Three years is not that long of a time. But in the world of fashion, where collections move at such a hyper pace, it feels like eons ago. When Jerry Lorenzo suddenly announced at the end of 2020 that he’d form a partnership with adidas to become the head of the German company’s growing Basketball division, the move signaled a major change within sportswear, having been a key collaborator with Nike in the years prior to the pandemic.
Lorenzo’s time with the Swoosh was well celebrated, from the early “Shoot Around” and revamped Air Skylon he designed to the highly touted Fear of God 1‘s that captured the minimally luxurious feel of his Fear of God and ESSENTIALS labels. But towards the end of their partnership, the two sides didn’t quite align on future ambitions. Lorenzo, the son of former MLB second baseman and manger Jerry Manuel, had always had his eyes set on the field of play, rather than just one-off collaborations. Like many Americans, Lorenzo favored Nike over adidas (which, historically has had a stronger toehold in Europe) growing up. “As I’m older now,” he tells Hypebeast, “and I have a better understanding of the brand and a better understanding of what I know, I believe [adidas’] current point of view is closer to mine than Nike’s.”
There’s the underdog nature that he also uses as a motivating factor. “I love that in America, [adidas] is considered a second place brand, right? And that’s just because it’s German and Nike is here and understands our culture better. I’ve always felt like an underdog. I’ve always felt more of that type of player when it comes to sports. So there were so many different things that, as I’m older now, is more aligned with Fear of God than any other performance brand.” Nearly three years on, Lorenzo feels more “reassured” than a sene of excitement as he debuts Athletics. “After the [Hollywood] Bowl,” he tells us and a group of reporters, “I wanted to be so excited after the show, but I wasn’t. I just felt an alignment, more of a humbling feeling than a celebratory one. Things are, in a crazy way, going the way we envisioned it.”
Visions are constantly coming and going for Lorenzo, such as the existential setting he had designed for the opening reception in DTLA. Dubbed the “Athletics Atmosphere”, the dimly lit space was barren empty, barring a few granite rock fixtures that doubled as stools, several futuristic clothing displays and a center space with end-to-end monitors and three jagged rocks shaped to resemble Three Stripes. The space was made to immediately imbue a feeling of “pre-existence” and “spirit of perpetuity” — rather than another “hot shoe dropping.”
Photographed by artist Nadav Kander, the campaign carried biblical undertones, with images made to resemble Jesus Christ and an accompanying film, where a series of models are shown walking on water towards three jagged mountains in the shape of The Three Stripes. “The house is built to mirror the very nature and design of the highest being,” Lorenzo said in press release, “where there is both unity and diversity in the trinity.” While he doesn’t force his faith on others, Lorenzo has never been shy to pay homage to his faith through his sartorial offerings. Athletics, for him, completes the brand architecture he set out to build with Fear of God and ESSENTIALS, where there is a subtle nod to the Christian Trinity of The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. “I wanted our brand to be complete in and of itself,” Lorenzo tells us.
So how did Athletics measure up? Aside from what is to be expected — minimal branding, muted color palettes and generally oversized silhouettes — the inaugural collection wasn’t necessarily revolutionary, but did not disappoint either. The line included classic sportswear staples, such as zip-up jackets, drill tops and sweatpants with tonal three stripes arching over the shoulders and leg seams. Standout pieces include a sleeveless poncho with Three Stripes at the chest, which was inspired by the gym towels that Mike Tyson would wear on his way to wreak havoc, along with a creamy Athletics 86 Lo sneaker made with an all suede upper. While the collection is undoubtedly catered for a lifestyle audience, the fabrics and the intention behind it is equally performance-driven.
“How can you meet aesthetics and sophistication with performance?” asks Lorenzo. “I think that’s the intention of the brand: was for people to perform and the be the best versions of themselves. And for the individual to walk into the room to enhance who they are.” By diving into familiar reference points, namely the aesthetic sensibilities of the ’90s and early ’00s, Lorenzo forged a bridge between past and present. He pointed out that select T-shirts from the collection drew from ‘90s soccer silhouettes, an inspiration born of his belief that soccer legend David Beckham was adidas’ answer — sartorially and sportingly — to Michael Jordan.”
Following in his dad’s footsteps, Lorenzo also looks to use Athletics as a platform to help underprivileged communities. Like his father, whose foundation has helped teach the game of baseball to inner-city youth over the past 10 years, “my heart’s intention,” says Lorenzo, is “to take the best product and give it to the kids that are overlooked, not to the biggest basketball star. How am I giving that dream to someone that maybe can’t access? To me, that’s even more fulfilling. Continuing the work my dad has started is what I want to do with Athletics.”
For those in Los Angeles, “The Athletics Atmosphere” is on view until December 3 from 11am to 6pm PT. Athletics will officially launches on December 3 online at Fear of God and adidas’ CONFIRMED, as well select adidas DTC stores on December 6.