menswear focus series: Tom Pike

Issue 3: Tom Pike, Senior Designer, Adidas Originals

Welcome to the third and last in our current series of menswear focused blog pieces. With the ubiquitous nature of sportswear out there these days I thought it would be only right that we spoke to someone who really cares about this topic.

For the 15 years I have known Tom Pike, he has always had a real passion for playing sport, watching sport, wearing sportswear and wearing denim. We are talking about someone who is passionate about traditional menswear, the aesthetic of sportswear and the juxtaposition of different lifestyles and fabrics in one outfit. Someone who came to my wedding in a pair of boxing boots and a suit, and pulled it off!

Tom’s design career started at Levi’s based in their London design office. When Levis moved to Brussels, Tom decided to stay in London and joined the innovative concept store Oki-Ni. This was way before the internet was a place where you shopped for clothes. This led onto a spell designing for the iconic and tongue firmly in cheek brand, Red Dot. A place where Tom’s sense of humour and attitude towards menswear was allowed to run riot. Following a brief spell designing at Umbro and some guest lecturing at the RCA, Tom now has settled for the past 7 years over in Germany, at Adidas, as a senior designer for the Originals label. RangeRoom put the questions to Tom recently and we are delighted to share his interview…

RangeRoom: Sportswear has always been a passion of yours, it’s only now that we are seeing it as an acceptable way to dress every day, True or false?

Tom Pike: False!!!…but I know where you are coming from. Sportswear has definitely grown in stature as a lifestyle component to the Modern Wardrobe over the last 7-8 years and is currently enjoying one of its most prominent periods on the international catwalk scene. Sportswear has for a long time been a staple of streetwear and the more acceptable Streetwear becomes, the more acceptable sportswear becomes. Brands such as Supreme and Palace Skateboards are now intertwined with fashion labels and it seems that ‘youth’ and ‘youth culture’ is as desirable as ever. This is mainly down to the wider its influence grows over platforms on the internet. People still like the idea of ‘youth’, and ‘youth’ it seems, likes sports-wear.

RR: To use a classic sporting analogy ‘Trends, like athletes form tend to come and go but good design and class never fade, is this the same with sportswear? Has it always been there in menswear and are we just noticing it more now?

Tom: This would depend on what your opinion of what good design and class might be. I’m not sure I have had long enough for that debate! Sportswear until recently was primarily designed to fulfil the needs of sporting activity. Along the way, there have been some great designs that perfectly fulfilled those needs and had the added bonus of looking pretty cool too. However, it’s only as designers such as Yoji Yamamoto (Y-3) and Kim Jones (Own Label-Umbro – now at Louis Vuitton) in the early 2000s, started to consider sportswear as inspiration. Did the design become more subjective and open to aesthetic consideration rather than its function? I remember wearing sportswear all the time as a teenager and I’m sure other designers my age and much younger now will have had similar experiences as youngsters. There is probably a nostalgia linked to the amount of sportswear finding it’s way into Menswear as designers draw on their youth as inspiration, with an affection for sportswear.

RR: Can sportswear ever achieve the same sartorial status as a well-fitting suit?

Tom: No…if you refer to ‘Sartorial’ as that which is linked so closely to the craft of tailoring in its most traditional sense… but then Sportswear would never assume to challenge that. The interesting question for me would be: Is ‘Sartorial Status’ the benchmark standard for Menswear today?…My answer would be No.

RR: You work for Adidas – a global brand, how has your experience of working away from your home country influenced your design ethos, if at all?

Tom: When you work for a Global Brand, especially away from you home country, you discover more and more the breadth of taste levels and the diverse nature of desirability across populations and ‘tribes’. There is a consumer for almost all levels of taste and decency! As such, I now design a lot less by personal taste. I accept that across the world people can and do appreciate things that I might not personally wear and identify myself by. This leads to a wonderful place as a designer, where my design decisions are lead more by aesthetic harmony, creative invention, exploration and fun. All products go through a vetting process, which keeps them in line with the Brand Image and design philosophy, however where that journey begins, no longer starts with the limitations of ‘what I like’.

RR: Is anyone catching your eye and really head and shoulders above the rest in terms of influencing menswear or sportswear at the moment?

Tom: Astrid Anderson, and lots more, but I’m old and can’t keep up!

RR: Kanye West, flash in the pan or genuine style icon?

Tom: A lot of people have an opinion about Kanye. All I can say is when he has worked with the design team here at the Adidas headquarters in Germany, he has been dedicated, working through the nights with enthusiasm and vision…or so I’m told.

RR: Tom, Thank you so much for your time and we’d love to hear from you again!

For more from other inspiring menswear designers we’ve talked to check out our interviews with Ike Rust and Simon Holden

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