Thursday, September 28, 2023

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When Is a Shoe Not Just a Shoe? When It’s Pharrell Williams’ Humanrace x Adidas


In his latest partnership with Adidas, multi-platinum recording artist Pharrell Williams delivers a shoe designed to connect you to the earth—in more ways than one. 

Taking its name from the Dakota tribe’s word for barefoot, the Sičhona shoe’s name means “connecting to the earth.” For Williams and Adidas, that’s a guiding ethos.

Made with the Adidas Primeknit technology, the shoe blends sustainable design and performance. By knitting the shoe’s upper in one piece, it requires fewer materials and produces less waste than shoes where several pieces are stitched together.

Connecting to the earth

Adidas says the Sičhona shoes are designed to capture the feeling of being connected to the earth beneath you, built for everyday wear, and “poignantly captures the essence of the elements stripped down to their purest form.” The shoe isn’t designed to box in the feet in an unnatural experience; Adidas says it is inspired by the “inherent genius” of the human foot, and embodies “the universality of the emotional experience of physical touch.”

Image courtesy Adidas

The shoes are an extension of Williams’ Humanrace sustainable luxury skincare brand. “I look at luxury in a totally different way. It has to look beautiful, be made beautiful, but also be useful,” he told GQ. “When you buy something, these things should stay with you. Everybody’s making way more considered purchases these days than they ever have before—it’s mindful consumption, which is super important. Prioritizing yourself to begin with, that’s important. That’s your well-being. That’s the ultimate luxury: looking after yourself, looking after others, and just being considerate of the environment. That’s what we want to do with Humanrace. We want to bring convenience and design and consideration, and we want to bring conditioning.”

“You need to ask yourself, what can you do within yourself to contribute to change?”

Pharrell Williams

By “conditioning” Williams says he means that the human condition is a “very interesting thing.”

“From the way that we work out our bodies, to the way that we work out together as a society—or we don’t work out as a society. Look at the wars we have going on actively right now in the world. Look at all the travesties that are happening. Look at the incredible, really contagious divisiveness that’s going on in our nation right now. Look at the pandemic going on around the world. That is the human condition,” Williams says. “You need to ask yourself, what can you do within yourself to contribute to change? To contribute to the elevation? That’s the human condition.”

Bigger experiences

If it seems like adding another range of consumer products to the mix is counterintuitive to Williams’ concern for society and the planet, he says the opposite. “‘I]t’s about bringing convenience and creativity and considering the human condition. Not just the individual wearing [the shoes], but the rest of the world around them as well.”

Image courtesty Adidas

With the shoes especially, Williams is aiming to cultivate more than a cool factor, for him it’s all about opening his fans up to bigger experiences. 

“I chased the experience I remember feeling as a kid when I walked barefoot on grass, sand and rocks. Feeling the texture, the temperature, the moisture… that primal sense of freedom was a north star objective with this project,” he said in a statement.

But he can’t escape the cool factor, either—the shoes sold out in just a few hours.

Spotlight on Indigenous Peoples

Williams is leveraging that cool factor though, using his platform to bring awareness to the challenges Indigenous peoples face in the U.S. As with the Humanrace skincare brand, the shoes celebrate diversity and feature under-represented communities in marketing efforts. Sičhona is bringing a spotlight to the Dakota community with the “I am Dakota, We are Dakota” campaign. 

The campaign’s cast is entirely made up of Dakota tribe members, starring Maize Two Bears, Jonna Brady, ToRiee Brady, Zaniyan Iron Eyes, Lance Bradley, George Bradley, Kylie Driver, and Trae Little Sky alongside his daughter Mia Grass Dancer and his son Tokala Little Sky. The spots were shot by Indigenous photographer Brian Adams and directed by Indigenous visual storyteller and educator, Josué Rivas.

Image couresty Adidas

The shoes will also help to fund a ten kilowatt solar project, powering a community center and providing an education platform for the youth at Standing Rock.

As much as it’s a chance for Williams to share and lift up communities, it’s a  learning opportunity for his own development, too.

“I’m still a student. I’m still developing,” he told GQ. “I’m inspired by the influx of all the information that I have to study. My mind is exploding. But I’m learning so much, and I’m so excited by it. It comes out in my music, it comes out in any design that I’m doing—it’s food. Never stop learning.”

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