adidas Creative Director Andre Doxey Explains Why His Creative Process Starts by Saying No [Podcast]
In this episode of Rebellious Optimists, Andre Doxey talks about changing the direction of adidas Outdoor, and how his creative process starts by saying no to the status quo.
Rebellious Optimists – A People Podcast
Saying No to the Status Quo
How do you create a product that delivers performance, sustainability, and inclusivity? As Creative Director for adidas Outdoor, Andre Doxey juggles these design demands every day. In today’s Rebellious Optimists episode, Andre explains how he helped find a new audience for adidas Outdoor by fusing together the functionality of mountain gear, with the fashion of streetwear.
Andre shares how his creative process is about empowering his team to make bold decisions, how they reject the assumed norms, and how prioritizing sustainability inspired them to create game-changing outdoor products.
“Just do your thing, right? Don't follow the industry's norms. Make purposeful product, but have fun. Don't follow the status quo… do it your way.”Andre Doxey, Creative Director for adidas Outdoor
“When you make fire, when you make a hot outdoor product, people just want to rock it. People don't think ‘this is my jacket for when I go hiking’. They want to wear it every day.”Andre Doxey, Creative Director for adidas Outdoor
Twiggy Jalloh 02:30
Andre, we’re here to talk about where street style and outdoor wear meet. So I have to ask, what are you wearing today?
Andre Doxey 02:50
What am I wearing today? It’s a good question. Yeah, just something, something really simple. TERREX footwear, a pair of jeans, a black turtleneck because it’s bloody cold outside. And wool, of course, and I have a TERREX jacket that I wore to the office so something, you know, just kind of mix and match.
Twiggy Jalloh 03:10
You were part of a team that transformed added us outdoor, you really did help dramatically grow that part of the adidas business. Andre, please tell me about the start of that journey. What were the challenges?
Andre Doxey 03:23
When you talk about adidas Outdoor and you go into a traditional outdoor space, the first thing they’ll say is ‘Huh, adidas is an Outdoor, right? You’re a football brand, you know, you’re a basketball brand. You’re a running brand. You’re not an outdoor brand.’ And that had been the case for a very long time and we knew that going in and we said ‘Okay, we’re gonna take this and we’re gonna use this to our advantage.’ And one of the things that we were so excited about is that we said, you know, ‘adidas has a captured audience, people love this brand. Why aren’t we talking to people who love the brand.’ Right? If people don’t, you know, if they don’t think of us as an outdoor brand, okay, that’s fine, right? However, we have a whole host of people who love us for what we do and they come to us because we make you know, some of the world’s best product so why wouldn’t we talk to them, and then bring them to the outdoors and that’s exactly what we started to do. And that was really, one of the biggest shifts that we made as a business is to really start looking back at ourselves and say, ‘We’re not going to apologise, we’re going to actually talk to the people who love us and bring them to the outdoors to enjoy what’s really real and happening in the outdoor space.’ And that was the big shift.
Twiggy Jalloh 04:37
So instead of trying to almost convince outdoor wearers that ‘Oh yeah, no, we are outdoor. We make great outdoor garments, please come and shop with us,’ you utilised the audience that you already had and told them ‘You know what, guys, we’re gonna make a beautiful range for you. We know your style. We know what you like, and we think you should try this out.’ And it seems to have gone very, very well so far.
So it seems like everywhere you look at outdoor apparel and footwear has gone from being mostly worn for, you know, mountaineering, like you said, hiking trails and running to being worn on the street. And even by fashion editors, when did you first realise that the outdoors was officially in?
Andre Doxey 05:16
People talk a lot about outdoor is on trend. And what we say here is that outdoor is not a trend. Outdoor is a lifestyle, right? So it literally is the best product that you can buy when you want to do everything, right? It’s the most versatile collection that you can you can come across in the industry. So when you think about also the current. Outdoor was hot back in the early 80s, right? It was on fire, everybody was rocking, you know, outdoor footwear, outdoor jackets, you know, all the puff jackets, right? And so that was the hotness when you were on the street. In the wintertime, you had to have a puffer, right? So that was really crazy. And then you had to have your your winter boots so outdoor has always been a staple when it comes to when you need something for extreme conditions, you go to outdoor, right? And so it just goes to show that the cycle is happening again, where a new generation is connecting back to what’s happening in the 80s. Outdoor was hot in the 80s and now they’re into outdoor again.
