Over the past two decades,
Some of the most innovative product designs have come out of this partnership. A shoe silhouette as iconic as the Y-3 Qasa will forever be remembered for its unique design and the way it influenced an entire generation of contemporary and lifestyle sneaker designs. And sportswear such as hoodies, tracksuits, jumpsuits and technical clothing now have their place in streetwear, as Yamamoto has reinterpreted this category through minimal branding, tasteful patterns and neutral tones.
The hype around the label has more or less died down in recent years, but the brand continues to make strides in staying relevant with a slew of lifestyle shoe offerings and athleisure capsules. It’s safe to say that Yamamoto’s brand still has a lot to do, and as it gears up for its 20th anniversary, HYPEBEAST has taken a look back at some of its most pivotal moments.
Having already run his own brand for 30 years, Yohji Yamamoto was thirsty for a new adventure, one where he could merge all his knowledge acquired in the field of luxury with street and sportswear. After being rejected by Nike, he ran with this collaboration idea and presented it to adidas in 2002. The German sportswear brand was much more open to the idea of doing something that had never been done before in the fashion space, and the partnership was forged. .
Y-3 platform sandal, 2004
Clogs, mules, sandals and everything in between are the new normal in today’s footwear space. However, Y-3 was one of the first labels to design an unorthodox slip-on that was both contemporary and sporty, and that was the adidas Y-3 Platform sandal. Up top, the kicks feature a high cut mesh bootie that sports a Tabi design to the toe, exposed heels and Three Stripes branding to the rear. A chunky platform serves as the base of the model, which curves forward and bears a spell Yohji Yamamoto on the side rear. It was a unique proposition in the footwear market as you would very rarely see such a cutting-edge offering but still possessed a sportswear feel.
Opening of the first flagship store, 2008
Once the partnership hit its five-year mark, Yamamoto acknowledged that the collaboration had gained a large enough fanbase that it was time to go the brick-and-mortar route. In 2008, Y-3 opened in the brand’s first freestanding retail space in New York’s West Village neighborhood.
Y-3 Qasa, 2013
Of all the adidas Y-3 silhouettes under the sun, the Qasa is arguably the most iconic. At the time, Yamamoto felt the need to shake up the sneaker landscape with a silhouette that pushed contemporary shoe design forward, and he certainly achieved that with this offering. The model debuted in 2013 and immediately caught the attention of the public for its futuristic shape and high-end comfort. Yamamoto drew inspiration from the early ’90s archives of Three Stripes to bring back the brand’s Tubular technology, and he fused that with his own Japanese design sensibilities to create the offering. The response to this shoe was so well received that it even spawned the forward-thinking designer to create more variations of the model in the years that followed.
Y-3 PureBOOST, 2014
Before Kanye West created a cult following for adidas running sneakers such as the UltraBOOST as well as his ever-expanding line of adidas YEEZYs, Yohji Yamamoto helped introduce the cushioning system to the fashion crowd with the Y-3 PureBOOST. The silhouette debuted in a handful of grayscale renders and instantly became a hit after Fear of God founder and now one of adidas’ newest collaborators, Jerry Lorenzo, was often seen wearing the black and white and all white colors.
Y-3 Run Boost, 2016
During this time, almost every adidas BOOST model captured the attention of the sneaker community, and Yohji Yamamoto couldn’t help but get in on the action, so he fashioned the adidas Y-3 Run Boost. This silhouette is essentially an elevated take on the adidas Pure Boost that debuted in 2014 and features the Japanese designer’s full name on the center stripe and oversized Y-3 branding on the heels. If Kanye West was out in public and he wasn’t rocking his YEEZYs, you’d often catch him lacing up various colorways of this model, which of course drove up resale prices and created more demand for them.
Y-3 creates flight suits for Virgin Galactic, 2016
Having already proven himself many times on the runways, Yamamoto was offered a unique opportunity to work with Virgil Galactic, an American spaceflight company founded by Richard Branson. The company admired the designer’s unique take on fashion and hired him to create special flight suits for the world’s first commercial spaceflights. The suits have been designed with Nomex Meta Aramid – a heat resistant woven synthetic material – and have been designed to support the rider’s natural sitting posture. Limited edition jackets made by Y-3 were also designed for pilots, crew and passengers.
Y-3 4D racer, 2018
As adidas continued to develop their shoe cushioning technology with the introduction of FUTURECRAFT 4D, it was only fitting that a silhouette would be designed under the Y-3 label. To kick things off on that front, Yamamoto implemented the brand’s unique, lattice-work outsole unit and designed the Y-3 4D Runner. The silhouette first paraded during Paris Fashion Week that year and only 200 pairs were released.
Y-3 campaign “20 years: re-coded”, 2022
Y-3 launches its new ’20 Years: Re-Coded’ campaign which features footballing icon and longtime brand friend Zinedine Zidane. It’s designed to celebrate the brand’s two-decade history while spotlighting Zidane and his impeccable ball control. The campaign images show Zidane adorned head-to-toe in Y-3s and sporting the brand’s tracksuits, trench coat, puffy vest and the recently released Y-3 UltraBOOST 22.
No matter where the brand goes from here, they will always be remembered for being a pioneer in merging the worlds of luxury with the street. As long as it continues to hone its craft and deliver wearable, functional and sophisticated products, it has great potential to remain relevant, but the brand still has room to grow. Having another pivotal moment like the introduction of another shoe model that transcends sneaker culture like his Qasa did can certainly bring new energy and attract new fans to the brand, but we’ll see how that evolves. in the years to come.