If you were a collector of vintage sneakers then your fantasy might be to time-travel back to the eighties and have a good rummage in a sports store stacked to the ceiling with long-lost Adidas products.
Four aficionados of Adidas sneakers were able to do exactly that, but without the need for time travel. They only had to get to Argentina.
It all began when Gary Aspden, a London-based Adidas brand consultant, received an email tip-off about a store in a suburb of Buenos Aires, which was apparently frozen in time. Photos of the shop’s interior showed row upon row of Adidas light blue boxes. He discussed it with colleague and fellow devotee Mike Chetcuti. “It seemed way too good to be true,” Chetcuti says, “A shop full of rare Adidas? In 2014? It couldn’t be… or could it?”
They spoke to a contact in Argentina and asked if someone could go and verify the store was for real. The contact reported that everything looked like it did in the photos but was unable to confirm the contents of the boxes or the condition of the stock. “Were we prepared to risk traveling all that way for what could be a shop full of children’s rugby boots, ice skates and swimming costumes?” says Chetcuti, “Of course we were.”
Chetcuti and Aspden describe themselves as Adidas “enthusiasts”. This is like saying Imelda Marcos had a passing interest in high heels (don’t call them “sneakerheads” though; they are from the north of England, where people like trainers).
Around the same time, Aspden was curating an exhibition of what could be described as a “greatest hits” of Adidas footwear. Much of the exhibition is sourced from his personal collection of more than 800 pairs. Eight hundred.
Aspden and Chetcuti were joined on the 17-hour flight by Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown, himself an avid collector, and British designer, Robert Brooks who has been nurturing a collection for more than 20 years. They were accompanied by filmmaker Greg Bond.
The film tracks their experiences at the store that time forgot. In a nondescript street in Buenos Aries on one of the hottest days on record they discover a “room of treasures” beyond anything they could ever have hoped for.
Carlos Ruiz, who has owned the shop for 34 years, movingly explains that the shop is a form of therapy for him to combat loneliness. He conserved items because he knew it was “a noble product that was going to last”. Chetcuti reflects: “My memory of the experience was that it was hot, dirty, dusty, sweaty and clammy, with no electricity and barely any running water in the bathroom. But regardless of all that we didn’t stop smiling for days.”
Rare pieces from Ruiz’s store will be exhibited alongside hundreds of other specimens in the SPEZIAL Exhibition x “An incomplete Adidas history from a fan’s perspective” as part of Design Manchester 14, from October 24 -November 2.
Aspden has curated and designed a new, archive-inspired, capsule collection of clothing and footwear called Adidas Originals x SPEZIAL. It goes on sale from October 25.