The biggest news for this year's All-Star Weekend in New York City has nothing to do with basketball, although it does involve a high-top sneaker. Adidas is using the weekend's cachet and intersection with New York Fashion Week to launch Kanye West's first sneaker with the brand, the Yeezy 750 Boost. With that news dominating the sneaker world, it's easy to overlook something revolutionary going on: adidas is ready to introduce its XENO collection, a line of sneakers that feature an iridescent, 3M-like material that's inspired by the Xenopeltis snake of Southeast Asia.
Set to debut on three adidas Originals silhouettes—the ZX Flux, Metro Attitude, and Superstar—the sneakers look black or charcoal before lighting up a spectrum of colors when they're hit with a flash. Not only was the idea of this material inspired by the iridescent scales of the Southeast Asian snake, but each sneaker also has a faux-snakeskin finish.
But other than looking cool, the collection has a bigger back story. "We thought about New York and what we could do for New York that kind of reflects the city," said adidas Originals Design Director Josh Herr. "It's such a dynamic city at night it comes alive, it’s so colorful. This idea of light responsive technology reflects the city’s cultural and multicolored personality."
That idea genesis led Herr and his crew of developers to the aforementioned snake. "We did some research into multicolor shifting concepts. Then we came across this snake," Herr said. "We pegged that we wanted to do snakes, and we looked into what kind of snakes are iridescent and with light responsive properties."
Other than having a cool concept for this project, Herr and his team wanted to make sure that the sneaker collection connected to New York City. The ZX Flux and Superstar were natural choices for adidas—both sneakers have been the center of huge campaigns for the brand recently—but the Metro Attitude was a more considered choice, although it has been reinterpreted by Big Sean, it has a connection to the city's streets.
"When we started to think about New York, one of the first shoes that we ever did for [the city] was the Metro Attitude. When that dropped, that was the first time adidas did a shoe with a special makeup for the U.S. and it went straight to New York," Herr said.
Don't think for a second, though, that this new material will be limited to this one pack. It's something that we'll see implemented in other facets of adidas. "It's safe to say we have a pretty strong line setup to follow this," Herr said. "This is something we’ll see a lot of in the future in different forms, different products, and different ways."
For now, people will have to settle on the XENO pack, which isn't such a bad proposition. The ZX Flux itself is the most intricate design the model has seen to date, complete with 240 snakeskin pieces on the upper. It also shows that adidas is still innovating products and design that stretches beyond the public's interest, even with its star-filled roster.
Expect these three sneakers to be available at adidas Originals retailers on Friday, February 13.
Matt Welty is a staff writer at Complex. You can follow him on Twitter here.