Reebok x The Animals Observatory: A love story


6 minute read

Words by The Animals Observatory | Sep 10, 2022

It all started in 2018. It was a year of changes and evolutions: women started driving in Saudi Arabia, Idris Elba was named the sexiest man of the year and the scientific community discovered liquid water on Mars, but we will always remember 2018 as the beginning of our love affair with Reebok.

Some of you will have this story in mind, and some of you may not know where it comes from, so here’s a brief rundown.

The journey

The love affair between The Animals Observatory and the shoe brand began in late 2018 and is certainly comparable to the chemistry between Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer in “The Sound of Music” (1965).

Thanks to the vision of the Creative Director and Designer of The Animals Observatory, Laia Aguilar, the first collaboration was a success that achieved great results. The creative and daring redesign of two historical models, probably the best known of the brand, Freestyle and Workout Plus, were a challenge and a motivation for Aguilar, for the creative respect towards Reebok and for the symbolism that it has around the world. The result exceeded expectations: sold out. The Animals Observatory still receives requests from users who want them.

There is no two without three: Reebok Club C Revenge

The road, however, is never straight. The third collaboration (2020) faced a challenge that no one could have foreseen; a world pandemic. What are challenges if not a source of opportunity? Once again, Aguilar managed to modernize one of Reebok’s iconic models, the Club C Style. 

Originally, once again, from the ‘80s, these sneakers were christened as Club Champion. They were initially designed to enhance the models of tennis shoes that existed at a time when this sport was dominated by Boris Becker and John McEnroe as well as Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graff. 

At the time of the campaign, however, the team of The Animals Observatory had to be more creative than ever: in the midst of a pandemic, there was no chance of shooting with models and they opted for a creative campaign made by the illustrator Antonio Ladrillo. A campaign in which children, more than ever, were the protagonists. This time with their voice. 

Campaign for the 3rd capsule Reebok x The Animals Observatory. Author: Antonio Ladrillo.

The return: the Classic Leather

The fourth collaboration (2022), after a year of shutdown due to the pandemic, marks the culmination of The Animals Observatory’s vision for Reebok’s iconic models. This time with the Classic Leather. Originally designed as running shoes, the public welcomed them in the late Reebok (1980) golden years as dress shoes, for the simplicity and comfort of their design. 

Laia Aguilar’s boundless imagination this time has led her to be inspired by the sea and, more specifically, the fishermen of Jeju island (South Korea) who for centuries have assumed the role of providers for their families thanks to a centuries-old technique of submersible fishing that is passed down from generation to generation.

The role of the sea has been important for centuries. People experience the sea in contradictory ways: powerful but serene, dangerous but beautiful, a magnetic force or a source of living.

Laia Aguilar, Creative Director of The Animals Observatory.

Reebok has shown throughout its history that trainers are no longer the exclusive symbol of a sport, they go much further. Sportswear has transcended its primary function to become a symbol of expression that has moved from the streets to catwalks around the world.

Reebok x The Animals Observatory 4th capsule. Source: The Animals Observatory.

Reebok: a brand with history

Reebok was founded by British brothers Joe and Jeff Foster. Children of a family that made sports shoes (J.W Foster and Sons) in the north of England. Forced into military service around the 1950’s, the two brothers returned to the family business with the vision of expanding and innovating, as they had seen other competitors do throughout Europe.

They settled in Bolton in 1958. Initially, they wanted to sell cycling shoes under the name “Mercury”, but were unable to register the brand and this led them to be inspired by the speed of a green antelope from South Africa to name their new project: Reebok. 

The brand conquered the sneaker market and crossed the Atlantic Ocean. In 1970, Ron Hill won the Boston Marathon with a pair of Reebok shoes. The British company sold the distribution rights in the USA, Mexico and Canada to Paul Fireman in the late ‘70s and the brand gradually conquered markets. 

During the ’80s, despite fierce competition from Nike or Adidas, the brand managed to conquer a sport that was about to make an unthinkable boom: aerobics. Faced with the refusal of some brands to invest in this new discipline that led by frantic (intensive) sessions to the beat of Quincy Jones, Reebok saw the potential by designing a specific model: Freestyle (1982). The launch of the iconic sportswear, one of the best-selling in history, was followed by unforgettable exercise videos by actress Jane Fonda, who, while gaining millions of followers around the world trying to emulate the excellent figure of the Hollywood star, catapulted this practice into a millionaire industry. 

After the boom, the company changed its flag. Fireman bought the brand from the British Foster brothers in 1984, turning it into a US capital company. Immediately afterwards, designer Edward Lussier created the Newport Classic, which conquered the tennis courts during the height of the rivalry between Boris Becker and John McEnroe, who popularized them into urban sports.

From the ’90s, the brand grew in several sports, including basketball. Much of its cultural expansion was due in part to a collaboration with rapper and producer Jay-Z in 2003, with whom they created the legendary S.Carter.

This was the brand’s first collaboration outside of sports (within a few hours of being on sale, people bought more than 10,000 pairs of S. Carter). This collaboration meant a paradigm shift in the world of sneakers because it revolutionized the market: from that moment on, athletes no longer had a monopoly and brands began to promote collaborations with artists and cultural referents of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Steps that have subsequently led to other hip-hop mainstream artists such as Kanye West and Drake collaborating with other brands. 

Now, we are approaching the present. In 2005, Adidas absorbed Reebok in a $ 3.5 trillion deal, a relationship that lasted until the end of 2021, when the German brand sold Reebok to the American Authentic Brands Group. 

Making history together

The balance of this love story is as beautiful as the ending of “Runaway Bride” (1999) with Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. Year after year, the strong collaboration between The Animals Observatory and Reebok has led to crossing borders hand in hand with a historic brand that has a global presence. The creative freedom that The Animals Observatory has added to the reissue of these designs has certainly revolutionized the brand.