Exclusive: Zedd Talks Columbia Shoe Deal, His Sneaker Obsession & More

A mild-mannered Zedd steps out of his freshly detailed Tesla Model S and into the harsh California heat. He greets everyone with hugs and welcomes us inside his sprawling estate for a tour.

The musician looks more like a rock group roadie than a pop phenom ready to be photographed, clad in a black Nike T-shirt, red Kappa sweats and a pair of Adidas Originals NMDs.

Despite his laid-back demeanor and everyman look, the musician is actually quite guarded.

Hours before the shoot, Zedd’s team calls to ask if the in-person interview could be done over the phone instead. (It later turns into an email conversation). And upon arrival, a security guard holds a nondisclosure agreement for us to sign immediately.

It’s not a shock. Zedd lives most of his life in the spotlight. He’s a Las Vegas mainstay, performing at nightclubs throughout the year for his Hakkasan Group residency. When he’s not entertaining fans in Sin City, the DJ electrifies sold-out crowds worldwide and produces chart-topping hits for stars such as Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. And like many celebrities, the Grammy-winning musician has had his turn with tabloid gossip and Twitter feuds, too.

In June, the EDM star was called “toxic” by his former “Clarity” collaborator, Matthew Koma, prompting a social media squabble.

To find peace and distance from the fast life, Zedd, whose real name is Anton Zaslavski, escapes to his extravagant $16 million Beverly Hills mansion, a modern looking space. Once inside the home, however, the decor comes off more relatable than over-the-top.

Next to his iHeart Radio and Latin Music Awards are cornhole championship trophies. “Rick and Morty” and “The Legend of Zelda” books are Zedd’s preferred coffee table literature. And a living room wall features a built-in Lego sculpture, consisting of several imaginative worlds including an alien takeover realm and a scene from his favorite video game, “Overwatch.”

CREDIT: Derek Wood

“His personality is very laid back, he has a great sense of humor and he doesn’t take himself too seriously,” explained stylist Jessica Loria, who began working with Zedd in January 2018. “I think that’s why he’s fun to style.”

Loria said at the beginning, Zedd was more reserved stylistically, opting for sportswear rather than fashion-focused looks. And although he still spends substantial time in sweats, she said he’s far more daring aesthetically than when they first met.

He used to be about comfortable, muted tones, and if it felt good he would wear it. But now he’s getting more attention so he considers whether something is cool or not,” she said. “He’s now into mixing prints and doing color, and he loves to be in suits. We’ve been doing a lot of fitted tailored suits and he’s really into accessories like bow ties, pocket squares or velvet loafers.”

Zedd is also more vocal during the styling process than before.

“This isn’t right. It wants something else,” Zedd said on set, looking at his outfit in the mirror. While satisfied with the apparel — a black-and-gray camouflage-print tracksuit from Adidas paired with a sweatshirt from the brand — the original footwear choice wasn’t up to par.

With dozens of shoes available, Zedd picks a bold, pink reflective boot by Columbia, done in collaboration with Tokyo- based boutique and brand Atmos — his admitted favorite silhouette of the bunch. It’s a fitting selection given the DJ’s partnership with the Portland, Ore.-based company, which he signed in late June.

Columbia execs told FN they were attracted to Zedd’s fondness for the outdoors, despite being closely associated with the flashiness of Vegas. He’s a hot ticket in major nightclubs, but arguably his most notable performances are at outdoor venues.

Just before closing the deal, Columbia invited FN to the Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater during the Outdoor Retailer tradeshow in Denver, to witness firsthand Zedd’s connection to nature.

Surrounded by mountains, nearly 10,000 screaming fans watched “Zedd on the Rocks,” a show both musically and visually compelling. This was the artist’s first-ever performance at the venue as a headliner.

“Playing my own show at Red Rocks has always been a dream of mine,” Zedd later said over email. “Ever since I watched the Incubus live DVD that was filmed, I’ve dreamed of playing my own show there.”

CREDIT: Derek Wood

But his connection to nature goes much further. He launched his Los Angeles-based “Zedd in the Park” festival last year, which returns to L.A. State Historic Park in September, and on his off time, he hikes to escape from the noise.

“He stays very balanced connecting with nature and it inspires him; he uses it for contemplation and to center him,” said Columbia VP of footwear Peter Ruppe. “That connection was a natural bridge for the partnership.”

Prior to getting in front of the camera, the “Stay” creator shares local hiking stories with FN photographer Derek Wood. While admitting the hobby has taken a backseat to other obligations as of late, he lists some of his favorite local getaways, including a trail roughly 45 minutes from his home. The name of the destination eludes him, but its appearance is fresh in Zedd’s mind.

“It looked like Ireland, it was so green and lush,” he said with elation, as if he’d rather be outside.

While Columbia was focused on the outdoor link when forming their union, Zedd fixated on the brand’s approach to product creation.

“Oftentimes, I have ideas that I think are a bit too much to understand for someone who hasn’t studied music, so I think about smart ways to include interesting chord progressions or unusual structures [that are] packaged in a way that someone who doesn’t know music theory can still understand,” Zedd said. “During my conversations with Columbia, I felt like they have had a similar approach with their hiking shoes.”

With the partnership, Zedd will help Columbia promote its Sh/ft footwear, an outdoor collection that’s built with a more fashionable feel.

“The younger generation of folks who are getting out into nature, experiencing nature, they grew up in sneakers,” Ruppe said. “This consumer may be new to the outdoors, they may live in the city. We’re trying to give them a familiar aesthetic, an athletic feel to the product, but are bringing in that outdoor utility.”

Columbia launched its Sh/ft range today with a pair of silhouettes in men’s and women’s sizing. The outdoor company also collaborated with three boutiques to attract the streetwear audience, including the aforementioned Atmos, as well as Ubiq out of Philadelphia and Miami’s Shoe Gallery.

Although unaware at the time, fans at Zedd’s Red Rocks show were the first to see the collection, as the DJ was clad head-to-toe in the brand, finishing the look with the Atmos collab.

“Their [Sh/ft] shoes are super functional and usually specifically made for hiking, but Columbia also wanted to make them look just as cool as your everyday shoe,” Zedd said in the email. “That way, you don’t feel like you need to buy an extra shoe just for hiking, but rather a beautiful shoe that you can also use for hiking if you’d like.”

While Zedd’s connection to footwear is just starting with Columbia, his obsession with sneakers has been years in the making.

“I buy the majority of my shoes from GOAT. For me, it’s similar to Instagram; I like to open their app and look around and get inspired,” Zedd said. “And when I really love a shoe for whatever reason, I just buy it without thinking about its purpose. I rarely go in to stores and try them on.”

On set, Zedd abandons the sneakers called in for him for the final look of the shoot. Instead, he walks upstairs and grabs kicks from his personal collection: the Nike Air Force 1 High x Emotionally Unavailable, the Adidas Originals Deerupt Runner and the Nike Kobe 11 “3D,” which is the one he eventually selects.

Zedd explained that his fascination with sneakers began when he bought his first L.A. home in 2014; the closet was big enough to hold his budding collection.

“Some shoes I wear specifically for comfort, especially when I’m jumping on stage for a good two hours. But some shoes I buy because, to me, the design is a piece of art,” he said. “The visual stimulation of a well-designed sneaker is something to be appreciated.”

He continued: “The thought of being able to influence every part of [the design] is incredibly exciting to me,” he said. “I hope one day I can fulfill that dream.”

CREDIT: Derek Wood

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