But we believe what’s different about today is that the innovations around performance and the style of outdoor is much more modern, and much more progressive and it’s also more versatile. So you can wear it top to bottom. You can wear it every day, you can dress it up. You can dress it down. You can do so much more with it so it’s not just technical gear for one use. It’s technical gear that’s versatile, that everybody sees the versatility sees the functionality, and they just want to have it, right? And so when you make fire, and you know when you make hot outdoor products, people just want to rock it. They want to wear it every day, right? They don’t think of it as ‘Well, this is my jacket for when I go hiking.’. They’re like ‘No, this is my jacket.’ Right? So that’s what’s really different about right now, because everyone understands the importance of functionality, and they want to look good wearing their gear. Period.
Twiggy Jalloh 07:11
I think you have a colour range for everyone. I saw a pair of trainers online, they had blue and grey, blue, grey and white, they look absolutely amazing and I wouldn’t really consider myself to be an outdoor wearer. But the way adidas has combined style and practicality is just very, very… it’s just great really.
Andre Doxey 07:29
Yeah, you know, you talk about colour and colour is so important because colour is an emotional trigger for all of us as humans. And one of the things that we thought a lot about with our colour approach is that we didn’t want to look like every other brand out there, yeah? And it’s very easy to to say, ‘Hey, here’s what everyone else is doing. We should follow and fall in line.’ And we said ‘No, absolutely not.’ We were doing exactly that for a decade or longer and it didn’t make a difference, yeah? And we said, ‘We’re going to change our direction. We’re going to be unapologetic. We’re going to be adidas. We’re going to do our thing.’ And so we literally said ‘We want to be more curated, more boutique, we want to be younger, more attitudinal and that’s what you see what you’re seeing from us from a colour [and] graphics. A tonality, yeah? We absolutely wanted to come out with a bang and draw people’s attention.
Twiggy Jalloh 08:27
Speaking of style, and practicality, was it hard to combine style with technical products and sustainability, which is of course a key driver in the outdoor market at the moment?
Andre Doxey 08:37
Actually, no, because one of the great things about the team is the team is committed to creating the most sustainable product that we can create, you know, without compromising on performance. And so that part was really easy. You didn’t have to convince anyone. That’s at the core of what we do and what we will continue to do. Your second question about style, it’s like, that part wasn’t hard either. Because we all believe that, you know, everyone wants to look good, you know. I mean, early in the industry, it was only focused on function and people said, ‘Hey, I don’t care what it looks like it just has to work because I need to be safe.’ And that you know, those days are long gone. People are like ‘Well, if I’m gonna wear this, it better look good and it better work.’ Right? So we know that to be true today for for this new generation and so we want to make sure that we are delivering against that. [The] product has to work and it has to look good otherwise people will not buy it. It’s just that simple.
Twiggy Jalloh 09:41
And I think it’s what people just expect from adidas if adidas were to bring out an outdoor range that just didn’t look good, it would be quite shocking and quite confusing. So this is what I almost expect from the brand if I’m being completely honest.
Andre Doxey 09:54
Yeah, I mean, we’re known for for creating, you know, product that is purposeful that really works. And, and we’re known for product that looks good. I mean, we, you know, style and aesthetics has always been a part of our DNA, right, we’ve always created product that people just kind of go, ‘Wow.’ We’ve been known for creating, in many cases, you know, jawdropping designs and products for people to wear on their feet or on their body.
Twiggy Jalloh 10:32
Andre, I want to talk about sustainability. I have been reading about this concept jacket that TERREX produced in 2020; the Futurecraft loop anorak which is a jacket made entirely, entirely of just one material. What was exciting about that development from a sustainability point of view?
Andre Doxey 10:53
Honestly, it was a team effort and the brainchild of Birgit Freundorfer of who’s the Senior Director of Design within TERREX and she did a fantastic job as well as the whole team to bring that product to life. And so that’s on our MYSHELTER concept that we created it for outdoor and for hike and what’s so exciting about that is that it is made of one material. And that can be recaptured and recycled, and then remade again, right. As we call it ‘Made to be remade,’ and I can say that is probably, you know, I’m careful to say it’s my favourite product. But I will say that it is a fantastic product, right? Because it’s quintessential of what we set out to do; make something that is purposeful, that’s sustainable and that is absolutely stunning. I mean, when you see that product, you’re just like, ‘Oh, my goodness, I need to have that product, right?’ And then you go, ‘Oh, my gosh, it’s made to be remade, really? And it’s gonna keep me warm and keep me safe?’ Gotta have it, right. The whole goal was how do we create something that is that stops you in your tracks, right, that delivers against our goal around credibility, sustainability and also inclusivity. I mean, we want to make sure that people see themselves in our product.
