September 29, 2022

Connecting the Dots With Reebok x Eames

Nick Matthies

Nick Matthies is a Content Manager at StockX.

We spoke to Eames Demetrios and Sandy Burton of Eames Office about the Reebok x Eames collaboration and how it's continuing the story started by the legendary Ray and Charles Eames.

We spoke to Eames Demetrios and Sandy Burton of Eames Office about the Reebok x Eames collaboration and how it's continuing the story started by the legendary Ray and Charles Eames.

This article is part 17 of 16 in the series: Art & Residence

Charles Eames once said, “Eventually everything connects – people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.” Charles and his partner, wife, and co-designer, Ray Eames, left a lasting impact on the world. Their famous furniture, architecture, graphics, design, and photography have quietly permeated the world we now live in. If you’re not familiar with the names of Ray and Charles Eames, it’s very likely that you’ve come into contact with their work without realizing it. Their Molded Plywood Chair was called the “Chair of the Century” in 2000 by Time Magazine and their furniture can be spotted in movies and television shows like Iron Man, Click, House of Gucci, and Gossip Girl.

The iconic Eames House

During their lifetime, Ray and Charles Eames rapidly became two of the most significant American designers in history. Among their contributions to architecture and furniture, the Eames duo is also well-known for their playful and accessible design philosophy which emphasized connection, collaboration, and relationships. A far step away from the traditionally closed off and exclusive design community, the Eames were intentional about making it easy to step into their world. The design duo of Charles and Ray passed away in 1978 and 1988, respectively, but the world of design and culture they so meaningfully created and influenced has been carried on by the Eames family. Over the last four decades, the Eames name has continued permeating popular culture and the family has sought to expand their storytelling through partnerships both inside and outside of the furniture made famous by Ray and Charles.

Reebok Club C 85 Eames Dot Pattern

In 2021, Eames Office made their first-ever move into footwear, embarking on a long-term collaborative partnership with Reebok. Since then, the collaboration has delivered a total of nine sneakers, ranging from Eames Elephant-inspired Reebok Classics to Dot Pattern covered Club Cs. Each sneaker from the Reebok x Eames Office collaboration is delivered in a box that serves as a replica of the iconic Eames House in Los Angeles. From the insoles to the wrapping paper, Reebok and Eames delivered innumerable details that call out to the historical catalog created by Ray and Charles.

Reebok Club C 85 Eames Monotone Pack White

With more to come from the partnership, StockX spoke to Eames Demetrios and Sandy Burton of Eames Office about how the collaboration is continuing the story that the legendary designers started. Eames Demetrios is the Director of Eames Office, an artist, a filmmaker, and grandson of Ray and Charles. Sandy Burton is the COO of Eames Office. 

Editor’s Note:The conversation was guided by a few interview questions but became an insightful and educational back and forth between Eames and Sandy. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Nick Matthies, editorial content manager: What’s it like taking the storied history of Eames and applying that to footwear?

Eames Demetrios: First of all, it’s been great doing it. One of the things that was really important to us was not doing a one-and-done partnership with the sneakers. There are lots of people who would’ve been willing to do that, but we just weren’t interested in that. [We wanted] it to be a whole line that could teach many stories and not just something that was simply about the furniture. 

40 years ago, somebody who cared about design probably wouldn’t think too much about sneakers. Today, I think people who are passionate about design, not every one of them, but many of them, especially of a certain generation, are passionate about sneakers.

From the standpoint of the Eames work, we really wanted to create a collage that pointed people in a lot of different directions about the richness of their work. There are thousands of models of the Eames House around the world. Now, it’s on a shoebox and everybody who looks at it can’t help but learn something about Charles and Ray and care a little bit about that house.

Reebok Classic Leather Eames Elephant Seaside Grey

Sandy Burton: Some words that highlight what Eames and I have shared since November of 2020, when we started talking to Reebok: it’s all been very personal. The brands are significant, but what’s been underlined is the personal commitment of both teams to producing quality with compassion and understanding. We actually spent a lot of time early on getting to know one another in various environments. It isn’t just slapping a label on and Reebok didn’t want to approach it that way. It’s always been about understanding–deep research. I just want to underline how personal it is.

Demetrios: Nick, have you seen the Eames Mathematica show?

Nick: I can’t say I have, no.

