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Samba x Wales Bonner

The adidas Samba is ubiquitous. Designed way back in 1949 by brand founder Adolf Dassler, it was initially intended as a football boot to be used in icy conditions but has since been transformed into a fashionable lifestyle sneaker. Today, it stands out as one of the brand’s most popular silhouettes, and has become a prized template for collaborative designs. As well as producing Sambas with everyone from actor Jonah Hill to record producer Pharrell Williams and sneaker designer Sean Wotherspoon, adidas has formed an incredibly successful partnership with multiple-award-winning designer Grace Wales Bonner and her self-titled luxury fashion brand. Together, they have created the adidas Samba x Wales Bonner collection – a series of retro-inspired men’s and women’s sneakers that have subtly elevated the classic Samba to new levels of prosperity and success.

The first Wales Bonner x adidas Samba designs emerged in 2020 as part of a capsule collection that celebrated the frequent appearance of adidas apparel in 80s dance halls. Debuting at a Wales Bonner fashion show dedicated to the Lovers Rock music scene that originated in 1970s London, the first two editions of Bonner’s Samba reflect the fashion influences of the British Afro-Caribbean movement. Its irreverent but elegant style comes through in the Core Black colourway, whose largely black outer is decorated with a crocheted three-stripes motif on the flanks and intricate white stitching around the heel and the rim of the foldover tongue – a reference to the silhouette’s sporting past. These features reflect Bonner’s desire to bring aspects of high-quality tailoring to the collaboration, while the shoe’s silky inner lining lends it a classy aesthetic. The second colourway, known as Cream Brown, opts for a lighter colour scheme of pale beige on its woven raw cotton upper and premium brown leather on the three-stripes and toe for an equally graceful look that evokes thoughts of refined dress shoes.

In 2021, Bonner decided to look at the concept from a different perspective, investigating the design influences of British clothes that were shipped to Jamaica and the surrounding islands during the Lovers Rock era and modified to suit the fashion trends of Caribbean culture. This resulted in two new adidas Samba x Wales Bonner colourways with an entirely different look to the first pairs. The Collegiate Navy features a deep blue tumbled leather upper with suede accents on the toe and eyestay, alongside yellow sidewall logos, Wales Bonner branding on the lateral flank and a cream-coloured tongue. Many of these elements also appear on the Black Green, but the use of premium black leather and suede on its upper and emerald green on its three-stripes logos, laces and inner sets it apart from its counterpart.

Bonner continued to expand her vision for the adidas Samba in 2022, once again delving into her Caribbean heritage and playing with 80s styles to create the Cream Green and Red colourways. While both make use of nylon on the upper, suede on the overlays, and faux crocodile leather on the three-stripes, the former comes in an off-white tone with green highlights, and the latter exhibits a vivid scarlet hue with cream-coloured areas on the tongue, heel and flanks.

By this point, each new adidas Samba x Wales Bonner sneaker was met with tremendous hype and appreciation, so in 2023, the collection doubled in size as six more stylish colourways came out. Grace Bonner’s stunning attention to detail shines through on each design, beginning with the two summer releases. Both incorporate a foldover tongue in celebration of the Samba’s footballing heritage and sporting styles from Jamaican history along with sophisticated Wales Bonner branding text on the lateral heel, but are otherwise quite different from one another. The Ecru Tint is a charming sneaker with a tan-coloured nubuck upper, yellow three-stripes and brown tongue, while the Metallic Silver has a polished silver upper with an irresistible sheen and crocheted logos on its flanks.

A few months later, the other four shoes of 2023 were released. Appropriately for the time of year, they each have a more autumnal feel to them, three of the colourways being coated in faux pony hair. The Leopard features an exotic animal print design over its shaggy upper and off-white leather on its tongue, heel tab and sidewall logos, while the Black includes similarly creamy accents on its upper, which displays the titular tone throughout its furry underlayer and leather overlays. The Cream White applies a lighter shade of white to its upper and chestnut brown highlights on its leather three-stripes and heel tab, before the fourth colourway in the set switches materials to a mix of nylon, suede and leather. Known as the Fox Brown, this iteration has a dark mahogany hue over the majority of its outer alongside sandy white on its heel tab, sidewall logos and branding, and cyan blue throughout its soft inner lining. 

In early 2024, the collaboration showed no signs of slowing down as the brands delivered the Studded Pack: another set of two premium sneakers. Signature details like the decorative stitching effects and the dual branding on the tongue label return, this time upon an all-leather upper. Each colourway comes in a single tone that matches its nickname – the Black and the Cream – and both are distinguished from the other members of the Wales Bonner Samba collection by the eye-catching metallic gold studs adorning their three-stripes logos.

The collaboration between adidas and Wales Bonner goes beyond just the Samba, but their combined work on this fan-favourite silhouette is some of the most popular to date. Each stylish colourway showcases their ability to marry a classic sporting aesthetic with elements of luxury fashion, but it is Grace Bonner’s British-Jamaican heritage that imbues the collection with a truly unique identity and makes it a distinctive part of contemporary sneaker culture.

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