Speaking to...Gary Aspden, the man behind adidas SPEZIAL

Something that always set adidas apart from other brands is the story they have behind every collection. There’s always a reason or an inspiration behind everything they do and for the SPEZIAL SS18 it’s no different.

Now into its fourth year, SPEZIAL retells the story of the birth of British rave culture, a time of ultimate self-discovery. The collection draws inspiration from the pioneers of electronic music that jump-started the UK rave scene, centering around messages of escape, unity and tolerance.

Gary Aspden and co. headed to Ibiza, the home of rave culture in the late 80s, to exhibit the collection where it belongs. Narrated by Bez, the film managed to encapsulate what the Summer of Love meant to so many.

Ahead of the first of two SS18 drops this month, we caught up with Gary to chat about his memories of the second Summer of Love, why it’s such an important time to him and so many others.


WG: Tell me more about the story behind this collection.
Gary Aspden: It’s 30 years since the second Summer of Love so we wanted to do a range that acknowledged it and told the story. I was 18 in 1988, it was a special time in my life and adidas was part of the fabric of the subculture that I was immersed in. It’s really important for me that Spezial takes a modern approach and is not solely reliant on nostalgia for its appeal. It was important that the film we made to support the collection felt like it could be happening in 2018 while having echoes of that late 80s era.

What are your memories of the Summer of Love?
I have loads of good memories. That first Thursday night in C’est La Vie’s in Blackburn in September 88 was special. To be in a club amongst kids from all different areas of town happily dancing together was great - especially considering that those same kids had spent the previous six years regularly bashing each other up.

There was a lot of optimism amongst the party people at that point and whilst it wasn’t politicised it certainly managed to upset the establishment for a little while. I remember we went on Tony Wilson’s TV show Up Front for a televised debate about the Acid House Bill with Tory MP Ken Hind. In the early days it was unifying, it really brought people together and wasn’t driven by money - that had all started to change by early 1990.

What’s the maddest thing you remember from those days?
I have a few. There were loads of great nights in the Blackburn warehouse parties and early on we would go upstairs in a club called Crackers. It used to be a gay club but it became the destination for early Blackburn acid house nights. It was a sweatbox - you could see steam coming out the windows from the street outside. So many good nights in there. The maddest club night I remember was probably the last night of the Sett End. After Crackers stopped the Sett End became the main destination - it used to be a strip club before it started hosting acid house nights (courtesy of the Blackburn Self Help Leisure Group who were also organising the warehouse parties).

The Sett End couldn’t get their license renewed as the club had become notorious for its acid house nights which the authorities were clamping down on. As a consequence the proprietor was furious and basically told everyone to feel free wreck the place on its last night. Never seen anything like the scenes in there that night - people were laughing and partying whilst others were smashing it to pieces. The bar was a free for all while the security looked on bemused. It was wild but it was also sad that it ended as we had had some great times in there.

Where does this collection take you back to?
The collection is what it is - it is not a period piece so doesn’t really evoke memories in an overt way. There are elements to it like the oversized fit of the Settend tee and the graphics that are referential of that late 80s era, but we only wanted to create product that feels relevant to now.

Not everything from the late 80s would look right for 2018 so it’s knowing the bits that do – and the bits not to do. The thing that evokes the most memories for me is the soundtrack for the film by People, Places and Things - I love that pure squelchy acid sound of 303s and 808s.

What made you choose Bez to narrate this season’s film?
Because he’s great - a proper character. He personifies that era to me and he is a true anarchist. When I first started at adidas in the late 90s Bez and the rest of the Mondays really looked out for me, so I will always be grateful to them for that. I asked him to do the voiceover for the film and when he agreed (‘seeing its you’) I was made up.

Cheers Gary.

Drop one from adidas SPEZIAL SS18 is available from the adidas website and selected stores at 00:01 on March 9, with a second release scheduled for March 23.


Written by: Tayler Willson
Photos by: Kevin Cummins

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