Trainer fan and adidas consultant Gary Aspden has created the ultimate adidas sneaker exhibition in London.
What unites Naomi Campbell, Run DMC, Noel Gallagher and Jade Jagger? Trainers. More specifically, adidas trainers. Their collectables – along with 600 other pairs of vintage, deadstock and other rarities – are now on show at #Spezial, a pop-up exhibition at the Hoxton Gallery, curated by ardent adidas fan and brand consultant Gary Aspden.
Aspden and his team trawled the country, knocking on doors and requesting trainers from only the most passionate fans – all the while collecting an array of personal stories and experiences from sneaker freaks of every subculture who’ve partied through the ages with adidas on their feet. Aspden spoke to Wonderland about curating the show and the unlikeliest of trainer fans – Trent Reznor.
Could you describe your first ever pair of trainers?
They weren’t from any brand and were from a shoe shop in my home town of Darwen (Lancashire). My first pair of branded trainers were adidas Kick – my mum bught them for me in the late seventies from an independent sports shop called John Harrison sports. John Harrison was a retired, ex professional football player who had a sports shop (also in Darwen). He kind of looked like a member of a 10c.c. – like a roadie from a 70s soft rock band. They were all black leather (with a black suede toe piece) with three white stripes and came in that beautiful blue shoe box with brand slogans in German, French and English on the side.
What’s your favourite pair in this exhibition?
That’s like asking a music fan for their favourite album. I love the Y3 Hacienda crib shoes for sentimental reasons – they were my son’s and are the only pair in existence, and I attended the Hacienda regularly when I was living in Manchester in the late 80s.
I had the timeline of the project planned, but my wife went into labour 6 weeks early in another part of the country. I had to make a lot of calls and send lots of emails from the Labour Unit in Gloucester, and when I returned from paternity leave there were 2 tiny shoe boxes from the Y3 team – a pair of Hacienda crib shoes and a pair of Hacienda kids shoes.
Who’s been the unlikeliest trainer fan you’ve met so far?
Unlikely? Trent Reznor . . . I know a few years ago I discovered that he was secretly buying up trainers – he’d buy them online and have them delivered to his studio.
How many trainers do you own?
Well over 700 – I thought I had about 350 or so until we began collating them for the exhibition. I started keeping shoes that I liked or had worked on over the past 14 years and became a collector by default.
Why adidas, specifically?
I felt that the topic of trainers and the subcultures that surround them was just too broad of a subject for one exhibition to cover. I guess we wanted to take an angle on that subject from the perspective of one brand – the brand which for me has the greatest design back catalogue and greatest cultural significance. That brand for me is adidas.
We didn’t want to ask the company to borrow stuff from their archive as that would have felt like cheating. The exhibition content needed to reflect the passion that people have for adidas. All the other contributors – Robert Brooks, Noel Gallagher, Mike Chetcuti, like myself only really wear adidas.
So describe the process of curating the event.
The work began in February 2013 and took about five months. We contacted Gary Watson (graphic designer) and Lee Stanley (photographer) to tell them the idea – they are old friends of mine from my hometown. We drove around the north west gathering together my shoes from the various trusted friends’ houses where they were stored. We filled a garage with the shoes and set up a makeshift photographic studio next door – I then headed back to London and left them to shoot, inventory and box the collection for storage.
The great thing about the show is it unites lots of other sneaker collections, too.
We contacted other contributors to see if they were interested in being involved. Robert Brooks has some great vintage shoes and the Spezial project benefitted massively from his support. Next we approached Noel Gallagher. I knew for sure he had some good vintage adidas shoes tucked away. After a couple of weeks of waiting he eventually found some of them (it was the adidas contents from just one of his 6 storage units!) and sent them across. We took what we could get from him and hand carried them up north to get them shot. We also secured various odd pairs of shoes from others we knew like Barry Bown, the CEO of JD Sports.
Why do you think the popularity of trainers is still going strong?
I think that is quite a difficult question as there are so many different audiences that buy into trainers – from football fans to B-Boys to pop kids to fashionistas. They are comfortable though aren’t they?
#Spezial is on at the Hoxton Gallery till 27th July.
Words: Zing Tsjeng (Follow Zing on Twitter @misszing)