In touching down in LA to soak up a game that is inspired by design on and off the pitch, we catch up with VP of Design at adidas Football Sam Handy who offers some under the hood insight on the latest performance product in the shape of the Mercury Pack,
Is creative culture off the pitch serving as an inspiration to what we see on it more than ever before?
"Yes. I think more than ever we see the off-pitch world or creativity affecting how we build our on-pitch product, but also players lives off the pitch. A football guy isn’t just a football guy anymore. They’re a football guy, a music guy, a style guy. We see that a lot in a player like Pogba. His off-pitch persona is as interesting as his on-pitch skill because he is a complete person. We definitely see that affecting how we create product."
With collections like the Mercury Pack, is it always about getting that perfect balance of aesthetic beauty and performance perfection?
"It’s the hardest thing about the job. To balance the innovation with something that you can believe in, something with meaning and beauty, right? So we get innovations handed to us from our innovation team but then it’s really the job of the design team to turn that innovation into something you can fall in love with and into a beautiful product. So yeah, that’s the balance and you want to make sure to not over style and make something too graphic and still let the innovation breath. So yeah, it’s a challenge but hopefully it’s one we’ve risen up to and done the best with, with the Mercury Pack."
Three different boots, symbolic of their different personas, which one are you?
"I think I’m ACE. It’s my favourite of all three, I love the ACE PURECONTROL. For me it’s like a perfect adidas product because it has got the innovation with the laceless approach but it’s also got the clear three stripes on it. It also looks a lot like a sneaker as well as a football boot. I love it."
What elements are you most proud of on each of the boots?
"On Messi, the material - the agility skin - is incredible. The outside material, it’s a really lightweight, high performance material. It’s synthetic but it’s got a PrimeKnit like grip for ball control so that’s pretty amazing. In X, the way that we have built the four-way stretch, TechFit material for the inner-sock that locks your foot in place. It’s a really beautiful solution and when you really get into the technicalities of it, the way we have built the material, it’s really interesting. It’s kind of dorky but it’s cool."
There's a lot of attitude in these boots. How much emphasis was put on creating a visual statement on the pitch?
"With the Mercury Pack we wanted to tell a really intuitive story, so it’s all inspired by the search for the cups that the players are trying to win this year. So it’s all inspired by the Copa America, the Champions League and by EURO 2016. All silver and the most motivational things that any of our top players want to win. They are super important so that’s where we get the silver inspiration from. That led us down a path of firsts, so it’s the first time we have done these super, super high chrome outsoles and the first time we’ve used the full metalic foils on the uppers. So the intuitive story led us down the creative path. I think it’s very honest."
How rewarding has it been to see these touch down and land on the pitch in time for the international scene to kick in?
"It’s the most rewarding thing possible. It’s why I think I have the best job in the world, it’s not just designing things for people to wear everyday and just be a normal part of their life. It’s designing product for the best players in the world to wear on the international stage in the biggest tournaments that every get played. It’s incredibly satisfying but it’s a big responsibility too."
The Mercury Center charters new ground. With adidas looking at the creative elements of the game, is this a fresh hunger you've seen from the consumer?
"Yes, consumers want something different. They want to be surprised, they want new experiences and I think that’s what the Mercury Center delivers, it’s a new way of experiencing football. Surrounded by lots of different types of creativity but with a beautiful way of playing the game at the heart of it."
Tattoo culture and custom culture, it's all weaved through the contemporary game. It must be great to be able to harness these snippets of subcultures and apply them to football?
"I think it’s very important because football isn’t just a sport, it’s a part of global culture. The way that cultures combine and create something new is really part of football. You see players off pitch persona affecting their on pitch style, their on pitch style being translated back into the off pitch way of being. I think consumers see that too. They want all parts of culture to interact with football to create something new. We’ve got that going on here in the Mercury Center."
You're out in the US too, behind the scenes have you been able to feel the real evolution of football out there?
"I’ve loved getting a real good taste of the LA football scene. I think it’s really very special. It’s also very different to other parts of US football and culture that I’ve experienced. It’s really different in New York to how it is in LA for example and it’s great seeing that. It makes me very excited about what we’re going to do with US Soccer in the future."
Photography by Jared Martinez and Ramses Ochoa for SoccerBible.