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Why Donald Glover and Adidas want you to get their new shoes dirty

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A scene from the April 17 immersive shoe-reveal experience in Silver Lake, clockwise from left, and Glover’s blank-canvas riffs on Adidas’ Continental 80, Lacombe and Nizza silhouettes.
(Adidas)

Five days after his Weekend 1 performance at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, actor and singer Donald Glover decamped to a cavernous mansion in Silver Lake to tend to his bees, work on his paintings and mope around in the kitchen clad in a white shawl-collar tuxedo. Or rather he appeared to do so in the series of video vignettes playing for guests touring the Paramour Estate Wednesday night, tromping through red clay, a sticky, honey-like substance and wood chips, sipping tiny cups of butler-served tea and noshing on crumbly cornbread in the kitchen before being guided into the backyard for a catered feast of collard greens, yams and sauce-dripping ribs from Trap Kitchen.

It sounds like a scenario all but guaranteed to scuff, stain and dirty a pair of spotless, new sneakers, which was precisely the point because each of the guests on the tour were sporting a pair of kicks from Glover’s soon-to-drop collaboration with Adidas Originals.

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At left, Donald Glover in a scene from the Donald Glover Presents short film "Dusty." At right, guests shod in the soon-to-drop collection walk through crushed red clay on the way into Paramour Estate in Silver Lake on April 17.
(From left: Adidas; Gunner Stahl / Adidas)

The shoes, stripped-back-to-basics take on three classic Adidas silhouettes, were revealed alongside five Donald Glover Presents branded micro-films featuring Glover and Mo’Nique (with a brief cameo by professional skateboarder and fellow Adidas collaborator Na-Kel Smith), directed by Ibra Ake from a story by Glover and his creative collaborators at Royalty, the agency that was also involved with Glover’s secret film “Guava Island,” which made its surprise premiere in the Coachella campground less than a week earlier.

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The films, taken together (officially released Thursday, all five can be viewed — in under five minutes — on YouTube), feel like a philosophical, subversive meditation on wealth, celebrity and boredom as well as Glover’s propensity to splatter, splotch and smear his shoes with everything under the sun. The latter provides brief glimpses at the shoes, the only indicator — apart from the Adidas trefoil logo at the end of each clip — that you’re watching a sneaker commercial.

Toward the end of the evening Glover, the actual flesh-and-blood version, did turn up at the Paramour Estate where he sat alongside several of his creative collaborators to talk about the project and its inspirations in a freewheeling panel discussion that included lighthearted riffs on grilled cheese recipes; internets versus intranets; a coat made from Jaden Smith’s dreadlocks; and the oft-repeated phrase “rich is a concept,” which Glover explained was the starting point for the project.

“A lot of people treat shoes like a kind of currency. They buy them and treat them like Beanie Babies,” Glover told the group of social media influencers and local schoolkids who had been handpicked to get the shoes — and break the news — first. “Not that any of you know what those even are.

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“[Wearing these] is all about layers,” Glover continued, “the more cool … you do, the better they look. The value is what you add to them.”

In an era when everyone can have the exact same anything with just a few clicks of the button, he said, “Experience is the only thing you can do differently.” (This sentiment echoed a theme he brought up during his Coachella set). “You can wear them differently, get them dirty differently; [you] make them your own canvas.”

That’s why the three sneaker styles — deconstructed reimaginings of Adidas’ Nizza, Continental 80 and Lacombe silhouettes — are rendered in shades of beige and off-white canvas and full of work-in-progress deconstructed details like uneven needlework; eyelets that appear to have been put in backward; unstitched edges; and laces that are already fraying right out of the box (an inside-out version of Adidas Originals’ traditional packaging).

Other details telegraphing the notion of wear and tear include a moth logo on the heel bumper and insole of each shoe and, on the Nizza style, a tone-on-tone version of Adidas’ three-stripe device painted to resemble sun-fading.

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Glover's riff on Adidas' Nizza silhouette ($80) includes raw-edged canvas and stripes that look faded by the sun.
(Adidas)

The debut Donald Glover X Adidas Originals collection is set to hit retail globally on April 26 with a price tag that ranges from $80 to $100. But, based on Glover’s “experience is value” premise, you’re less a consumer copping a pair of shoes and more an artist prepping a blank canvas that will only increase in value — and meaning — with every scuff-inducing step.

To be fair, Glover, Adidas and their creative teams shouldn’t be credited with trying to sell dirty sneakers as a status symbol. Luxury labels including Saint Laurent, Vetements and Balenciaga have been sending grime- and scribble-coated kicks down the runway for years. More recently, Gucci’s 2019 cruise collection included a pre-distressed pair of ’70s-inspired trainers that’ll set you back $870.

What Glover and Adidas have managed to do, though, is flip the dirty-sneaker concept on its head by offering a blank-canvas, fraying-laces DIY starter-kit option for about a tenth the price — and frame earned dirt as the new cool along the way.

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adam.tschorn@latimes.com

For more musings on all things fashion and style, follow me at @ARTschorn


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