Op-Ed: Shackle Sneakers? Really Adidas?
By ATFDC Contributor Anastasia Lambrou
Owch, that must have hurt! A slave to fashion? I think not.
Is it me or was it just not obvious during the design process that maybe these sneakers wouldn’t look quite right on the feet, and ankles for that matter, of our most accomplished basketball players all over the global media?
Adidas was set to launch sales on their so called “shackle sneakers” in August, claiming that preliminary feedback ahead of market sales was both positive and negative. Oh, OK. Although Adidas claimed that the JS Roundhouse Mid design (more like a roundhouse kick to the face) by American fashion designer, Jeremy Scott, ‘had nothing to do with slavery’, what are shackles traditionally for and why are they then called “shackle sneakers”? Rhetorical question of course. If the shackles were not to conjure up chilling thoughts of human rights violations and a horrific period of suffering and injustice, they should have been covered with cheap synthetic fur and come with edible panties. I can only think that these shoes would be better suited to the dominatrix market if you added spike heels and a free ball gag and matching dog collar. How does slavery not come to mind, and who thought that sales would be great on such humiliating shoes? Can you seriously see D.C.’s hippest sporting these sad boys? Rev. Jesse Jackson, an African American advocate criticized the sportswear company saying that, “The attempt to commercialize and make popular more than 200 years of human degradation, where blacks were considered three-fifths human by our constitution is offensive, appalling and insensitive…Removing the chains from our ankles and placing them on our shoes is no progress.” Indeed the average person would be working like a slave to afford them at a stinging $350.
Lets not forget that up to 27 million people are living in slavery around the world, according to the US annual report into human trafficking, unveiled on the 20th of June by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Adidas is a German sportswear manufacturer and parent company of the Adidas group who has in the recent past been accused of operating sweatshops and now subcontracts out its manufacturing, making it harder for them to ensure that labour rights standards are met but easier in terms of accountability on their part. Hmmm. With an American designer at the front of the shackle shoe shenanigans, once again, how could this have not crossed his own mind? I showed these shoes to my boyfriend and asked him enthusiastically (so as not to seem biased) what he thought. The only sentence that came from his lips included the word slavery.
This is a perfect example of less than clever coupled with a cross cultural communication marketing flop. Many large and well known companies have in the past found themselves in similar sticky situations. Panasonic received licensing to use Woody the Woodpecker as the logo for their new browser, using the slogan “Touch Woody -The Internet Woodpecker”, after a £6M marketing campaign, Sharwoods, a British food company launched, ‘Bundhi, it’s line of sauces, Punjabi translation: arse, and in 2001 Honda introduced the “Fitta” car to it’s Nordic market, only to find out that this was an old word used in foul language for a lady’s meow, they subsequently changed the name to Jazz, which I think is another nice name for there.
Anastasia is a curator for Fadmashion, an independent designers network, and she specializes in sourcing innovative and creative independent designers from all over the globe, working with them to bring their creations to a wider audience. She focuses on both Asian and British designers for their edgy, quirky, and statement style creativity.