Demetrios: Well one of Charles and Ray’s visions for that show was to make it of interest to the curious 11 year old and the professional mathematician. Reebok really embraced that idea. We wanted the person who lives and breathes this work to go, “Wow, this is amazing. My shoebox here is a great model.” The big thing was to really understand what Charles and Ray were about and how they approached things. That spirit was there, and continues to be there every step of the way.

Burton: Yeah, Eames’s point is significant. Those boxes that Reebok used to ship all these sneakers are a collectible item that in 15 or 20 years will be very endearing. It’s not just a shoebox.

Reebok Classic Leather Eames The Coloring Toy

Nick: If I can ask, can you both expand a little more on how big of a deal “connecting the dots” was for Ray and Charles?

Demetrios: They used to say, “Eventually everything connects.” And another time somebody interviewed Ray and she said, “Everything hangs on everything else.” 

Many things are actually collages of other things, like the detail of the glide on the bottom of the chair. So those connections are super important. If they don’t work, the whole thing falls apart.

Burton: Charles and Ray built their business in many ways on everything touching each other in such a design-focused way. When you look at the paintings of Ray and you look at artwork that Charles did, or you look at the furnishing pieces that Charles and Ray co-designed, all of that was connected. Their work was all about connection on every level.

Connecting the dots also has to do with the level of commitment that was shown by the professionals at Reebok and the Eames team to make sure every detail connected with a piece of the storytelling. That’s hard work. If you look at the Eames’s story, people who knew them said they were working on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday while other people were off at a cocktail party. The Reebok team put that same kind of commitment into the details, the passion, the execution. Everything that we did with Reebok just connected.

People who knew Charles and Ray reported in every vehicle we’ve ever seen that it was about a relationship. I just think I don’t want to overplay it, but connection means authenticity, perfect execution, and hard work.I think Reebok did that with us.

Demetrios: Absolutely. This is [Ray and Charles’] design process diagram. One area represents the area of interest of the client, one area represents the interest of society as a whole and one area represents what’s of interest to the designer. You might define [that area overlap] as a place of extreme connection that the designer can work with enthusiasm and conviction. 

I think that that is exactly what happened in this case. We found an overlap that worked for us, for the community, and also for Reebok and we went through a process of brainstorming ideas that we’d want to use, and I think that if you read this diagram, you understand a huge amount of how Charles and Ray felt about things.

Nick: What are you most proud of when you look at the Eames Reebok work that’s been released?

Burton: What stands out as most is the reaction of people that Eames and I run into. We opened up a whole new interest level in people by the beautiful execution and the authenticity of the project.

Demetrios: Yeah, I would agree with that. It sparks a smile. Especially if I’m wearing my shoes. Somebody will come up to me and just carefully put their foot down next to mine and I’ll look down and they have a Reebok shoe on.

Burton: What Reebok executed with our team is something that’s full and rich and exciting.

Eames: And every single shoe has a detail that tells another part of the story.

Burton: That’s really important Eames, can you talk more about that?

Eames: Yes, because there are some images that wouldn’t make a great surface as a shoe, but as an insole, it can be a little bit more narrative in their intention. The same thing is true with the wrapping [in the box]. That attention to detail is certainly important. Another quote [from Ray and Charles] is “The details aren’t the details, the details make the product.” Our job is also to make good things and work well with partners, I think Reebok’s whole team was focused on that.

Burton: There’s nuggets in there. People who read this might look at the insole a little differently, at the wrapper a little differently. There are nuggets in that box.

Eames: We should just say that if you’re careful about how you open the box, you might see something special. I won’t say anything more, but it’s a nice Easter egg.

Reebok Club C 85 Eames Composition

Nick: What does it mean to you both to introduce the Eames brand – and universe – to a new generation through your partnership with Reebok?

Eames: Eames’ work is so much part of the fabric of everyday life, we almost don’t see it. And seeing is important, realizing that everything you see was designed by humans. To understand that we have a choice in how we design our world is super important.

Charles and Ray understood that aesthetics could be a part of function and these shoes are a great expression of that. I think it will draw people in and it may make them see things they hadn’t seen before.

Sandy: A big part of what we’ve focused on over the last four years is approachability. What we’ve done is we’ve created access. We’re trying very hard to connect to people with good products, good design and affordability. Not everybody can afford to buy all of the products that are historically known.

Demetrios: Not everybody has room for a new chair just because they like it. But you do have room for a pair of shoes.