Twiggy Jalloh 12:25
How have you tried to appeal to the current youth culture? I know, we spoke about, of course, joining practicality with style. Are there any other ways that you’ve appealed to the youth or that you tapped in to different trends and different styles?
Andre Doxey 12:40
Well, well, actually, there’s two things there. So to tap into this new generation is understanding what they care about, right? So so they care a lot about the human condition; whether that’s through sustainability, whether that’s through communities, so they care a lot about how they’re living, and how they’re going to be living in the near future. So, so, for us, one of the things that we spend time on is making sure that we are creating the most sustainable collection that we can create. So our road to better is really about making sure that our product is sustainable and every touchpoint. And we do that through the resource that we have, with our partners, as well as working with communities and talking to people.
Also, you know, we have communities that we connect with and collaborate with, when we are creating collections. We reach out and we ask them, right, what’s important to them. Whether that’s through communal activity, whether that’s through product, whatever it might be, so we listen, and we talk with them. So that’s what’s really important. It’s not just about creating for just to create, and it’s really about listening and learning and understanding and from there, that’s when you you gather your your best insights and your best knowledge around how to connect with them in a more meaningful way.
And then when it comes to product itself, we understand that, you know, when you are new in this space, what I mean by that is, everyone wants to feel like they’re a part of something and everyone wants to be able to reflect their values, their ideas, and, you know, their aspirations. And so, all we’re trying to do is give them a platform. For example, if they see, you know, when we think about colour, from a TERREX standpoint, we’re like, hey, when the young people want to own something, they want to be different, they’re gonna break the rules. They’re gonna, you know, it’s like, when they see something they want to know, hey, I found this this is, you know, something I discovered and so, so you got to give them something right and, and even even if someone who, who doesn’t get it like ‘Like, why would you do that colour, that colour is crazy?’ but then someone comes along and goes ‘Yo, this colour’s fire.’ That’s who we’re talking to. We’re talking to someone who’s looking for something different, something unique and we’re like, that’s what we’re going after, right?
This new young consumer who wants to be different than everybody else, and they’re looking for that, that thing, right, that thing that no one else found. They found it first, even if it’s been around for ten years. They’re like ‘ I found this first!’ so what we’re trying to do is to make sure that we appeal to this idea that they have, right? It’s like, ‘I want this, I want to make this mine.’ And it’s like, ‘Hey, cool,’ right? And so we ask, you know, we just… we don’t assume anything, we just ask. and then we start playing. And our whole thing is, we’re trying to have fun. Being young minded, youthful, attitudinal, unapologetic, so we’re like, ‘Hey, we’re just trying to have some fun’ so if you see fun in this? How about it?
Twiggy Jalloh 15:50
I definitely have seen like a change in the outwear culture. I follow a few hiking groups and communities and I have seen that they have partnered with quite a few wild the most popular outwear brands, and they bring an edge to it. They bring something different toit and I can tell it the brands are listening. They’re looking cool wearing these boots, people are going bird watching and looking stylish. It’s even made me want to go bird watching, you know, I want to go bird watching now. I want to look cute outside.
And I think a lot of people, a lot of people who don’t like cold weather, for example. They’d be quite apprehensive to go out but we are reassured with these new products coming out and these new technologies coming out, but no, we are going to keep you warm. And you’re going to look cute while you’re doing it as well. So I absolutely love the fact that brands are listening to the youth now that um, you are, of course, partnering with communities and young communities that are out here making a difference and are going outdoors and exploring. So yeah, I think it’s absolutely great that you are keeping your ear in the community and listening to the needs of the youth as well.
Andre Doxey 16:56
Yeah, I mean, it’s a great reflection. The thing that, you know, for those who are listening and may not be aware of, you know, some of those groups, it’s what you’re seeing is a real big shift towards more diversity in the outdoors and that’s really what that’s about. Yeah. And so the outdoor industry has been around for a very, very long time. The biggest shift has been the new introduction and entry of more diverse people of colour coming into the industry and being welcomed into the industry and into the community, right. And so with that they bring their ideas with that they bring their aspirations with that their bring their communities. And so if you’re listening and you’re watching, that’s going to give you just even more of a desire to reflect that movement and that change. And so that’s what you’re really saying is that influx and that influence of, you know, new, diverse groups coming into the outdoors, and bringing their ideas and starting to help shape it in a new way.
