Ye announced today the appointment of veteran sneaker designer Steven Smith as the head of Donda industrial design. Smith has been a close collaborator with the artist for years, executing Kanye West’s vision in footwear via the Adidas Yeezy line.
Smith, who previously held the title of executive designer for Yeezy, started working with West on footwear in 2016. His earliest projects in the Adidas Yeezy line included the Yeezy Boost 700 and the Yeezy Powerphase.
In his new position, Smith will expand beyond footwear to work on furniture, vehicles, and more within the West empire. A release issued by West’s creative company Donda announcing Smith’s role features a portfolio of his sneaker designs (which appear below) and a concept for something called the Donda Foam Vehicle.
“I’m honored to help create our shared vision of the future,” Smith said in a statement to Complex. “Mr. West is the single most inspiring creative I have ever worked with.”
Smith’s long career has spanned almost as many decades as it has brands. He’s worked on iconic silhouettes for a number of different sneaker companies, from the New Balance 574 to the Reebok Insta Pump Fury. Smith started as a designer at New Balance in 1986, left for Adidas in 1988, and then moved on to Reebok in 1989, spending eight years there. He did a two-year stint at Fila before landing at Nike, where he worked from 1999 to 2009. In the next decade, he worked for Adidas again, this time as a freelancer, and briefly for Keen before connecting with West.
It’s unclear how Smith’s appointment at Donda will affect his and West’s relationship with Adidas, which has been recently contentious. The announcement today comes after West blasted Adidas on Instagram last month, calling out his biggest brand partner and accusing it of knocking off his Yeezy designs. West’s long-term partnership with Adidas has been successful, but he’s occasionally been critical of the brand in public statements.
The fresh title for Smith could be indicative of a growing rift between Adidas and West, the latter shuffling his product team to be less aligned with the sneaker brand going forward. Donda did not offer any clarity on what kind of organizational change Smith’s new job involves with respect to Ye’s Adidas deal, but Donda is an entity totally separate of Adidas.
Adidas did not respond to a request for comment on Smith’s new role.
UPDATE 7/6: An Adidas spokesperson has provided the following statement: “Adidas works with different creative minds based on what is best for our business and partners. As part of our collaborative relationship with Ye, Steven Smith worked on the Adidas Yeezy line at Ye’s request. As the business has evolved, Steven has accepted a full-time role as head of Donda industrial design, where we look forward to continuing to work together.”