November 27, 2000

The Kobe: adidas & Audi Collaborate
Text and photos courtesy of Audi AG

Clean, simple and functional. Words you might not use to describe today's technically advanced automobiles and footwear. However, a recent collaboration between adidas and Audi reveals that not only is less more, but that shoe design can be a very personal experience. The result is The Kobe.

It is a match that started with a player searching for a product unique and specific to his persona. Kobe Bryant, NBA All-Star and member of the Lakers Championship team, family man and Los Angeles resident was working with adidas to develop an image different than the one typical of many of today's NBA stars. His laid-back, confident style reflects a refreshing sophistication and an intelligent persona attractive to many of today's athletes. Audi was approached by adidas in spring of 1999 to collaborate on a project. Progressive and sophisticated is how they view their customers and as a result, their cars reflect individuals with unique, elegant taste. The two companies share some similarities: their product design emphasis is focused on engineering and performance and they're both German.

When looking for inspiration for Kobe's new shoe adidas did not have to look any further than Kobe's back yard, Southern California. adidas asked the question, what embodies Southern Cal.? Answer, THE car culture. And one of the hottest cars on the market, the Audi TT Roadster, was designed in part and influenced by Southern California. Not only do several leading car companies have a styling studio in Southern California, but also the area is a melting pot of lifestyles and cultures, anything goes. Fashions from beach-hip too high-society are found in this fast-paced, constantly changing environment. This trendy lifestyle lends itself to designs that streamline interests and tastes. Everything from architecture to automobiles and dress is influenced by what is "hip" in Southern California-it also reflects Kobe. The success of the TT in that region proved their customers could handle something new with refined style. Peter Moore, The Kobe Project Creative Director, states that, "As these things (architecture, automobiles) have an influence on the other fashions within Los Angeles, those things will also begin to have more and more influence on his (Kobe's) fashion.

This time adidas did something different. Instead of designing based on a marketing concept, they asked Audi to design a shoe product with the philosophy used by the company when developing their cars. Referred to as the Audi Design language, it is based on German simplicity with no frivolous styling. The attention is focused on form and essential components---such as materials, details and technologies. And when it came to applying this process to designing shoes, it took some getting used to. Derek Jenkins, Assistant Chief of the Audi Design Studio in California says it was different for Audi too because the art was simplified. "I don't think people realize how complex the logistics are in designing a car. There are so many parameters to follow: whether it's crash safety or manufacturing techniques, cost or aerodynamics they stay true to your company's identity and history. But with the shoe at the end of the day it's really about a style. Style first, then function is as important but not as difficult to achieve."

Using the Audi Design influence and the proven technologies behind adidas footwear, the companies went to work identifying what common ground their products share. "The shoe, as a car, is a directional object," according to Jenkins. "There are only a few things in the world that are like that. It is meant to go basically in one direction. So you use the same dynamic principles and proportion that you would use with a car you would use with a shoe." Jenkins notes that where the lines go from thin to thick to thin to make a car look dynamic when it's moving, those same concepts were applied to the lines of The Kobe. Then using a nontraditional form of shoe design, clay models, The Kobe began to take shape.

The similarities of Audi Design language and The Kobe are easily identifiable. At a glance, the TT Roadster has three main features: a continuous line, a clean surface body side, and a bullet-nosed front. These elements also reflected The Kobe. adidas' long-standing grooved shell-toe, from the Superstar, Originals line, looks strikingly similar to an Audi front end grill. The main shoulder line continues around the arches and through the bottom of the shoe as the Audi TT's continuous loop runs from the side of the vehicle around the wheel arches and under the car.

Once Kobe approved the design, adidas footwear designer Eirik Lund Nielsen was responsible for applying adidas footwear technologies to the shoe and making it an adidas product. In November 1999, Kobe guided the design team's color choices and tried on his first pair of The Kobe. By April 2000, final logo decisions had been made and he had his own "personal" shoes designed and made by adidas and Audi. Kobe is excited about his new adidas', "The sneaker is absolutely on fire...it's hot! It's real light and provides support for me. It's smooth, it's slick and it's different and I love it. I'm crazy for it."

The whole concept behind The Kobe was unique. "What I think has made this work is Kobe's desire, willingness and insistence on having something unique to basketball and specific to him", said Moore. "What was different about the Audi approach to this project is why they succeeded. They did not try to design basketball shoes. They never concerned themselves with normal, traditional footwear concerns."

The Kobe is available in the Fall of 2000. Go to www.AssignmentKobe.com for more information.






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