Adidas Blackburn SPZL launched at British Textile Biennial

The Lancashire town of Blackburn you might think at first glance is an unlikely place to find a 48-hour aged queue for anything. Let alone one consisting largely of self-described trainer fanatics hoping to get their hands on a limited edition release of the brand new Adidas Blackburn SPZL. A shoe paying homage to the town with a colour scheme derived from the red and green of the Lancastrian rose. Why Blackburn? Well, it is with thanks in no small part to Blackburn-born, Adidas employed designer Gary Aspden. Who works largely on the brands cult Spezial range, and who pitched the entirety of the idea to Adidas.

The Adidas Exhibition Gary Aspden curated was hosted at the Blackburn Corn Exchange and consisted of a huge 1,200 pairs of trainers plucked from his own 2,000-strong archive and borrowed from collectors around the world. Standouts from which include Stan Smiths worn by Supermodel Kate Moss, One-offs made for the Beastie Boys. As well as pristine originals from the 1950s to complement the assortment. Attracting admirers from far and wide in the hope of getting their hands-on Aspdens rubber-soled love-letter to his home town.

Blackburn Nightshift

200 pairs of which will be made available during the event set to retail at £100. With all the proceeds of which going towards a charity very close to Gary Aspden’s heart. The local homelessness charity Nightshift.

“I’m absolutely over the moon about it. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me. This is one of the top 10 poorest towns in Europe and I feel strongly that places like Blackburn, which have been hit badly by austerity, can be regenerated with the help of culture.”

Gary Aspden

The idea that culture drives commerce is central to Aspdens thinking with this project. Why would you do something like this in Blackburn? Why would you not do something like this in Blackburn? Aspden truly believes if he built it they would come and his confidence in his concept was of course vindicated by the queues that extended out the door of the Blackburn Corn Exchange, up the road, and round the corner. Not everyone at Adidas shared his belief in the project from the outset, however.

From pitch to production

Getting the shoe into production involved protracted negotiations with Adidas’ lawyers. Who after his initial pitch vetoed the idea citing a number of bruising previous encounters with litigious cities the world over. It was simple evaluated as being more hassle for the brand than it was worth. Refusing to be deterred, Aspden decided to make his pitch to the Blackburn council, making them aware of his employers’ concerns. Concerns that were quickly erased by the leader of the council who spoke of how good this would be for the town of Blackburn. Making it clear they would bend over backwards to make it happen.

Once the green light had been secured from both the town council and his beloved Blackburn Rovers. Who Adidas’ legal team felt would offer the most resistance via a trademark claim. Aspden was finally able to make his idea a reality. With Aspden’s accompanying show being labelled one of the most popular at the inaugural British Textile Biennial (which runs throughout Autumn in locations across East Lancashire). Primarily put on to showcase the past and present of UK-made textiles through art, design and performance.

Adidas Blackburn SPZL listed on eBay for £56,000

For those who camped outside the venue in anticipation weren’t disappointed when the doors opened. The first four of which, spend three nights in the queue to make sure they were guaranteed to be the first ones in. All of which avid collectors, with one Andy Burns, taking four days holiday from his job to make sure he secured a pair.

“I love Adidas as a brand because it reminds me of growing up in the 70s and 80s. The shoes from that time were so colourful and have become really iconic. I started collecting them in 2008 for a bit of fun and it’s become something really enjoyable. The Blackburn shoe coming out tomorrow is a real throwback to the early days. It’s a proper old school trainer, which is why I’m so excited to get my hands on them.”

Andy Burns

Similar to any other high profile release, for every genuine collector, there is also an opportunist looking to profit. As within a matter of hours after the pairs were dropped at this event. Listings were beginning to appear on online trainers platforms like eBay for the product, with a size five already receiving a bid of £56,000. While other sizes also received bids north of £20,000.