What Went Down At Adidas 'Decade' Spezial Event in Darwen | The Hoxton Trend

A few weeks back, THT headed down to Darwen, a sleepy market town in Lancashire. Darwen was historically known for its cotton industry, particularly around the 19th century. Before that, it had thriving coal mining, quarrying, and wool weaving industries. Fast forward to the 21st century, and Darwen has become more synonymous with being the home of Adidas Spezial, thanks to Gary Aspden.

Gary Lee Aspden is an English brand consultant and designer renowned for his work with Adidas. Hailing from Darwen, Lancashire, Aspden began his collaboration with adidas in the 1990s. He rose to prominence through his effective engagement with celebrities during his tenure with the entertainment marketing team. Aspden’s notable contributions include curating the Adidas SPZL range, which has garnered a dedicated following and significant acclaim over the years.

To mark 10 years of the Spezial collection, Darwen was chosen to host ‘DECADE’, an exhibition celebrating ten years of adidas SPZL. Set in a repurposed supermarket on Market Street, the exhibition provided an immersive dive into the SPZL archive, showcasing the complete adidas SPZL footwear collection, along with rare apparel and printed materials. The event gave it’s visitors an unprecedented look into the history and evolution of the range.

The exhibition also featured a series of panel talks, screenings, and an educational programme for local schools. Visitors also had the chance to purchase exclusive products and including the DECADE book, with proceeds supporting Nightsafe, a local youth homelessness charity.

Gary Lee Aspden was raised on Adidas, wearing the trainers as a kid and witnessing the label’s impact on the football and dance club cultures that were prevalent in Northern England. Naturally, he began working for Adidas in the 1990s, initially managing relationships with high-profile figures in entertainment. Later, he transitioned into collaborations, experiences, and other campaigns.

In 2013, Aspden founded Adidas Spezial, a move that cemented his legacy within the company. The Spezial collection, a seasonal capsule inspired by styles from the Adidas archives and Gary’s own extensive stockpile, quickly became a fan favorite. It consistently releases unique pieces that connect the brand’s future with its storied past

Upon walking into the pop-up store on Market Street, visitors would have been taken aback by the sheer number of shoes on display. From collaborations with athletes and famous musicians to making significant strides in the fashion world, the Spezial range has achieved remarkable milestones in its ten-year lifespan. The various colorways from over the years were all showcased for the public to admire. 

The store’s interior was sleek and modern, resembling a museum with its rich cultural displays in every glass cabinet and artsy poster. This retrospective exhibition also featured vintage design references, unseen samples, technical drawings, signed footwear, and a large selection of rare Adidas Spezial artefacts which was all pretty cool to witness.

The exhibition, which began on Friday, May 17 and ended on May 26, also included a special SPZL documentary. The documentary was captivating, highlighting the impressive journey of the range.

What was most notable, however, was the overwhelming support and the strong sense of community that emerged during the exhibition. People from across the country traveled to Darwen to visit the exhibition and share their enthusiasm for their favorite trainers and garments. The passionate community built around the Spezial collections was evident, with visitors eagerly engaging and exchanging personal experiences and stories related to the brand. It was heartening to see such a vibrant and dedicated group of fans celebrating the legacy of adidas SPZL.

On the top floor, we found the apparel section, which highlighted all the key pieces from the collection, including the famous CP Company x adidas jacket. This iconic jacket also adorns a central wall in graffiti art, right in the middle of Darwen across from the market. We were blown away by the sheer number of pieces on display, and it was perfect to see each item individually in all its full glory. 

The meticulous presentation allowed us to fully appreciate the craftsmanship and design details of each piece in the collection. You can see the full video of the event on our YouTube Channel.