Creative Director Ferdinando Verderi on making adidas Originals original again
Ferdinando Verderi is a founding partner and creative director at New York agency Johannes Leonardo, listed among AdAge's standout creativity innovators for 2017. Born in Parma (yes, like the ham) he studied ancient Greek, Latin and philosophy, to which he credits his curiosity and ability to think creatively in abstract ways. His interests and endeavours are eclectic, including art, photography, fashion, economics and publishing — he did the editing and design for Jefferson Hack the System: We Can’t Do This Alone, a treatise written by Jefferson Hack, founder of Dazed, AnOther and Nowness.
Along with photographer Jurgen Teller, Verderi was instrumental in the 2017 relaunch of EQT, adidas’s line of once high performance shoes (EQT is short for ‘equipment’) with high sneaker culture cred. He also conceived the Alexander Wang x adidas Originals stunt that saw the designer’s clothes packed in black trash bags and sold from the back of a white truck, and creative directed ‘Your future is not mine’, a short film for adidas Originals that won a Gold Lion for Film Craft / Use of Original Music and a Bronze Lion for Entertainment for Music & Brands / Music Video —— Brand Integration at Cannes in 2016. He also creative directed ‘Original is never finished’ in 2017.
‘Your future is not mine’ suggests a way of coping with a dystopian future. Are things really so bad that we need this kind of silver lining? Or is this a parody of survivalist paranoia?
Your future is not mine is a generational idea. The younger generation of creators has been told by its parent culture that the world is headed towards its darkest time. The truth is that every generation thinks of itself as the last one and revels in a dystopian forecast. We want to inspire a new generation to ignore every pessimistic projection and to encourage them to create their own future. Originals believes that the best way to predict the future is to create it.
A brand like adidas Originals has the courage and the responsibility to inspire its community. Its community is a global generation of creators. Creativity is by definition a positive force – it creates change. ‘Your future is not mine’ is not preoccupied with the negativity of dystopia; that is only a starting point. It is invested in the prospect of a brighter future generated by the next generation of creators.
For your Alexander Wang x adidas campaign in New York, you created an offline treasure hunt. Why was this a better option than an online campaign?
The alexander wang x adidas originals campaign is quintessentially a digital idea, even if it all happened on the street. It was the Internet which allowed for our audience to share clues and information about where and when the trucks would arrive, and it was the Internet that allowed the campaign to unfold organically. Yet we intentionally brought it to the street as a statement of authenticity. We wanted to be there physically, where streetwear happens. The campaign was conceived under a direction that we called “strictly wrong”, inspired by Alex’s idea to turn the logo upside down. Every expression of the campaign was meant to intentionally upset the rules and conventions of a fashion collaboration launch. As part of this, the campaign narrative was celebrating the number one enemy of fashion limited edition collaborations. That was the spirit and we wanted it to live through everything. We don’t think New York was a unique place for this to happen. We in fact did it in London and Tokyo as well.
Turning to the line of EQT sneakers, which were launched in the ’90s and revived this year, how do you mix nostalgia for the past and the invention of the future in the images you created with Juergen Teller?
EQT was adopted as a symbol of progress by youth in Berlin during the early ’90s. Its essentialism, its honesty, integrity and clear purpose resonated with a generation that elected it to the status of streetwear phenomenon. Twenty-five years later, EQT relaunches, and Berlin is chosen to be the home of this relaunch. The same quality that made it popular then become the manifesto for today’s campaign. The same essentialist philosophy from the early 90s becomes the statement for today’s advertising. A great artist who has focused his work on the very same principles of integrity, honesty, and essentialism for the past 25 years, became the one to create the images for this relaunch. The EQT philosophy of "everything that essential nothing that is not" is at the core of the shoes DNA, Juergen’s work, and of Berlin's creative youth, yesterday and today. It’s the sentiment that connects the two eras through the images.
Originals both implies an earlier version and something unique, which is a clever contradiction. Does innovation always have to evolve from the past? From TV to cinema to fashion, why are we so fixated on recycling ideas?
When it comes to our collaboration with the brand, creativity 'the Originals way', in our communication work always implies both a huge respect for what has come before it, as well as a strong desire to create the future. Originals believes in the value of true creativity, and true creativity always leaves its mark. So in our communication, we are never talking about recycling, we are talking about re-interpreting, re-appropriating, evolving and transforming ideas through a creative act. For us it is not about where one takes things from, it's about where one takes them to. We want to inspire a generation to create without the fear of repeating what has been done before, and to use the past as a canvas for new ideas, and ultimately for them to believe in the value of their own ideas within the larger context of history.
The EQT campaign focuses on the line’s origins in ’90s Berlin. What’s the role urban centres play in shaping brands, globally and domestically, and can’t we take inspiration from rural areas too?
Cities are often where creators aspire to live because so many of those creators come from rural areas. Rural areas are extremely important for creativity. The latest generation of hip hop stars for example have demolished the cliché that urban areas generate better music with names that come from places few of us have heard of.
The Internet has made distance a thing of the past and it has changed the map of creativity globally.
- Article by Stephanie Fan