and Y-3. Originals is a premium lifestyle brand so we’re definitely in the streetwear realm.
Format: Counterfeiting and bootlegging are constant problems for clothing and footwear industry. How does Adidas protect itself from counterfeiting and bootlegging?
Adidas: Our legal team stays busy!
Format: What moment in Ali’s career best defines what the purpose of the Ali Values Project?
Adidas: The images provided to the artists are from different points throughout his career and capture him at different moments. The repose of Usugrow’s “Spirituality” is totally different than the “Confidence” of Cey Adams. Each of the artists wrote a short statement about their approach to the project and the value they worked on as well as what Muhammad Ali means to them. Ali is such an icon, so transcendent, that he represents different things to different people in a somehow very personal and meaningful way.