“My name is Felipe Savone, I’m 31 years old and I’m from São Paulo. I have a degree in advertising and done a lot of agency work and for the last 4 years I, ve worked at Adidas. I got in as Originals marketing manager and since 2016 I took over the management of all the brand’s categories: soccer, running, skate and Originals. Now I have a Team with more people and each one takes care of certain category and with that, I have a general strategic view of the brand.”
Felipe, what’s your relationship with sneakers in general?
I was never into buying clothes or sneakers. Until I was 15 or 16 and I remember my first Adidas that I bought consciously since I wanted a brand sneaker. A cousin of mine had a sneaker that she didn’t really like and I thought they were incredible because they were entirely black with three stripes. And that was around the same time I was starting to skateboard, it was a basic Gazelle and it had that characteristic of being just neutral and I loved that. I made the sneaker my own and I wore it for a long time, and that was one of the first incentives that made me like sneakers. Till today I don’t entitle myself as a person that’s addicted to sneakers, but with my involvement, with Adidas, I began to really like the brand and to be interested in and to live its history.
Sneakers have always been more of a compliment when composing my identity. Since I’m graduated in advertising I’ve worked with brand marketing my whole life, I did a postgraduate on consumer science – I enjoy knowing why people buy things, why they are interested in certain things, how they consume it – and sneakers, just like any other piece of clothing, help compose your identity, they help you leave a mark in this world. I usually say that even when you say that you don’t care about the brand and that you don’t want to buy anything extravagant, just black and white, you’re leaving your signature in the world. And sneakers are one of those compliments of the identity that you build.
People tend to express themselves the wrong way, for example, when someone buys a certain model and people say its hype. Dude, the person wants to fit within that style, wants to be a part of that moment and even if it is hype, there’s an entire story behind it. That’s what I like the most in products and consuming in general, which is the meaning, what it’s transmitting in some way. A white black sneaker can have a lot more of meaning than a sneaker full of structures and technology.
There’s a really good story in Adidas: Stan Smith is a sneaker that was not made by the tennis player itself, it was a shoe that already existed and was given his name later on. Stan Smith was like the good guy, the nice guy that competed against a guy named Ilie Năstase who was the bad guy because he had long hair, rough. So there’s a classic scene were Năstase loses a point during a match and gives the referee or the crowd the finger, I don’t remember, and all this happened in the 70’s. There’s an iconic photo of this moment in sports that was made into a t-shirt with the phrase ëvery icon has a story”.
Everything that marks an era, a moment in time and transcends time, it has a story. Probably all brands try to work that and look to their icons and their stories to position themselves in relation to their products. To me, this has always been true inside Adidas and this was something that drew me to the brand when I was a kid. I knew that behind every product there was a story, a reason, very few things, if none, have been made without a real purpose.
A while back, I began to think that if I was to collect any Adidas model, I would collect the ones that have someone’s face on the tongue. That’s something that’s really significant to me, having the brand put someone’s face on that part of the sneaker. Sign and draw a sneaker, choosing its colors, that’s all very cool, but a brand putting your face right there on the tongue it’s just awesome. I really like the stories, it’s what draws me the most.
And about this Supreme thing, it happens to many other brands. They’re moments and moments in which people start to wear a product, and that makes other people want to join that universe as well, that moment, that behavior. I think it’s cool and it’s valid that Supreme didn’t intend to make the brand be like that, it’s a true brand and it’s now trying to take advantage of this market opportunity so they can keep feeding this story. At the end of the day, they are a brand too, which has employees and that has to generate dividends for shareholders. But it’s a true brand and it has a lot of meaning, and it’s no wonder that Mark Gonzales has been with them for like a billion years, the most legit skater there is.
People can say that Kanye West’s sneakers have no story, ok. Obviously, because the sneakers were created only a year ago but the dude has stories. He created something, he has an undeniable impact on culture as a whole – in sneakers, in music, fashion, behavior. It’s a product of experience, thoughts, I see it as just like Supreme – I don’t deprive people who go crazy for buy their stuff because I admire the brand and all its history.
And what’s your relationship with this New York SPZL?
I remember that way before I got into Adidas, I knew about existence Spezial even before it became a line; Spezial was the name of an Adidas sneaker model that became a classic as a handball sneaker, with many different version of the Spezial from the end of the 90s and early 2000s. It was a bulky shoe just like sneakers were at the time with that structured feel to them and visible technology right there on the sneaker. The name baptized a sneaker and a collection that belonged to a guy named Gary Aspden who was an Englishman that worked for Adidas in the 90s a later became the brand’s consultant. He was an expert on Adidas and had a huge collection, and he would join with other collectors, he was a contact point to the Adidas universe as a whole. A cool story about him is that he was probably the guy who discovered Babe and brought it to the west, and all this in 2003. He saw what was happening in Japan and he was the guy that made the bridge between Adidas x Bape to release Bape’s first collab which was a series of Superstars and today are one of the most valuable sneakers there is.
