Kerwin Frost is painting his room. He is not a painter by trade, but he’s here, roller in hand, stretching thick strips of blue higher and higher up the walls. Soon, they will close the gap between the last patches of white and a cheddar-colored corner above.
Painting isn’t his profession, but the 26-year-old Frost is a certain kind of young person that doesn’t really have a discernible profession. There isn’t exactly a job title that suits him.
Frost wears a pencil tattoo on his face and impossible, exaggerated clothes with sleeves big enough to hold more than a few tricks. His closest parallel might be Willy Wonka. He is often on the verge of a wheezing fit of laughter that catches up to itself in a half a second and immediately offers more. Fear of God designer Jerry Lorenzo, a guest on Frost’s talk show, has compared him to Oprah.
Hailing from Harlem, he made a name for himself downtown by running around Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood in the 2010s and participating in whatever mischief and hustle the streetwear scene in that zone could provide. With his old crew, the Spaghetti Boys, he designed T-shirts in collaboration with Off-White. He’s long been courted by brands eager to stand adjacent to New York kids who provide a cool they can’t muster in-house. He DJed the Kardashian-Jenner-West Christmas party in 2018, but only after trolling a good portion of its A-list attendees on camera. He held film festivals in 2019 and 2021. Frost does pretty much everything, but right now he is painting his room.
The cerulean he’s rolling over the white with, as he redoes the walls, almost matches the pantone on his tracksuit. A chroma key could send his head floating anywhere, and the combo nearly blends him into the background. He says it wasn’t intentional and it’s believable: blending in is not something Kerwin Frost is interested in.
“I want to embrace my fucking weirdness,” he says. “I want to own that.”
In his first sportswear collaboration, a collection of sneakers and apparel with Adidas, he is bear hugging it. Frost is full-on walking into an encounter with his weirdness to extend to it a firm handshake and then pretzeling up with it in a game of Twister. The project is an exercise in shape, proportion, and boundary.
His debut design is the Adidas Superstuffed, a jumbo take on the classic Superstar silhouette that releases on Aug. 26 for $250 exclusively on Adidas’ Confirmed app. Frost has described it as a clown shoe for the masses. The sneaker preserves the original makeup of the Superstar and seriously enlarges it, offering a model that appears five sizes bigger than its actual size. Copious padding on the inside keeps the shoe from being roomy despite it being gigantic. In a promotional video for the Superstuffed, a towering Frost in a Yeti tracksuit comes through like Snoop crushing buildings, stomping his sneakers across city streets while citizens scream below and helicopters circle overhead. In some images, his torso is buffed out by a blue bodysuit that looks like it was borrowed from The Tick. It only gets stranger from there.
Frost has also previewed an anthropomorphic update to the Adidas Forum that has blue eyes jutting off its eyestays, long blond hair hanging off its collar, and wide Cheshire teeth wrapping its toe. He calls this shoe, which is expected to release later this year for $250, the Human Chive. (There’s also a Forum Low for $180 coming.) He doesn’t attempt to make too much sense of the name, arguing that most sneaker names don’t make sense anyway.
“I just made it up,” Frost says.
Frost is not overly serious, but he is also not joking. It would be easy to misinterpret his whole thing as a bit were he not so earnest—about his inspirations, about the things that bring him joy, about the things he wants to do.
His work with Adidas is bizarre and could have only come from him, but does have a clear precedent. The easiest reference point for Kerwin Frost x Adidas is Jeremy Scott x Adidas, a collaboration that began in 2003. In that partnership, Scott’s ornamental additions (tiger tails, wings, and teddy bear heads) to archival sneakers pushed the limits of how ostentatious sports footwear could be.
The Frost designs emerge from a similar rabbit hole. They look like hallucinations, something a sentient Jeremy Scott sneaker would imagine were it capable of thought. They could be a fever dream, or even a nightmare for sneakerhead traditionalists not keen on seeing heritage models so mutated. Frost has the inclination to push back on the conservative end of this spectrum, and says he’s experienced it via the handful of half-brothers he has in the sneaker industry.
But there is still a shred of the traditional in his approach. Save for the sizing, the Superstuffed does keep the original Superstar intact, after all. And Frost’s appreciation of the bulky Forum, twisted though his take on it is, is informed by his upbringing in New York. That sturdiness in its DNA has an appeal to his own.
Here, on hiatus from painting his room and speaking over Zoom, the designer discusses how he made one of Adidas’ biggest sneakers ever even bigger, how he got the brand to put a waterfall of hair on the back of another of its most important models, and what these steps mean for the future of sneakers. The conversation has been lightly edited and condensed for length and clarity.