Inside Adidas’ ‘Star Wars’ Collection

To make “Star Wars” products is to venture on sacred ground, thanks to the many fans who closely guard the world created by George Lucas.

But that hasn’t stopped many companies from capitalizing on the immense fanbase (the movies have grossed more than $4 billion in the past 30 years). And Lucasfilm, which oversees the “Star Wars” organization, reportedly has more than 300 licensees. This spring, Adidas joined the ranks: The Herzogenaurach, Germany-based athletic giant launched a collection of apparel and 20 footwear styles that take inspiration from the characters, spacecrafts and overall look of the movies. But picking those styles wasn’t an easy task.

“Lucasfilm gave us this multi-disc toolkit, and it had every asset you can imagine: posters, logo, character shots,” said Jess Weinstein, Adidas Originals global creative director for brand marketing. “We started with a massive vault of 40,000 different files.”

What resulted were collections on two levels. The Characters and Crafts collections include higher-end shoes inspired by the characters and spaceships in “Star Wars.” They began rolling out earlier this month to select stores, including Major in Washington, D.C., and Undefeated in Los Angeles, and will retail for up to $250.

Meanwhile, another “Star Wars”-inspired collection, aimed at a younger audience, will retail for around $100 at Foot Locker stores. Adidas said it intends to continue to introduce apparel and footwear in the collaboration into 2011.

Here, Footwear News talks to Weinstein and Dean Lokes, global head of Originals product, about the appeal of “Star Wars,” bringing the movie to life in footwear and what comes next.

FN: How did the “Star Wars” collaboration come about?
DL: Each season we sit down as a team and brainstorm new opportunities to collaborate with external parties. There are many great brands both big and small around the world, along with many creative individuals doing amazing things, but for our brand to collaborate, we need to be selective. Our goal is always to ensure a partnership that brings a unique and compelling product. The idea to work with “Star Wars” had been discussed many times before, but we always felt that spring ’10 was the right time to make a collection rather than just a select few products, so we made contact with the Lucasfilm team.

FN: With no new “Star Wars” movies coming out, why was spring the right time to launch?
JW: Speaking on Lucasfilms’ behalf, 2010 marks the 30-year anniversary of the “Empire Strikes Back,” which, for fans — myself included — is the pinnacle, the best of all the films. They were excited about revitalizing that film.

FN: How are you differentiating the product?
DL: The limited-edition shoes will be produced in smaller quantities and will only be sold in a few stores. There is a higher level of attention to detail on the limited-edition shoes and they come in story-specific packaging, whereas the more commercial styles are presented in iconic Adidas Originals boxes, which have been updated with “Star Wars” graphics.
JW: Some of the naysayers said, “Oh, really, ‘Star Wars?’ Is it still relevant?” Our research came back — through people talking to their kids and parents and also through consumer studies — and we saw that “Star Wars” was one of the few things that spans young and old consumers. [With this collection], we’re really focusing on the teen consumer.

FN: What was the best part of working with Lucasfilm?
DL: The coolest part was getting access to the Lucasfilm library of assets.
JW: Our mission was to not just throw “Star Wars” logos on everything, so [visiting] Lucasfilm was the first step. It was like walking into a giant bank vault and only having your pockets to steal the money. We were trying to find the most iconic, most impactful characters and items. For the spring collection, we wanted to stick with “Episode Four” [aka “Star Wars,” released in 1977]. Then, as we grow the collection, we can jump through other films. We just picked a handful of characters and [ideas]: Storm Troopers and Darth Vader, the Dark Side. For Chewy, Hans Solo, Princess Leia, [we said], let’s keep some in our back pocket.

FN: What styles best married “Star Wars” to the Adidas brand?
JW: I’m really into the SW Luke Skywalker. There’s something about the orange high-top that reminds me of being a kid and watching Luke finally get cool in the film, getting handed the keys to the X-Wing.
DL: The Yoda style really captures the likeness of this iconic character and is also a boat shoe, which is something new and innovative for Adidas.
JW: That one is the great polarizer. The natural materials and colors all tie into Yoda and the Degobah System, where he resides. The Yoda [style] is a boating shoe in hemp and natural materials with a heritage outsole. We introduced the boat upper on it around four years ago, so it’s a hybrid model for us. It was the one that sold out fastest.

FN: What’s next for the collections?
JW: Next season, we’ll have more characters, more vehicles and some other surprises that fans of the film, sneaker freaks and those who just love interesting collaborations will enjoy. For the fall collection, we’ll see things that are a little warmer — more furry, if you catch my drift.

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