Twiggy Jalloh 18:01
I see the differences it’s made. Honestly, I feel like it’s bringing more more black and brown people into into the communities into nature and just hiking for example. And it’s making the biggest difference with the way the clothes look. The clothes look cooler, the clothes look better, the influence is undeniable. I see the biggest difference, and I too want to be a part of this this movement, if you want to call it that.
Andre Doxey 18:23
Yeah, Twiggy. I mean, you know, and to your point it is people of colour, it’s also beyond that, right? It’s so many different identities, right? And so however you identify, right, it is opening up and it’s so much more inclusive. And so when people see themselves in the outdoors or see people like them in the outdoors, it encourages them to be that much more comfortable exploring that space, right, because [for] a long time people didn’t feel welcome in the outdoors, right, either it was too competitive, or it felt like it was too out of reach and now that’s opening up. Outdoors is much more accessible. You’re seeing people of all different walks of life, gender, ethnicity, identity, and all of a sudden, it’s like, ‘Okay, you know, this is something that I can also enjoy and explore and be a part of.’ And so this is the big shift, and the biggest shift is happening and you want to enable that, right, and be seen as an enabler of that and so that’s really what we’re excited about.
Twiggy Jalloh 19:39
So Andre, let’s rewind to the culture of your youth. Please talk me through some of the iconic styles that have stuck with you over the years?
Andre Doxey 19:47
Yeah, so I’m a little old school because I can go way back to the 70s and think about when I first saw sport and style coming together, and for me, it was always about basketball and how the basketball players always showed up with amazing style. I mean, they were always super tight and they had the most amazing… Back in the US where I grew up on the East Coast, we called them sneakers. And so they had on the basketball sneakers from, you know, multiple brands, and they were just on. They were crazy, amazing colours, amazing materials and they always had him hooked up with their, you know, suits and, you know, overcoats, and it was just, you know, it was crazy. And we were just like, Oh my goodness. So for us, it was synonymous. You know, sport and style always went hand in hand, you never really separated them, right?
And then I also grew up admiring Giorgio Armani, I was a big fan of Giorgio Armani, right? For me, it was Italian design and it was crazy and super, super cool. But also, I loved Yves Saint Lauren. I loved what he was doing. And so fashion for me was always a big thing. In high school, I was always tried to be dressed to the nines. I tried my very best, with what little money I did have. In the 80s, when hip hop happened and the whole dress code changed, you know, to some degree, it was still all about style. You still had to look good. You had to be fire on the court, fire off the court and that’s why [the] sneaker phenomenon happened because you had amazing people coming into the industry for the first time and actually designing sneakers to look like things you’ve never seen before. And so that was the thing that was so crazy. And then when adidas dropped, you know, I mean, the shell toe dropped, right, and shell toe was crazy. I mean, it was the first ever leather basketball shoe. No one had ever seen that before. So you’re just like, ‘Oh, my goodness, I gotta have a pair of shell toes,’ right? And so, next thing, you know, you start collecting shoes, you know.
Twiggy Jalloh 21:51
Do you still see the inspiration from your youth coming from the products you’re now styling with adidas Outdoor?
Andre Doxey 21:56
Yes, I do because honestly, Twiggy, I’m just a kid, right? And, you know, one of the things you asked me earlier, is, you know, what inspired me as a young young person, and I’m just a, I’m just a kid at heart and trying to live the dream that I’ve had as a kid. And I wanted…when someone says to me, ‘Hey, so you know what continues to inspire? You’ve been doing this for a long time’ and I say, ‘Well, you know, I still think about when I used to go to the store to buy a pair of, you know, either basketball shoes or running shoes. And you sit there and you find the shoe you want. And you ask the person to go back in the back room and get your size, right, you walk in, you have this in size nine, right? And you couldn’t wait for them to come out of the back room with that box, you know, I mean, and that still to this day is a feeling that I still seek and still enjoy and want to give to other people.
Twiggy Jalloh 23:04
Andre, what is the role of a Creative Director when it comes to inspiring creativity in a team?
Andre Doxey 23:10
The first thing is you have the title, the Creative Director, but most importantly, the role of a leader is to work with the team and to be a part of the team, yeah, because sometimes, you know, we hear the word Creative Director and people think, ‘well, you’re the person who’s responsible for all the ideas’ and that couldn’t be further from the truth. The best way is to partner with the team and to first establish that you are a part of the team, that they don’t work for you. We work together as a team, and I’m your partner vs I’m your boss, right? So that’s the first part.
