Today, adidas unveiled a special collaboration with the visual artist Shantell Martin. Conceived and produced by the New York-based creative studio Harley & Co., the program comes to life at the brand’s MakerLab space in Times Square. There, gear can be purchased and customized with Martin’s iconic black-and-white drawings, applied by embroidery, vinyl transfer, sublimation, and stenciling techniques.
“The three different designs speak to many moments, moments that are here to stay, here to change the present and the future, and here to be seen and acknowledged,” said Martin. “The work at its core is a celebration of women and the Black experience and to the future where the barriers we face today, will no longer exist.”
Whitewall spoke with Martin to elaborated on the project with adidas, and how art continues to be a window of hope through troubling times.
WHITEWALL: What do these three new designs for adidas signify?
SHANTELL MARTIN: The three designs were all created with references of history and progress. There is a more detailed drawing that represents several elements from NYC buildings, and to the conversations we have with each other. There is a word-based piece that is designed in a way that someone can place the words in any order they like, making it unique each time. And the third design is a drawing of a character whose thoughts/mind are so big and expansive that they are flowing around the character’s mind externally.
WW: You mentioned these designs speak to moments that are here to stay, changing the present and the future. What are those moments?
SM: In many ways I see it as my role to create the work, the messages, the elements, and then let you the viewer discover them for yourselves, otherwise, where is the fun in me telling you exactly what to see? It’s nice when the making and the viewing of what has been created becomes a collaboration in a way.
WW: At the MakerLab space on the second floor of the JD Flagship, guests can personalize gear with your designs through embroidery, vinyl transfer, sublimation, and stenciling. Do you have a favorite application?
SM: I’m hoping to get out to the store in the next few days to see all the different techniques in person. I’m guessing I will enjoy the embroidery the most since it’s a process that involves the image becoming a part of the canvas versus being applied, but let’s see.
WW: “You York Who Black New” is seen on one of the shirts. What does this mean to you?
SM: “YOU – YORK – WHO – BLACK – NEW.” These words are designed to be placed in an order chosen by the person interacting with them. You may wish for the works to be in an order that looked like “BLACK NEW YORK YOU WHO” or in a totally different permutation, each time with a new meaning, a “NEW YOU,” a NEW YORK.”
WW: On the back of one t-shirt design, we see the celebration of women and the Black experience in your traditional line drawing, which is a personal sentiment from you. How has current history impacted your work and how you view its importance?
SM: It feels like there are many histories currently unfolding at this time. In general, it’s been really tough. If I look at this past year for me personally it has been a roller coaster with more downs than I would like, often feeling like I’m not doing enough, or people and systems will never change.
I’m a little bit of a pessimist, so when creating the drawing you mentioned, for example, I try and make it positive. It’s my window into hope, my way of seeing a better future, by thinking and exploring it with my art.
WW: How are you doing today, during the ongoing pandemic and a cold New York winter?
SM: It snowed again today 🙁
I am really looking for a break or a trip of some sort. I miss seeing friends, people’s faces, I’m looking forward to a time when I can be back out in the world again creating and doing what I love.