IT’S ALL GOOD: Rejuvenating in Switzerland now that his two-year run as Reebok’s creative director is over, Thomas Steinbrück said he is gearing up for his next post with a European company. With that announcement expected to happen in the next few weeks, he was relishing some down time with his mother. “It’s so calm. There’s nothing — just mountains, quietness, cows, fresh air, good food and I sleep like a baby here. A week is like five weeks of vacation on the beach for me,” he said.
With Reebok, he lined up the collaborations with Vetements and Cottweiler, among others. He said he oversaw a 50-person team handling graphics, creative direction and colors, but was holistically influencing more than 100 people, including the design team for shoes, apparel and Reebok Classic, among others. Steinbrück said, “I loved what I was doing. I loved that brand. I loved the team. The people are awesome there. The story of the company is incredible. I learned a lot.”
He also imagined the interiors for Reebok’s new headquarters in the Innovation and Design Building in downtown Boston working with the architectural firm Gensler. His suggestions included open seating for employees so that no one is in offices and they can choose their location from one day to the next. The idea was inspired by the brand’s parent company Adidas’ “My Arena” concept. Steinbrück’s mash-up of old and new in the historic waterfront property included high-tech features, a fitness facility, polished concrete floors to look like marble, Knoll furniture and an artistic Reebok timeline in the cafeteria.
Steinbrück also opened a design office in Berlin for Reebok, after speaking with Adidas global creative director Paul Gaudio, who had mentioned the success of its own creative hub “The Farm” in Brooklyn. Telling Gaudio he had thought of a similar idea for Berlin, he presented the idea to leadership and they agreed. About a year ago, he found a 1,500-square-foot space in Berlin’s hipster area Mitte from a friend who agreed to lease it to the brand.
Blown away by the volumes of information in the archives, Steinbrück said he went to Reebok president Matt O’Toole and said, “This is a gold mine. It’s the most important thing that we have. When we plan the new building, the archives need to be in the center of the building.’”
Steinbrück saw to that, and borrowed a few ideas from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he had spent many hours researching when he lived in New York. In the new 220,000-square-foot Reebok headquarters, the archives are centrally located so that designers can pull out drawers, look at old articles, shoes and other items for designers. In the old offices in Canton, Mass., the archives were “practically in storage in an old hallway far away,” Steinbrück said. “We’re really proud of what happened with Reebok. To leave that legacy is really fulfilling for me.…We said, ‘Wow, we did a lot.’”
As for the parting with Reebok, he said, “My vision did not work together with the vision of the management. They had a more commercial vision and mine was very artistic and forward.”
His next role will be something that “summarizes his entire career and experience,” which includes haute couture, sportswear and teaching. “I don’t think I would have gotten this opportunity if I hadn’t had that experience at Reebok,” he said. And despite the global travel, his new job required, he will keep a foot in Berlin. “As a professional, that is where I find creativity.”