This story appears in the March 2016 issue of Playboy. Subscribe

One of the eminently fascinating if over-exploited trends in contemporary consumer culture is the fashion collaboration, in which Brand A (usually a very big company with deep pockets and distribution) joins forces with Brand B (usually a very cool company or person with major cultural cred) to create something that brings the best of both partners together in one product. This, in theory, results in something unique and introduces each brand to a new audience. Sometimes it makes sense, as in the case of the LeBron James Nike line of footwear and clothing. Sometimes it’s intentionally absurd, as in the case of the Supreme partnership with Kidde fire extinguishers. Shoes are the most visible example: Kanye West’s Yeezy line, with partners including Nike and Adidas, has yielded styles that top $93,000 on the resale market. One of the earliest and most famous footwear collaborations is the Adidas Stan Smith effort, which in 1971 paired the then leading men’s tennis player with the then fledgling German footwear company. Last year’s Pharrell Williams Billionaire Boys Club pony-hair Adidas Stan Smiths (that’s four, count ’em, four brands) is a head-spinning quad-collab. We spoke with Adidas senior project manager Jimmy Manley for a look at how Adidas collaborates with athletes and artists to create new product lines that punch through the noise.

Anatomy of a Collaboration

The not-so-straight path Adidas collaborations take from idea to sale.

As skate style goes mainstream, Adidas, as well as other brands, retains its cred by sponsoring pro athletes. Skating legend Dennis Busenitz (pictured above) worked with Adidas on its first pro skate line, which recently released an apparel and footwear collaboration with rapper A$AP Ferg.
Skater and artist Mark Gonzales (above) gave both function and form to his numerous collabs with Adidas. Of A$AP Ferg’s Traplord x Adi-ease edition (opposite page, top), Jimmy Manley says, “Ferg’s music literally made its way onto the product” in the handwritten lyrics on the laces.
Before A$AP Ferg (above) released his Traplord line, it became known the collection was an homage to deceased bandmate A$AP Yams, which helped propel early interest. Manley says, “At some point Ferg shared that he went to art school, and that’s where the idea of him doing a Yams painting came from.”
To see the debut of Ferg’s collection, you had to attend Art -Basel Miami, where the A$AP Yams painting was displayed. Resellers line up overnight on highly anticipated drop days. If that’s too much of a hassle, play collaborator yourself and customize your own Superstars online.