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HERZOGENAURACH, Germany — Nic Galway is the man responsible for some of Adidas’ best known sneakers, from the reissue of iconic models like the Superstars and the Gazelles to the launch of Kanye West's Yeezy Boost 350s. Along the way, he has helped to firmly plant Adidas Originals at the intersection of heritage, culture and innovation.
Galway, who has a background in industrial and automotive design, joined Adidas in 1999. During his 17-year tenure at the company, he has brought his multi-disciplinary approach to design to classic shoes and innovative, tech-driven models alike. Additionally, Galway has been crucial to many of the brand's high profile fashion collaborations, including Adidas by Stella McCartney, Y-3 with Yohji Yamamoto and, most recently, Adidas' partnership with Kanye West.
BoF: Please describe your current role.
As vice president of global design for Adidas Originals, I overlook all aspects of creativity for the brand, leading teams both here at headquarters in Germany, and around the world. I have always seen Adidas Originals as a brand of the people and we have been adopted into culture unlike anyone else. In essence, my role is to continue to connect the brand with the next generation through creativity and ensure we act in the spirit of being a creator brand, always challenging the status quo and using the resources we have to make a difference.
BoF: What attracted you to the role?
Having worked for many years on high-level collaborations and with amazing partners, it was my ambition to take these learnings and put them centre stage for the brand. At Adidas Originals, we have the opportunity to connect with a much wider audience. In designing and creating democratic product, we have the platform to really shake up the industry on a broader level.
BoF: What is the most exciting project or initiative you have worked on?
The launch of the NMD (Nomad, a running shoe model) franchise in December 2015 was a really exciting project to work on. Obviously I had a fantastic team who worked on the product, they did an amazing job on a creative level. Working with the communications teams, the PR teams and external agencies, we brought a whole world of NMD to life, pushing it beyond the design team and sharing a vision which led to it being embraced into culture. In the end, the most rewarding part was the response from the consumer and seeing how people have interpreted the NMD into their own lives. It showed that we had made a real connection.
BoF: How is your role changing? What are the forces driving this change?
Adidas was founded on a pioneering spirit and that’s what’s always attracted me to the brand. We are very much a work in progress and proud of it, and I think the consumer recognises this and identifies with it. Change and evolution is in our DNA and our ability to be adaptable is one of our biggest strengths as a brand. So whilst my role will continue to change and evolve with time, it will always be focused on extending the reach of creativity within the brand.
BoF: Tell us about a time when you failed and how you learned from it.
A great learning which has always stuck with me was the first time I met Stella McCartney. I prepared a presentation in the same way we would normally present within the brand, with quite structured computerised illustrations, and we all were very confident. Then I met with her, and she didn’t connect with it. She wasn’t familiar with that way of working.
You can really use the structure of a corporation to your advantage to stand out.
On reflection, it really made me think about how important it is to get to know people during the collaboration process and to communicate with them in a way that makes sense to them rather than have them adhere to our processes. So the next time I went and saw her I changed my approach and I introduced much more hands on works, sketches, magazine tears, mock ups, and it really changed the dynamic and started what has become a very successful partnership.
BoF: What advice do you have for people who are interested in doing what you do?
Look for the opportunities that others don’t see and have a mindset to do whatever it takes. Even within large corporations there are always opportunities that others don’t see. Always have your eyes open. You can really use the structure of a corporation to your advantage to stand out. I always say, be confident and don’t be afraid to surprise people. Often if the idea is good and you deliver it with confidence, people are willing to be shown an alternative path to doing things.
Editor’s Note: This article was revised on 23 August, 2016. An earlier version of this article misstated that Nic Galway was responsible for the reissuing of Adidas' Stan Smiths. He was not.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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