September 27, 2022

The Design Process: Reebok x Eames

Elhadji Mare

Elhadji Is a Content Manager and Copywriter @ StockX

We sit down with Reebok designer Nate Chang on his involvement with Reebok x Eames' ongoing partnership.

We sit down with Reebok designer Nate Chang on his involvement with Reebok x Eames' ongoing partnership.

This article is part 21 of 16 in the series: Art & Residence

For some, sneakers and streetwear can be viewed as an entryway for overarching design cultures. Once utilized as mere tools for athletes, sneakers have now transcended into cultural commodities and blank canvases for experimental design. Streetwear, something that can be considered as more relaxed and casualwear, now has a connection to high-end luxury goods. And through the prevalent strategy of collaborations, the value of sneakers and streetwear has only increased, as brands and entities alike use these products as introduction points for other facets of design, such as architecture, automotive, and even furniture.

This act of bringing different design cultures together is becoming common practice and Reebok’s latest partnership with Eames Office highlights that progression. Eames Office, started by designers Charles and Ray Eames in the 1940s, is traditionally known for their groundbreaking furniture designs that still carry on to this day. But Charles and Ray Eames themselves are known as pop cultural figures mainly for their unique vision for design. 

“We looked through the breadth of their design work, including Ray Eames’ work in color and composition. The first drop really centered around Charles and Ray as people, while the second focused on the designs that many of us know.” says Reebok designer Nate Chang, who designed the footwear for this collaboration. “We wanted to make sure we were highlighting their perspective on design, not just the end products that came out of their designs.” Even though Charles and Ray Eames have both passed on, their design ethos and story continue to live through the third generation of the Eames family. And collaborations like this display, not only their professional work but their artistic ideologies. 

Despite the two being completely different product types, one being furniture, the other being sportswear, Reebok and Eames didn’t see this as a limitation to executing compelling product. To Chang, this collaboration seamlessly intertwined. “There’s always been an intersection between design, art, and fashion. But I think that’s growing even more.” says Chang. “Eames is really influential not just because of the products they’ve created, but because of how they approached design. Their ideas across furniture and exhibitions are what we tried to translate into the sneakers we created with them.”

The designs for the collaboration, though, didn’t come without its lack of difficulties. Reebok is the first footwear brand to officially partner with Eames, making the collaboration one where both brands relied on each other’s expertise. Typically when conducting collaborations, Reebok’s partners tend to come into the partnership already knowing what they want to see and what they want their shoes to encapsulate. For this particular collection, there was a lot of relying on each other’s skill sets to ensure a successful product. “We typically work with brands that already design their own apparel or accessories, and come into the collaboration knowing what they want. With this partnership, we were really relying on each other’s expertise because Eames is new in the footwear space,” says Chang. “We relied on them to make sure we were still respecting their heritage, that the feel of the product was right to the family. They relied on us when it comes to the construction and details, down to the packaging and the way graphics were executed.”

To mitigate any difficulties with the project and to make sure that Reebok honored the Eames story accurately, the sneaker brand was given access to Eames’ complete team. Chang and the rest of the Reebok team “had many conversations with the Eames archivist to see what [they] could create stories from.” Alongside assistance from the archivist, they also got to talk to “the caretakers of the house, as well as the Eames family themselves, to make sure the product/direction felt right to the people that knew the Eames family the most,” says Chang. 

Between the knowledge base of Reebok around trends and materials and Eames around captivative storytelling, the collaboration’s end result produced a selection of footwear. From the signature Classic Leather to one of Reebok’s most popular Club C silhouettes, each collaborative product encapsulates the design elements of Eames’ furniture, Eames Office’s employee staff uniforms, and even Ray Eames’ paintings.

The two brands have introduced two collections to the public so far, with more on the way in the (very) near future. For Chang, who was already an avid fan of Eames and studied many of their works when learning design, the mere fact that he was able to work with the Eames family directly was enthralling enough. “I was most proud of the relationship that has been developed with them, just to get that chance to talk with them, hang out with them, those are people that I never thought that I’d be able to kick it with.” Further connecting that bridge between sneakers and overarching design, when asked about any future releases, Nate Chang gave the appropriate response that only a designer could give to spark hype and continued interest: “You’ll have to wait and see, stay tuned.”

For those interested in securing a pair from this Reebok and Eames collaboration, check out all of the kicks below on StockX.