Interview: Nic Galway, adidas's Senior VP of Global Design on London and Designing Using 'Collective Memory'

Interview: Nic Galway, adidas's Senior VP of Global Design.

nic galway

Image via adidas

nic galway

Celebrating the launch of adidas Originals new East London Flagship store, we met up with Nic Galway, Senior VP of Global Design at adidas to talk about his vision and the future of the trefoil. Having spent over 18 years at the brand, Nic has been responsible for designing new icons and reissuing past history. 

Along with conceptualising the layout of the new flagship store, Nic's team has created a bespoke London Campus pack limited to 200 pairs paying homage to North, East, South and West London – on-sale exclusively at the East London location. The Campus features suede from England's premium leather manufacturer Charles F. Stead and features regional branding. 


We caught up with Nic to discuss his thoughts on designing for the future, collective memory, kitchen tables and working with Kanye West. 

COMPLEX: As Senior VP of Global Design, can you throw light on your role and responsibilities?

Nic Galway: My role in adidas has evolved over the years, I’ve been there for 18 years and it's grown organically. Today I'm responsible for the look and feel of all the touch-points for Originals and style. Covering product, spaces like this (the new East London Originals store) and how we look in print. But it all started in product and grew out of that, so it now contains the whole look and feel of Originals.

adidas is known for constant progress, do you think it is technology or culture that is a stronger driving force?

I think they go hand in hand, I’ve been thinking about that a lot. It’s why do things become culturally relevant? It’s often things that are very purposeful… like tools and real sports equipment that overtime becomes cultural. So when I look at our archive together with the best stories from today, I think how can we mix all that together… whether it’s to create a product or space, that's the mindset I use.

We often hear about the innovation behind footwear, but can you talk us through the innovation and concept behind the new East London adidas Originals flagship?

I wanted to work with the team to build on the principles around our products. Pairing the past with the future and drawing on our collective memory. The concept of the store was looking at the role of culture and the things which we treasure, so where we could we reclaimed things whilst using a light touch of technology to build on the future-craft principles. It’s all about how it all comes together to give a more human approach to how we present ourselves.


How does this space serve the local community?

When we started talking about this, we’ve always been in dialogue with the culture… we’re not a brand who wants to enforce their opinion on others. So when we found the space and saw it’s character and thought let's not change and only brought in materials that reflected it’s feel. Such as the table or the doors that are reclaimed from the London Museum, it’s all about inviting people in to celebrate the city. The oversized table is a key feature of the store, it’s meant to be super flexible - a place for people to meet, host exhibitions and talk.

The story behind the table came from a conversation about using the store as an experience. Thinking about the kitchen table in a home… a place where people meet and congregate. We loved the oversized nature of it and the fact that it wasn’t precious, we wanted a table where its character will grow with its use and dents as if it was alive.


To celebrate the new store you have released a premium limited edition Campus trainer, how does this trainer represent London?

Campus is super iconic UK sneaker from terrace culture and a big part of the collective memory for someone like myself growing up with adidas. The leather in this edition comes from ‘Charles F. Stead’ a very traditional, British high-quality leather maker. So to connect those elements together is what is special about our brand. This Campus model comes in an iconic adidas deep burgundy mixed with a neon pop honouring North, East, South, West. The neon was just about creating a disruption when everything is on the same level sometimes interest can be missing. It’s how the play between past and future can be seen everywhere, even in such a simple products as the Campus.

adidas’s have a rich history and design archive, how do you stay true to the brand by honouring the past whilst on a mission to create the future?

Three or four years ago, people would ask me “should you do that?” regarding playing with iconic sneakers. I felt that our only influence should only be ourselves and we shouldn’t be worried about anyone else. I believe the reason people like our brand is because of the memory and stories our products tell. adidas is a brand that is not afraid to be disruptive and want to take our history and turn it into the next. When something becomes an icon you can become afraid to do that, but you shouldn’t. Because of this I always encourage my team to go down to the archive to explore the brand and put things in their head before they start to create.

Following on from modern classics such as the Qasa and NMD – what's next?

We’re on a journey and I express the journey as work in progress. I don’t have a vision of adidas ever being perfect, that’s not what we’re about. I want to challenge ourselves to always be in dialogue with the culture and consumers to see where the path takes us. At the moment we’re really embracing new technologies such as the things we’ve done with future-craft.

Finally, seeing as you are the brand with three stripes – who are your top 3 hip-hop artists?

You know what, hip-hop isn’t really my scene, I grew up BMXing. My whole memory growing up is UK BMX culture, that was my life. Now I work with Kanye, Pharell etc and I love them for their creativity. I think that's why it works, we are from different worlds and we celebrate it.

I see you’re wearing the Yeezy Powerphase Calabasas - why that shoe? And can you talk about working with Kanye?

I’ve been working with Kanye from the start, we worked very closely on the Yeezy 750 and the 350. I think at that time Kanye had an opinion of adidas from the outside, now he’s been with us a long time and we’ve been working really closely. It’s interesting to see as he’s dived into the archives more and got more embedded into the history of adidas it’s interesting to see what resonated with him. The Powerphase came around simply because he was drawn to it, I like that natural instinct. He picked something personal from the archive and it was one of those moments – sometimes he can create the future sometimes he celebrates the past and I like the balance between the two.

The adidas Originals East London flagship store is now open, located at - 15 Hanbury Street, London, E16QR.