And you asked about how do you inspire the team? Well, the the way that I choose to work with a team is through laughter, music, spending time talking, right? Because the whole idea is to get them to dream. That’s the whole idea. Get them comfortable with the idea of dreaming because we spend all of our time trying to respond to, you know, quote unquote, “a brief” if you will, right, or a business request, right? And nothing comes from a brief that says, ‘Hey, I want you to grow this business by, you know, 2%’ and, you know, that’s an important metric to be aware of. However, people respond to emotion, right? And so, you want to create something that’s exciting because from there, you’re going to exceed 2% You’ll probably get 10%, right? You want to create amazing product, amazing collection, create an amazing experience and then you’ll get people to come, right? So you want people to dream you want people to see well beyond that, that task was in front of them and from there, they’ll be inspired and motivated to go even further than even they thought they could.
Twiggy Jalloh 25:14
So, Andre, I have been made aware that you have a motto for your creative vision. Could you please share? I’ve been told, can you please share with us and please explain how it drives you?
Andre Doxey 25:26
So the best way to say this is that as a brand, we say that we’re about being rebellious and optimistic. So that’s at the core of who we are, right? Rebellious optimists.
Twiggy Jalloh 25:40
Oh, wow, this fits right in with the podcast, of course. Rebellious Optimists.
Andre Doxey 25:45
Yeah. So, you know, we’re a founder, you know, led brand. So, you know, the brand was founded by Adi Dassler and we believe he was a rebellious optimist, right? Just the way he approached everything. He was always trying to, you know, challenge the status quo and he was always thinking about the future state and what’s best for the athlete and so that’s, you know, really amazing. So in Outdoor, what we did, we added one additional adjective to it, we said bold, rebellious optimists. We have to make sure that we’re unapologetic. We don’t want anyone to shy away from the idea that this is at the core of our DNA, right? We are rebellious optimists.
However, in order for us to break through and and make sure that we are heard and seen, we have to be even bolder. So what we said is we’re bold, rebellious optimists. That is the tonality that shapes our TERREX approach, right? And when you see what you see, from the graphics, the colour, the silhouettes, it comes from that. The idea that we are challenging the status quo, we’re challenging ourselves to be purposeful, and thoughtful and we do bold rebellious optimism through our sustainability strategy, bold rebellious optimism through how we look at the silhouettes and the colour and the graphics. We do bold rebellious optimism when we think about functionality so we’re just like, ‘Hey, it needs to work. It needs to be sustainable. It needs to be inclusive.’ Be bold, right? Be rebellious and be optimistic about how you’re doing that.
Twiggy Jalloh 27:26
What advice would you give to young designers who are inspired by your bold, rebellious and optimistic outlook?
Andre Doxey 27:32
First and foremost, if you’re inspired by what the team is doing, thank you, it’s a compliment and the team, we are just trying to, you know, have fun, really, and be brave and explore new spaces. And so I would give that same recommendation suggestion to this audience. Just do your thing, right? Don’t follow. Don’t follow the industry’s norms. If you’re interested in this space, just come in, make purposeful product, but have fun. Do it your way. Don’t follow the status quo. Create something that is unique, that is through your filter through your lens and that will create a new space for a whole new audience and it’ll really leave an impact. So just make sure that you keep that in mind when you come into the outdoor spaces. Do your thing.
Twiggy Jalloh 28:25
Andre, this conversation has been amazing. I’ve learned so much from everything that you’ve had to say today. Thank you so much.
Andre Doxey 28:31
Appreciate the conversation.
Twiggy Jalloh 28:37
I absolutely loved that conversation. Andre is just so cool. If you want to find out more, there is an article on gameplan-a.com about the Made to Be Remade jacket and the adidas journey to creating recyclable clothing. You can also read about that story which Andre mentioned how the adidas Superstar, the shell toe, became a cultural icon. These articles and loads more are at gameplan-a.com. The links are in the show notes for you. Thanks so much for listening. Until next time…
- Read the story of the Loop Jacket, Made to be Remade, and the adidas journey to creating recyclable clothing.
- Learn how the adidas Superstar… the Shell Toe… became a cultural icon
- Meet Adi Dassler – Company founder, and the original Rebellious Optimist
“We're about being rebellious and optimistic. That's at the core of who we are. Rebellious optimists.”Andre Doxey, Creative Director for adidas Outdoor
adidas Creative Director Andre Doxey Explains Why His Creative Process Starts by Saying No [Podcast] - Miracoup