MINI Insider - Chris Law - Portland MINI Insider - Chris Law - Portland


MINI Insider - Chris Law - Portland - Oldheimer -Race
MINI Insider Portrait - Malte Jaeger
Ever since he was a boy, Adidas designer Chris Law has been a MINI fan. A tour of Portland with a man who sees the future in the past.
MINI INsider - Adidas - Chris Law - Drawing Sport Shoes MINI INsider - Adidas - Chris Law - Drawing Sport Shoes
Adidas’ US has its headquarters in Portland, Oregon, on premises once occupied by a clinic. Buildings of steel and glass sprinkled across a green hill and drizzle is making everything chilly and damp. A road cuts across the campus, dividing it in two, and facing the road, there’s a giant pair of sneakers: white silhouette, thick plastic toe cap, three black stripes on either side – Adidas Superstars, probably the most famous shoes the company ever made. A small car zooms down the hill and parks beside the outsized footwear. The man be hind the wheel is Chris Law, chief designer of Adidas Originals. His car is a gleaming, indigoblue MINI Classic with matte gold hubcaps. As they pass, other drivers give an appreciative thumbsup. This little car is causing quite a stir. “Shoes and cars have a lot in common when it comes to design,” says Law, 48, as he leads us into the bowels of the main building. Front, back and sides – the proportions have to be just right. Plus, he says, sneakers and cars serve a similar purpose. “They’re both ways of getting about for people keen to impress.” Style and colour say a lot about a person’s character, too. Law presses the button for the lift. “Our department is in the former pathology wing. That’s pretty apt,” he says, laughing, “because we breathe new life into designs that were long considered dead.” Law and his team dig through the archives, researching the history of the classic brand and taking what they find as the basis for something new. They are at once archaeologists and futurologists.
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Adidas employs about 2000 people in Portland, a city of 650000 on the US west coast. Surrounded by maple forest and the snowcovered peaks of the Cascades Range, Portland is situated south of Seattle, around three hours away by car. It’s where Outdoor brands, such as Pendleton and Columbia, are based and where chip manufacturer Intel employs 20 000 people. It was close by in neighbouring Beaverton that Nike set out to conquer the sports and fashion world in 1971. Some local people have even got themselves a tattoo of the famous Swoosh logo, to show how much they identify with the Adidas competitor’s birthplace. “I once had an Adidas Superstar on my skin,” says Law, “but you can’t see it any more.” His arms are covered with dozens of designs that seem to dance as his fingers flip through hundreds of cloth samples in a room called the Maker Lab, an open workshop where designers can access all kinds of tools, mockups and ma terials. Machines hum and neon tubes flicker. It smells of leather here; making shoes is still very much a craft.

In his office, Law shows us some sketch es. He is currently working on skateboarding inspired sneakers as well as a collection of retro basketball shoes. There’s a phalanx of miniature MINIs on his computer screen. “The MINI inspires me every day anew,” says Law. “It’s a timeless classic and amazingly well-proportioned.” The little indigo car stand ing out in the rain in the car park is Law’s tenth MINI. He bought the first one, a 1275 GT, when he was just a young man of 18. Law is from Britain, where grew up in Bedford, north of London. After studying de sign, he and two friends started an online platform called Crooked Tongues, where sneak er fans from all over the world could share pictures and discuss shoes. This was followed by work in the shoe industry for big brands, such as Converse and Clarks, as well as small streetwear labels like Addict. For the past five years, Law has been designing footwear and apparel for Adidas here in Portland. In the sneaker loving community, he’s considered a legend – in part because he has created shoes for hiphop star Snoop Dogg and the group WuTang Clan.
Adidas and MINI are both closely connected with pop culture.
Law lives with his wife Lisa and their four children in the trendy southeast of the city. What is it he enjoys so much about living here? “Portland is very visually stimulating for a designer, be it the individuality of the houses, the people or the vibe. And it’s a city that embraces design and craft.” Law refers to himself as an “image digger”. What does that mean? “It means I collect images, photos, drawings, everything. I have hard drives full of material. I love design books, cultural books, books on music and art.” With them, he’s built up a reference system he can draw on during the design process.
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Then Law takes us off on a tour of his city. Our small convoy of classic and modern MINIs sets off for Hawthorne Boulevard at the heart of alternative Portland, where comic shops and barista cafés, vegetarian restaurants and political bookshops, microbreweries and shops selling vintage furniture stand cheek by jowl. The people on the pavement are a diverse bunch: old and eccentric, young and cool, some dressed in batik prints, some sporting blue hair. No wonder the city’s unofficial slogan is “Keep Portland weird!”
As he drives through town, Law’s 1968 MINI puts a smile on people’s faces and many of them wave. When he stops at a light, they take pictures with their smart­ phones. Law drives a car that elicits a universally positive response. Four years ago, when he bought it, the interior, colour and engine were entirely different from what you see now. “I had a vision: I wanted to create my dream MINI,” he says. He put together a vehicle based on the MGA café racer, a powerful but sporty little car from the late 1950s and early 1960s, with an interior trimmed down to the minimum. Law paid around 25 000 dollars for his MINI, saying: “I probably spent the same again on all the modifications.” Law’s MINI is a humming treasure chest.
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But the Adidas designer certainly doesn’t live in the past, and has plenty of good things to say about current models as well. He likes both the Pepper White MINI 3door Hatch and the Chili Red MINI 5door Hatch that we reporters drove as we followed him through town. “MINI has succeeded in transporting its iconic design into the future,” asserts Law. This is something not many brands have man aged, in his view, although Adidas is one of them, as well. He sees quite a bit of similarity between these two established brands. “Both are closely connected with pop culture,” he says. MINI exemplifies the chic of Swinging Sixties London to this day, whereas Adidas evokes the early days of hiphop culture in New York. Law’s employer is currently cooperating with artists such as Kanye West; MINI surrounds itself with architects and urban planners, supports startups and creates co-working spaces. Both brands cultivate their heritage while at the same time positioning themselves in today’s creative culture.
MINI Insider - Oldheimer - Malte Jaeger - Portland MINI Insider - Oldheimer - Malte Jaeger - Portland
After a short break, Law climbs into his brand new 3door Hatch. He caresses the leather clad steering wheel, resting his thumbs in its indentations. It feels good, precious and prized, “just like a limited edition sneaker.” His right hand moves to the gear selector and he chooses D for the double clutch transmission, stepping down decisively on the accelerator. The Cooper S leaps forward like a sprinter from the starting block. Law briefly applies the brakes, turns the wheel, and the little car only 3.82 metres long sails effortlessly round the corner.
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The MINI is the ideal car for zooming around the block in Portland, Oregon. Our day there comes to an end at the Rogue Eastside Pub, in one of the city’s 70 craft beer breweries. Law sips his fruity IPA, his old MINI long put to bed in its garage at home. “One day, I intend to go back to England,” he says. “I love where I’m from and I miss the winding country roads and the English weather.” The Brit in exile gets a dreamy look on his face. “It’s the only place where you can truly enjoy the MINI’s go-kart feeling.”
MINI Insider - 3 Door Hatch - Street - Teaser MINI Insider - 3 Door Hatch - Street - Teaser