For over ten years, Anton and Ksenia Schnaider have been working on their independent label from Ukraine. In 2019, the brand was was buzzing in fashion media thanks to their unique upcycled jeans, which became a house staple. Now, five years later, and among a worldwide turmoil that included a pandemic or their home country’s invasion by Russian troops, the designers and business owners stand tall at the face of adversity. One of the things that has helped them overcome such stressful situations is an ongoing collaboration with German giant adidas Originals, with whom they released a second batch of clothing and accessories just a month ago. And watch out, because they have more in store for the upcoming Fall/Winter season. Today, we speak with them to discuss the fruitful collab, upcycling, and going global.
Hi guys, it’s lovely to speak with you. We first interviewed you back in 2019; the world was so different. It was pre-pandemic, pre-invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops… Where would you say you stand now differently from where you were five years ago?
I think all those events made us stronger. We were so close to giving up on our brand these last five years but, somehow, we managed to keep our business and our own production in Ukraine, and also to expand to new markets and grow our audience through international collaborations with adidas Originals, DL1961, Kiss My Apps, and bettter. I think the most challenging for both of us was to stay creative in the face of tragedy and to motivate our team. The last five years have been transformative—my experiences have made me more resilient and adaptable.
Congratulations on the new collaboration with adidas! You had already teamed up with the German brand last year, so I’d like to know how did this pairing come about?
Thank you! This collection is our dream come true—we had an internal team meeting ten years ago to discuss with whom Kseniaschnaider should collaborate (at that time, we were small and not known), and we decided that adidas Originals was our dream partner as we were crazy about the three stripes when we were teens. So, I think back then we already started to reach out to them. And then, finally, after many years, we received a letter from the adidas team with an invitation to add our voice to their legacy. It was a beautiful moment! Then we went to Germany to work hand in hand with their creative team.
In your first collection with them, you presented a pair of adidas Originals sneakers as well as some denim pieces, which are the most characteristic within your work. How did you take on that first challenge? What was the easiest and the most difficult thing about it?
Being an independent brand gives you absolute freedom in the way you express yourself through collections. And working with someone global, with certain rules and regulations, was a new experience for us. Surprisingly, we enjoyed the process because as designers, we love limitations and are inspired when we have to find a way to gently break some rules and push the boundaries. To be honest, the work with the adidas team was fun. They are amazing and super supportive.
In your second collaborative collection, you’ve expanded into swimwear, knit, dresses, and even repurposed football jerseys. Why did you feel important to work on other categories different from shoes and denim?
I know that denim and upcycling clothing are our strongest features, but we were always happy to add accessories, shoes, and knitwear to our own range (sometimes it is just a question of budget, not a question of our creative ability). We were absolutely happy to work on different products and with different materials, using our own archive patterns and adidas Originals legacy.
All of the pieces are great, but the shoebox became an instant hit last year and you’ve repeated it. As I understand, it was created almost by accident. How important is fate/randomness/fortune in your design process?
Anton Schnaider saw a shoebox lying around somewhere in the adidas headquarters in Herzo and immediately attached his belt to it and said to the team: “We have to make a bag like this!” That’s how it all began, based on a classic box for children’s sneakers. The most challenging part was to find a way to attach a belt to the box bag.
Two years later, we saw the Balenciaga version of a box bag without a belt. It is a smart decision to keep the design idea as pure as possible, but when we were working with adidas, we had to keep in mind the average customer (not a fashionista) and make sure that they could understand the idea and use it in their everyday’s life easily. This Box Bag by Anton Schnaider is a good example of how cool things come out of play and how such things bring joy and fun.
You’re used to working by and for yourselves, so getting involved with a bigger design team like that of adidas must be thrilling. How does your creative process change depending on the scale/size of the team and the people involved in it? Meaning, how different is the creative process when working on your own brand vs working on the adidas collection?
I don’t think it changed, honestly. We joked a lot, experimented and played with different ideas. The expectations were quite clear from the beginning, so we already knew our ‘play area’, which is why it was easy and didn’t feel much stress on any side.
Upcycling is a very important aspect of Kseniaschnaider’s DNA. How did you approach that in the adidas collab?
We were able to work with their dead stock fabrics. That is how our patchwork garments appeared in the collections.
As an independent brand, teaming up with a giant like adidas must have helped you in different ways, from getting more people to know you to earning money to work on your own line. How do you value this collaboration so far? Also, do you feel like you’ve had to compromise on certain aspects to make it work somehow?
I don’t think we’ve had to compromise, I think our voice is quite clear in this collaboration. The only thing I regret is that we did not have a launch event or bigger marketing activation. But I am very happy to see our tags on social media from people all over the world wearing KS x adidas Originals items.
To finish, will there be a third collection with adidas in the future?
Yes, it’s coming this autumn. Stay tuned!