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James Chan Shares How Reebok's Collaborations Come to Life

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Imagery from Reebok x Tyrrell Winston / Reebok

Reebok’s collaborations over the past few years have set the brand apart from the pack. The beautiful design aside, the presentation and storytelling surrounding each collab has given many of these collections a push over the top. It seems as though every brand they work with has a true tie to Reebok; these connections aren’t manufactured. I caught up with James Chan—the Global Marketing Lead across Reebok’s streetwear fashion collabs—to hear about how these myriad projects end up on his desk and how they come to fruition.

Finding the right brands

“On the team, I wear many streetwear hats,” James tells me, adding: “But I guess you could say my main role and main focus would be on the marketing side, to authentically grow our brand voice and work with the partner to collectively bring our story and our creative vision to life.” This is the through-line in so much of our conversation; James envisions his role as someone who helps to mesh Reebok’s narrative with another creative’s story to create a cohesive ethos around the collaboration.

I ask James how he and his team go about selecting brands or artists to work with: “The brand or the partner that we work with, there needs to be an authentic connection. Either they’ve worn Reebok in the past or they have a genuine burning desire to work with the brand.” They don’t force collaborations when it doesn’t make sense; James and his team work to identify partners who have viewed Reebok as part of their story even before the potential collaboration came to fruition.

I basically just love my job.

- James Chan

After a collab is established, the product team works with the partner to create the actual piece. “Once it’s cooked and it’s baked, it gets handed off to me to work with the partner on what that storytelling looks like,” James explains. “What I love about Reebok is that we’re really leaning on the partner as well. It’s a full partnership, a complete partnership.” He and his team then work diligently to bring the story to life across all platforms. 

Throughout our entire conversation, James is immensely grateful to his team and shares their role in his process constantly. “It’s a team effort,” he tells me, with his gratitude clear in every utterance. 

Reebok x Eames Office

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Reebok

To dive a bit deeper, I was curious to hear about the processes behind some specific collaborations James has worked on over the past few years. They’ve been working with Eames Office since 2019, working to maintain the flame established in 1941 by Charles and Ray Eames.

“With Eames Office, how that all started up was just brainstorming with the team. Identifying a space that we haven’t necessarily been in before. And working with a partner that hasn’t done something in footwear before,” James explains. The Eames Office x Reebok collab was the very first time the design icon had ever worked on a footwear piece.

Still to this day, I’m so proud of being a part of the Eames partnership.

- James Chan

James grew up a sneakerhead, but as he’s gotten older his nascent fascination with collecting sneakers has ballooned into a more far-reaching habit of accumulation. “I’m a collector at heart,” he tells me, before going on to show me the numerous Eames furniture pieces and products that bespeckle his Melbourne home. As a longtime consumer of the brand, the collaboration was organic and natural. “Just to be a part of it in some way, as a consumer, it’s very warming to the heart,” James smiles to me.

“We’re not just stamping our name on the product. We’re really jumping into the storytelling side of things, reaching a much more broad audience together, and building a very meaningful partnership. Just being a part of their mission of advancing their story is huge for me,” James tells me of working with Eames. 

Reebok x Tyrrell Winston

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Reebok

One of my other personal favorite recent Reebok collabs was the capsule they conducted with Detroit artist Tyrrell Winston. This collection embodied the ethos James discussed earlier and the necessity of finding partners who have integrated Reebok into their personal story long before they were ever approached by the sportswear giant.

“The Club C silhouette had been his go to sneaker for years now,” James tells me of Tyrrell, adding that “he considers it an everyday object, something he wears as part of his uniform when he’s in the studio designing and creating.” And Tyrrell’s connection to Reebok goes back even further than that. 

“When [Tyrrell] was younger, as long as he can remember, his grandpa was always wearing Club Cs when he was gardening or playing tennis,” James regales. Tyrrell’s collab with Reebok is so successful because it isn’t forced; Reebok is part of Tyrrell’s world. 

“On both sides, the energy needs to be there. We really told that story through the marketing campaign and through the content. We just wanted to expel all that information and all that storytelling out in the press releases and social content and everything,” James elaborates on the collection with Tyrrell. 

The Future

“2022 and 2023… It’s all very exciting,” James cheekily tells me, without going into too much detail. “We’ve got existing and new partners in the pipeline. SNEEZE magazine and a bunch of other surprises as well,” he teases. “It’s definitely unexpected, gonna be fun for everyone,” he says, adding: “We’re going to just keep doing what we do best."

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