When it comes to streetwear fashion, the explosion of the reseller market is both a confirmation of its popularity and cultural sway, and a rebuke to the traditional modes of retail transaction. There are individuals and entire companies that try to buy up as much of a limited collection as possible in order to flip it on eBay and elsewhere for many times its original retail price.
This reseller culture is exactly what Adidas Originals and Alexander Wang were counting on and commenting on when they chose to sell their new collaboration collection out of unmarked trucks in trash bags during New York Fashion Week in September. It was called a surprise, but behind the strategy behind the launch was anything but spontaneous.
We’ve seen the adidas Originals by Alexander Wang collection, but now Johannes Leonardo creative director Ferdinando Verderi decided to walk us through the details of the cryptic campaign, the goals behind it, and how they pulled it off.
“What Alex did so brilliantly with the collection was to literally challenge the ultimate status quo of the brand, it’s very own logo. He did in a subversive way, flipping it upside down, which, knowing how any corporation works, is a very difficult thing to do,” says Verderi. “You’re playing with a trademark and opening up a conversation around delicate brand legalities, including the idea of counterfeit and other issues. But he enjoyed that tone so much that a lot of the details in the collection were mimicking the same idea–the first drop featured an NDA agreement on the back of a T-shirt crossed out with a big red X. It’s a subversive take on fashion.
“I thought the best way to do justice to this collection was to challenge the status quo of how these types of collections are typically launched. It was something that wasn’t just disruptive, but also subversive. Like the logo, we wanted to swap the paradigms of your typical limited-edition collection launch.”
While meant to mimic the surprise drops of high-profile albums lately, there were actually clues posted around New York days in advance. Posters appeared that were emails between officials at Adidas Originals and Alexander Wang, discussing the collection and the use of the logo. The names and brands were blacked out, except for one of the email addresses with an Alexander Wang URL. On the day before Wang’s show for his own new collection, someone went around and stamped the name of someone at Alexander Wang on the posters. Then, on the day of the show, just hours before the news of the Adidas collaboration went public, the Adidas Originals’ logo was stamped on the posters.
Leaflets were also passed out around the city, featuring the Alexander Wang logo and an inverted phone number. Callers got an answering machine that would reveal three locations. “12 p.m., Mercer and Canal. 3 p.m., 5th Ave and 57th St. 6 p.m., Brooklyn.” People thought it was a casting call or a fashion show, but didn’t know it was actually the locations of unmarked trucks selling the collection.
The result? Giddy fandom, lines in Soho and on 5th Avenue of people waiting in front of brand-name boutiques, but instead of trying to get in the doors, they were waiting for unmarked trucks to buy goods sold in plain black trash bags. Of course, it was all documented by celebrated N.Y.C. street photographer Daniel Arnold.
Verderi says the while the immediate nature of the launch was incredibly local, the fact it was more action than advertising ensured it would be talked about far beyond New York. “Those trucks, trash bags, and everything were essentially digital ideas because we knew they’d travel the world in social media. We knew we were talking to a real community, so there was no need to fake it. Let’s just be there on the street,” he says. “A lot of this street culture is being part of a specific moment. If we spread the news of the collection to every magazine or blog two days before, everyone would’ve known about it, but this was a much more fun way to go about it. Surprising people and doing it the way they do it. If you’re illegally selling goods, you don’t broadcast it everywhere, you tell a few people, giving out clues only some will understand, so we really wanted to mimic that behavior.”
Adidas Originals’ vice-president of global brand communication Alegra O’Hare says it was the most unique launch the brand has worked on, and has set a benchmark for future projects. “Someone asked me the other day about which one of the Originals projects I’m most proud of–and I’ve been here for 10 years–and I said, hands down the Alexander Wang launch,” says O’Hare. “Because it was so unique and groundbreaking on all levels, we worked on everything to make an impact.”
Verderi compares it to their own branded version of The Usual Suspects. “That’s the mood we went for,” he says. “There are a series of clues that are intriguing because of Alex’s presence, but they don’t make any sense, then all of sudden you see they’re all connected. That was the emotion we were going for.”
Now streetwear culture is hoping for a sequel.