In the world of design, we as consumers flock to products that are impeccably designed. We desire the aesthetically fly, and can tell when there is a certain attention to detail that sets a product apart from all the other mediocrity. Sometimes these designers, the "authors of cool" are left off the information pages… Well not today! World say hello to C-Law…. Chris Law is a lead Designer for Adidas Coastal, Adidas Skateboarding, and ex-founding member of the world renowned sneaker website Crooked Tongues (1999-2007).
Chris has worked with the best of the best: from Adidas,Addict, New Balance, Puma, Stüssy, Recon, New Era, Endeavor Snowboards, Wellbred, and industry personalities such as BJ Betts, Aaron Horkey, Michael Sieben, and Ian Brown. He has been associated with Lewis Sterling, Addict, Crooked Tongues, CliqueNMove, and Bond International. Chris Law aka C-Law is not just an "author of cool," he is a gospel… Interview by Matthew Ross.
SXH: Working with Adidas must have been a total blast. The finish product looks amazing. How did the process go? From picking the models? Choosing the colors/Materials? Production??? ETC??? Also, what were some of the failed sample ideas? Also were did you draw inspiration?
C-LAW: Well, yeah it was/is good, love it. Ben (Pruess) asked me a year ago now would I like to do my own range for Adidas that would be a large scale release, not the small boutique style of releases that I’d worked on previously. Of course I was well happy about it, straight away my brain was going spaz thinking what I could do. There were however certain restrictions on what I could do, which were I had to select from a certain range of shoes, the shoes would be at a certain price point, so I couldn’t go mad on high end luxury materials, and the collection had to feature the a.d.i.d.a.s (All Day I dream About Sneakers) strapline, fair enough, let’s do this.
I started out just by doing the colourways, but really wanted to have a decent input into the materials as well, so I flew over from London to Herzo to the Gerrman HQ to work with Erman Aykurt on choosing the materials within the set FOB (…). I wanted to use classic materials that I love, suedes with mesh vamps especially (no creasy toes).
Some of the colourways are inspired by classic Adidas colourways like the ZX600 has the Fairway green with the lemon peel, one of the Attitudes was inspired by the SE Racing PK Ripper Camo.
There wasn’t any failed samples, just a couple of colourways that got changed (I have them still) and we were in the process of re-issueing the Avenger, which is a old late 80s fave shoe of mine, but that never happened unfortunately. There are a few things that I would change now If I could, and there are definitely other models I would have chosen given the chance, but over all I’m pretty happy with the results.
SXH: How was it working with Crooked Tongues? Where do you see CT’s presence in the market?
C-LAW: It was cool, I was there right from the beginning with Russ and Chris (Diggers With Gratitude), then came people like Kahma (Clique N Move / TMI), A-Cyde (Nike / TMI), No Remorse (Tenderloin) and then you have the second generation of lads who run it now like Charlie and Gary – top blokes. My role was that of all the design for the site, along with Spinemagazine and all the other Unorthodox Styles projects. I was Creative Director, so when we came to do all the Co-Labs, I would lead the designs, although we all gave input.
SXH: For all that don’t know C-Law was the genius behind the Green/White/Gray colorway on the original Crooked Tongues 576. What was your inspiration behind the design and what ideas did you scrap to get to that one?
C-LAW: That one was there from the start pretty much, there were other shoes that got dropped and we ended up with the 4 that came out. When we worked on that project we were pretty restricted to what the lads had in the factory at the time, it was a question of take the train to Penrith (near Scotland) spend the day walking up and down the aisles of leather roles and just doing it on the spot, very hands on with print outs of CADS and just writing on them what we wanted.
SXH: Looking at the US and Uk markets what similarities do you see and what differences?
C-LAW: There is a big difference in taste I would say for sure, what UK heads like, some US heads wouldn’t, although we tend to like what the US likes apart from all the newer basketball styles and Jordan 6,4,5’s. The UK has a strong following for the 3–Stripes way beyond the hip-hop connection, that definitely sets us apart, and it’s not some sleek euro style either, It surprises me how much US heads don’t actually know about UK culture, streetwear history and style.
SXH: Why do you think that the trainer is so essential for the UK market but nothing more then another model in the US?
C-LAW: We had ‘Trainer’ culture before we had hip-hop, during the late 70s, the lads that would follow the footballteams into Europe would take trains around Europe hitting small towns and racking the shops of all these crazy Adidas models that no one had ever seen in the UK, it became a big thing and is still celebrated to day. It’s part of what once was (and to some in the know, still is) what we called ‘Casual’ culture.
Once hip hop came along during 82ish the styles blended together and became what it is today for the mainstream I guess, even though there is a massive difference in style now to those that lean the hardline Casual way compared to the hip hop/streetwear style way.
SXH: What is your opinion on Designer trainers? You have companies like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Hogan, etc. producing $400 plus trainers,
do you see these as valuable within the market or nothing more then high priced copies? And are they of value in the market?
C-LAW: Not interested one bit.
SXH: If you could sit down with anyone though out history and have lunch who would it be any why? And what questions would you have for them?
