Before we get into the details of adidas' heady new footwear release, let's give it some context: over the past few years, adidas has led three main initiatives—Parley, Futurecraft and Speedfactory. Through a partnership with Parley, adidas' line of footwear and apparel made primarily from recycled ocean plastic signified a shift towards environmental awareness for the brand. Before Parley works with a company to produce product, they require a pledge from the company, essentially stating their actionable plan to implement less plastic into their production process. The Parley initiative paid off for adidas: the collaboration resulted in a product that is in the hands of consumers today, and it positioned adidas as a fast fashion company who at least cared about the environment enough to try.
Then there are Speedfactory and Futurecraft, which both focus more on customization and innovation with industrial processes. "Speedfactories" are actual facilities (the first was in Germany) that focus on streamlining the process of customization and creating unique product based on the individual consumer's needs. Futurecraft is the company's all encompassing label for innovative projects, most notably producing the Futurecraft 4Ds, a runner with a liquid 3D printed midsole designed in partnership with Carbon. The goal with Futurecraft 4D was also customization, as the 3D printing process is able to yield personalized midsoles with specific density placement based on the individual user's need.
Parley, Speedfactory and Futurecraft were kept separate with a little overlap here and there, but adidas just announced a new product and business strategy under the Futurecraft umbrella that appears to combine important elements from all three initiatives.
Futurecraft.loop is an approach to designing shoes that are made to be remade by using only one material (100% reusable TPU) and no glue. The TPU is treated in a variety of ways to create a full shoe, including being spun into yarn, knitted, molded and clean-fused to a BOOST midsole. The process employs the use of SPEEDFACTORY technology, which combines the sustainable effort with the quick manufacturing of special models.
After the shoes are worn to death, they are meant to be returned to adidas where they are washed, ground up into pellets and melted into material to create a new pair of shoes. The process yields zero waste, and no material is ever thrown away.
Instead of releasing yet another sneaker, adidas is releasing an entire system, which we're curious to see put in place—hopefully sometime in 2021. adidas has already proven their ability to innovate in the material space and manufacture customized products at a relatively high speed, so now comes the real challenge: pulling knowledge from their past efforts to implement a true closed loop, zero waste system as part of their business model. Their proposed system also involves empowering consumers to return used shoes to be reused and remade into the next pair. How will this process be communicated and designed? Will consumers care enough to put in the effort of returning old shoes? Only time will tell, but for now 200 testers will have their hands on a beta pair to help adidas run through a simulation of what the future of the company could look like.
Emily is a freelance writer based in NYC with an interest in all things design, specifically the design process. When she's not writing about design, Emily can either be found taking care of her 31 houseplants, going on "nature" walks in her neighborhood or studying Japanese. Before going freelance, Emily was an Editor at Core77.