I already knew this story and I always liked it and when I got in Adidas in 2013 I already knew that Special would become a collection. It was really cool to me how he took a model from the past and try to recreate it as loyal as possible to the original, to pick up a piece of clothing from back in the day and look at the design from the past, the graphics drawings from the past and reinterpret them to a more current fashion with a more contemporary vibe.
In February 2015 I was going to Rio de Janeiro for an event, and when I landed, I got a message saying “man, you need to see this”; Adidas had just released a video telling the story of how Gary and a group of people went all the way down to Argentina, to see a store full of supposedly untouched old Adidas stuff. It was the first episode of the series, Sole Searching in South America that told the story of Carlos, showed the guys going down there and etc. The video starts with a guy from Adidas getting an email entitled “Only in Argentina” and later on I found out that the guy that sent that email was a guy that works with us there, and he’s a German that’s part of the creation center here in Brazil, he was traveling around Argentina when a guy from Argentina said “dude I have to take you to this place” he visited the shop and right after sent the e-mail to the guys saying “you need to come here right away”.
Carlos’s shop was already on the radar of many collectors, a lot of Japanese knew about it, there were some very specific Adidas forums that knew about it. By the way, we think there’s a big chance that we find a place like this in Brazil because Adidas were fabricated here decades ago, it was mostly clothing but there were a few sneakers made here. Just like in Argentina it was a huge production, so we think one day we may find a huge stock or warehouse full of lost things somewhere.
So, I watched that video and it got to me in a way that was super cool, so in the following semester the new video was about to come out and I already knew that they were making a sneaker with Carlos. By chance, I went to Argentina with my wife and we decided to try and visit the store. I made contact with someone that works at Adidas in Argentina and she took me to the store. We went into the store together I got two chairs and we sat down so he could tell me his story. At the time I mentioned to Ricardo from sneakersbr that I was going to Argentina and I offered to do a story on Carlos for his site and so I ended up writing the story. I was pretty cool to see a big part of Adidas’s history right there in that store, to see inspiration to many models that later were updated to something more modern, to see clothes and tracksuits that came in boxes all piled up in the store.
The video was only coming out the next week and I already had pictures of the sneaker, I already knew how it looked and Carlos mentioned that they had already arrived and I saw them on one of the shelves. I picked up the sneaker and it was incredible, so I said to Carlos that I wanted to buy one but he quickly said “I can’t sell them, the release date is on X day, I can’t sell them” and at the same time he was asking me how much he should charge for them (laughs). During the interview, that lasted about 1 hour and 30 minutes, 2 or 3 people knocked on the door so they could come in and look at some prices on the stuff that was there, but he did not show any interest in selling anything. The guy would ask and he would say some random absurd price for anything in there (laughs). I noticed as well that he didn’t seem too worried about selling me those new sneakers, but I really wanted that NY Spezial.
In the end, I ended up not buying the sneaker, I went back to Brazil and I kept in contact with Cristian who was a guy that helped him organize, clean, who helped out in general, he was a guy that always liked Adidas, he has a cool collection. I got in contact with him and asked if he could get the sneaker for me and he said he was going to check with Carlos, and that was the last I heard from him. A year later he sent me an e-mail “I talked with Carlos and he remembers you and is interested in selling you the sneaker”, I accepted right away. Fortunately, I was going to a meeting in Panama and my friend from Argentina was also going, so I asked him to give the sneakers to her and she gave them to my right on the first day we saw each other. When I looked, the box was numbered and it was autographed by Gary Aspden, Robert Brooks, Mike Chetcuti and by Ian Brown who is the vocalist of The Stone Roses, who are the guys from Spezial.
The sneaker is super good looking, it’s really just like the one from back in the day, the insole is the same as the original, it has Carlos’s face on the tongue, the sneaker is made with the colors of the Argentinian flag. It’s really an awesome sneaker, and it has a lot history and I really appreciate that. Carlos had around 30 pairs to sell in his shop, from what I know his store was the only place that sold them in Latin America, there was a small distribution of them in Europe as well, and I don’t think they sold in the USA. They were a special sneaker em homage to Carlos.