C-LAW: My grandparents that I never met would be cool, that would be my first wish, aside from that. Bruce Lee, Cliff Burton and of course Adi Dassler…
SXH: Do you think that the urban streetwear industry is a fad or does it have such a following to call it a permanent fashion staple, and if so where do you see it going?
C-LAW: I think Urban wear and Streetwear are two different things that cross over, that’s a difficult question, because if you aint wearing a uniform, a straight up suit and tie or dress like a 50 year old who couldn’t give a toss, then in some way you are wearing Streetwear, so it’s very hard to define the term.
I think it’s about being an original in your own way, putting together what you like, there are always going to be trends and sheep, but I feel that if your happy with your style, then your laughing.
SXH: Do you think, “Men are the new women,” if so why?
C-LAW: Hmm, dunno about that one, fellas that have always wanted to be ahead of the game have always dressed well right back to MOD, I just think it’s a mindstate your either a dresser, or someone who just ‘wears’ clothes.
SXH: What trend’s do you love, which do you hate, and which do you see on frontier?
C-LAW: I’m not massive on trends, I try to avoid them nowadays, I mainly wear black (I aint a goth) with standard shit that I like, I like my jeans to fit a certain way, be a certain width at the hem, I lace my shoes a certain way (religiously), I like techy jackets, a good fitting hat and sometimes a good graphic tee. As for what trends are on the frontier, I dunno I’d like to see one of the major cities turn shit around, get back to be less of the global looks and more homegrown.
SXH: What are some of your favorite British insults and how often do you use them?
C-LAW: My friend BJ (Betts) love this saying this well old geezer once said to Gary at Crooked, he said, as they were loading up a van “You’ll get fuck all shit in that fuckin cunt” – amazing! No one swears better than the English, especially the cockneys.
I do tend to swear a lot, especially in meetings when I get all passionate about shit and amped up.
Top words: Spanker (edit of wanker), slag, nonce, clart and twat.
SXH: Why is CT better then NT?
C-LAW: To be honest, I’ve never really spent any decent time on NT, so I can’t judge it, I’m just not into loads of people showing me 20 pairs of multiples of ugly Jordan’s.
SXH: What is a normal day for you?
C-LAW: Now that I work for Adidas (I was offered a job over in Portland just after I had done the range), it depends on what time of the season it is. It could be colouring up CADS, doing new model designs, overlooking apparel design, range planning, chatting shit with Mo and Klein or going home for a ‘beans on toast’ lunch with the kids. I cant really say much on what I do, as all that I have done so far hasn’t seen light of day yet as we work so far in advance, I tend to get involved with the more ‘heads’ stuff too that will be coming out in the US and some stuff that comes out from Germany.
SXH: You were involved with CT for sometime, and given it was really the first sneaker website, how do you feel things have changed since you first became involved?
C-LAW: When we started it, we did it out of love, there weren’t that many boutiques about around 1999/2000, so we were sort of there at the start of what it is now. Things have changed so much, the thing I think that ruins it now for me though is that everything is so worldwide now, every store has the same exact stuff, you don’t get excited about traveling to spots anymore as it’s the same, unless your hitting some mom and pops places, that’s always a treat, although they’ve all been pretty much rinsed by locals in the know.
SXH: CT has managed to keep its credibility in a sneaker world full of hate through staying true to its mission statement as such, what are your personal feelings of the way the sneaker culture as evolved?
C-LAW: It seems now that anyone with extra cash can rack up a good shelf stack now, it’s a bit plastic sometimes when you see what people show off, too many hype sheep followers and not enough individual tastes.
SXH: You’ve designed a number of shoes throughout your time, what have been your favorites and what do you consider as the most important aspect of designing a shoe? Also what design (if any) are you ashamed to admit came from your genius.
C-LAW: My faves are these ones I’ve just done they’ve got my name on it, the first New Balances will always be cool as that was our first go (although we did do a CT Blazer way back in the beginning – well photoreals anyway- that fell though). The CT New Balances with Bees artwork were cool, although the boxes are probably better than the shoes. The CT Adicolor was a good idea with the changeable tongues as that was what the original Adicolor idea was meant to be – personal customization. Although they f’d up with the damn things squeaking (Stick some masking tape on the underside of the eyestay). The CT Clydes came out nice (I’ve got some special one offs I did that are mental – a Beat Street Clyde in yellow, pink and black and an Al Naafiysh ‘The Sole’ pair of States. I’m proud of all of them, they all sold very well, so I can’t complain.
SXH: Its not just shoes you design? What are your favorite products to work on?
C-LAW: Jackets without a doubt are my second love and bikes, I have 3 20”ers, 2 24”ers and 1 26”er (BMX’s), I love to do more Co-Labs with Bike companies. I’d love to own my own garage specializing in restoring and upgrading vintage Minis Coopers (the car, and not the BMW fake), I’ve had quite a few, they are a passion for me, I can get well geeked out on them.
SXH: How did you first get involved in graphic design?
