Three months ago, 23-year-old designer Daniëlle Cathari was catapulted into the fashion spotlight when her collaboration with Adidas Originals debuted during fall 2018 New York Fashion Week. Rewind a bit, though, and her designs on the VFiles runway the season before were the subject of text messages between Nic Galway, senior vice president of Adidas Originals and Adidas Style, and the activewear giant’s legal and design team, as well as industry collaborators, because of those three iconic stripes.
Cathari was born and raised just outside of Amsterdam and enrolled in the Amsterdam Fashion Institute just after her high school graduation. The designer’s interest in activewear didn’t begin during her studies, but rather at a young age wearing Adidas garb throughout her 12 years of gymnastics; Cathari also cited YouTube as a big source of design inspiration and information.
During her third year at AMFI, Cathari was asked to join a summer honors program that concludes with a fashion show of 12 students’ work. During the program, Cathari worked with sustainability in mind; instead of buying new fabrics, she chose to use existing garments to drape and see what would happen naturally. The runway result was a collection of three reworked Adidas Originals tracksuits.
“Adidas is super iconic for me — the stripes, fabric and colors — so I wanted to work with those elements,” she said. “So that’s what I did: I got loads of vintage pieces and made new silhouettes out of them.”
It was after posting the garments on her Instagram that VFiles reached out to Cathari directly. “It’s quite funny because you do have to sign up to participate in the [NYFW] competition and it was sort of on my goals list to participate after graduation. But they contacted me through Instagram and wanted to see more,” the designer remembered. “They were clearly interested, so I made five new looks.”
In order to add five more pieces to the collection, Cathari’s friends and family helped her source colorful vintage tracksuits that were still in good condition via word of mouth, while she scoured second-hand online shops.
With a full eight-piece collection of vibrant reworked tracksuits, Cathari debuted at VFiles’ fall 2017 runway show during NYFW. It was then that Galway started receiving texts and images from his design team and collaborators, like Alexander Wang, asking, “Who is this girl, do you know who she is?” At the same time, the Adidas legal team was asking the same questions. With two different conversations going on, Galway took the inclusive route and had his team reach out to Cathari to learn more about her designs. Around the same time, Kendall Jenner joined the Adidas family.
“Obviously, Kendall has a huge voice, this huge reach, but equally she’s looking for something,” Galway noted at WWD’s Men’s Summit, “and I thought, ‘How could we combine someone with such a huge voice and give her voice to a younger designer, of next generation?'” After showing Jenner a multitude of young designers’ work and her instant gravitation to Cathari’s, he had his answer. “I just loved this idea of giving the stage to a new fashion week to an unknown designer who loved the stripes, and who had potential,” he proclaimed. From there, the Daniëlle Cathari x Adidas Originals collaboration evolved into the fall 2018 collection the first drop of which, according to Galway, sold out in nine minutes.
With the 10-piece, second half of her fall collection set to drop Saturday, WWD caught up with Cathari on her background, future plans and the process of her Adidas Originals collaboration.
WWD: After the VFiles show, can you explain what first happened when Adidas Originals approached you. How was everything personally?
Daniëlle Cathari: I was always thinking and working on social media, even though it sounds a bit corny maybe, but it’s so important. In 2016, I began in the Honours Programme when I did the tracksuits, I started posting them on social media and that’s also where it sort of happened. That’s where VFiles saw my work. After the VFiles show, with me posting on Instagram and VFiles was posting it, then Adidas saw what was happening. So, one of the designers from Adidas Originals then contacted me and from there, I was like, “What is happening? Am I doing anything wrong?” But that was amazing and I flew to Germany, that was mid-2017 and from there we had our first conversation, our first meeting with not only the design team, but everyone involved — only Nic [Galway] wasn’t there, I met him a bit later.
WWD: So you met the team and they said, “Let’s do this…are you in?”
D.C.: Yeah, “Are you in?” that was actually the question. I was like, “Of course!” It was at the first meeting they were talking about what I did with the Adidas Originals tracksuits and how they really liked the idea and concept. So, yeah, they wanted me to work this out and work further on it within the Adidas Originals team.…They were really excited about the deconstruction part of the items. It was so exciting, the whole plan, we quickly started working on the collection.
It was so funny because they said it was kind of bold, what I did with the Adidas tracksuits [ripping apart and reworking them]. But at first I wasn’t even thinking, “Oh I’m using Adidas product.”
WWD: Was Kendall Jenner in the picture at that point? At the WWD Men’s Summit, Nic Galway mentioned that Jenner was instantly drawn to your work and since then, that you two have been collaborating on the design process and still are working hand in hand with look book shoots.
D.C.: She wasn’t present at the very first meeting in Germany, but it was always part of the plan. Kendall and I met in September in New York, I shared the process and development of the collaboration and we shared a lot of similar ideas, which was super nice. It felt really chill and was really nice talking about work with her, but it never really felt like work, because we both loved it.
WWD: The second drop of the collaboration is set to go on sale May 5. How are you anticipating it?
D.C.: This is the second half of the collection I created last year, so I’ve been looking forward to it. I’ve been looking forward to it now. I have no idea what to expect again…if people like it or if not. But I think lots of pieces in the second drop bring a whole new dimension to the collection as a whole, and it’s very in-line with the new Arkyn shoe with the colors and graphics.
WWD: You mentioned while in Paris for the Arkyn shoe #TLKS launch you also did a shoot with Jenner. Was that for the second collection?
D.C.: Just like what Kendall did for the New York event, shooting analogue. [The shoot] was very much focused on the new Arkyn shoe, and I styled the models. It comes out for the second collection drop.
WWD: What have you learned from working with Adidas?
D.C.: It’s a big step from being a student to being put in the Adidas Originals team, in such a big company and such a big brand. It really opens my eyes because it’s so different from what you learn in school. It’s completely two things. In school I learn, for instance, how to perfectly tailor the jacket, blazer or whole suit, it’s more on the practical and technical, which is good to know. And on the other side, Adidas has taught me how the real world [works] and production. It’s super interesting; it’s really taught me how it’s actually done.
WWD: What’s next for you in and outside of Adidas?
D.C.: For now, postponing my graduation, this is way more valuable at this moment. I’m also working on my own collection right now and am planning to launch it this year. I’m really enjoying being part of the Adidas family; I’m super grateful and we’ll see where it goes from here. I think you’ll have to wait and see. [Neither Galway nor Cathari would comment on her Adidas Originals contract or whether the collaboration will continue.]
WWD: What can we expect with your own collection?
D.C.: I have been intensively working on my own collection since the beginning of this year, but last year I was thinking, “What will be the plan, how am I going to do this?” But there was no time, so now I’m really doing it. I’m super excited about it, but definitely this year [to debut]. I’m at the beginning of the process — really at the beginning — but whenever I have more and something to show, I’ll let you know.