C-LAW: I left school at 15 with shit qualifications, did shit jobs for 5 years, met a girl (now my wife) who inspired me and was into graff who talked me into going to college to learn design and typography. I blagged my way in with her portfolio and some black books, ended up putting myself through 6 years at college and university. Along the way I paid my dues by doing a lot of flyer work for chump change for hip hop clubs in the mid 90s, Graphotism and whilst I was at college I worked with Chris (CT) in Bond where we met Russ who set up and owns CT, from there I ended up here.
SXH: Which designers/artists inspired you as you were growing?
C-LAW: I grew up being inspired by the likes of Seen, Doze and Skeme, those were my earliest inspirations for art so to say, along with Jack Kirby and some comic book stuff, oh and the fella that did all of the Maiden covers. Through the years I’ve grown to like all sorts of design by many different people across many different medias.
SXH: What do you think are the main differences between street culture in the UK and America or Japan?
C-LAW: hmm, that’s long.
SXH: Try and answer as many questions as possible?
SXH: Favorite Sneaker Manufacturer?
SXH: Top five favorite kicks? (Specific models and colorways)
1) Adidas Superstar in it’s 80s form – white with grey stripes
2) Adidas Campus in it’s 80s form – burgundy with white stripes
3) Adidas APS – original colourway
4) Adidas ZX800 – original colourway
5) Adidas Mexicana – Mexicana colourway
SXH: Non-Adidas shoes:
1) Puma Suede (the one shoe I have the most of) Money Green and White
2) Nike Air Max 90 in its OG colourway
3) Vans Old Skool – black and white
4) Puma Navratalova – All white
5) Nike Air Mada – Original Colourway
SXH: Favorite English Premier League Team?
C-LAW: Arsenal– generations deep, grandparents, cousins
SXH: Beer or Ale?
C-LAW: Red Stripe
SXH: Favorite English Tourist Trap?
C-LAW: The original Intrepid Fox Pub, or Bond’s Bench RIP
SXH: Jordan III or Air Max 87?
C-LAW: 87, I own zero Jordan’s, although I don’t mind 1-5
SXH: Favorite Websites?
C-LAW: Apart from this site and all the usual blog spots, I only look at a few… Stonerrock.com, Vintagebmx.com, Radbmx.co.uk, ebay and youtube are about my only bookmarks.
SXH: What would be your ultimate sneaker collab and how what would it look like?
C-LAW: I’ve just started it, cant say no more.
SXH: What is your favorite Vintage/ and new Adi?
C-LAW: Vintage would be my 80’s Campus/ New Adi would be PT Training.
SXH: What do you think about how Adi does it campaigns: Adicolor, Consortium, etc?
C-LAW: I think they can be good, but they can be troublesome also, as those that like the top layers hate the bottom layers, you just gotta take and pick what suits you and ignore the rest that’s for your average Dave on road.
SXH: What does Adidas mean to you?
C-LAW: A clever German fella with some serious passion, a heritage that is 2nd to none, the original street/sportswear crossover brand, an amazing history of street culture and street savy pioneer’s adoption that works on many levels. Me and Dave Swooshhwhite and Bothan SpySwoosh love to argue this shit out with me, went something like this… :”Come on we had Run DMC, Bob Marley and The WHO. Nike had Elton John, Elton Fuckin John!” Hello fellas, x! Don’t get me wrong I’m not a Nike hater, far from it. A few visits to Scheinfled’s (Adidas) archive has let me see first hand where this all comes from, who was the original, respect where respect is due
SXH: Of course Run DMC was a big part of Adidas’ success, were you a fan, and what other music acts did you grow up on?
C-LAW: I turned 13 in 1984, I was well into bboying and early hip hop culture, massively. Prior to that I loved the Jam and the Specials, but when I was an early teen it was all about breakin and lacing your shoes right, that mentality has stayed with me to this day, although my music taste goes way beyond hip hop. I did growing up listening to Run for sure, and when LL dropped Radio, that was killer for me too. I’m a massive fan of Electro, bboy hip hop and funk.
I did sway from hip hop the moment Sir Mixalot dropped ‘Square Dance Rap’, that shit was horse, I always liked the riffs on ‘King Of Rock’ and when in my last year at school someone lent me Kill ‘Em All, I loved the sound, it blew me away, I saw Slayer on the Reign In Pain ’87 tour (not a bad first gig) and so I’m a massive metal, NYHC, L.A. Punk and Stoner Rock fan (I wont list everything – take all day). Anything that has got balls and means shit I like, I cant stand dance/club music though, fuck that crap, does my head in, plastic!
SXH: Is there any rumor that A.D.I.D.A.S. Stands for ALL DAY I DREAM ABOUT SNEAKERS?
C-LAW: Nar! And let’s set this straight it’s addydass – not adeeedus. Adi Das… ler.
SXH: I myself played Football (soccer for our American Audiences) my whole life. I basically lived in Copa Modials and World Cups… For anyone who does not know, that model of football boot has not changed in like 30 years… How has it stood the test of time? And what does Adidas football mean to you?
C-LAW: Football and Adidas is just that, no boots look better than Copa Modials, as a kid in the late 70s – early 80s it was all about Adidas and football, it’s like the game’s official outfit, the only thing I wished was the England’s team could’ve have worn it… We had shitty Umbro.
SXH: Any inside info on upcoming product?