Sole Mates: Emily Oberg and the adidas Samba

The Sporty & Rich founder caught up with HYPEBEAST to discuss her love for adidas classics and her lifestyles between Paris and LA.

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Emily Oberg only moves with passion and purpose. As an influencer, brand consultant, designer and advocate for health and wellness, she spends much of her life ping-ponging between Los Angeles and Paris for work and leisure. Her primary focus right now is to further build Sporty & Rich — her athleisure brand that hones in on producing timeless, ethically-made apparel that emphasizes her overarching ethos of spreading positivity and living a healthy and happy lifestyle.

Over the course of her professional career working as a stylist, being an on-screen talent for Complex during the uprise of streetwear and sneaker media, working as KITH‘s Creative Lead for its women’s category and being a brand founder, Oberg has developed a keen understanding of the grit that it takes to not only have a vision, but to execute it. Despite the fact that she is the founder of a fashion imprint, in a lot of ways, it’s footwear that has played an integral role in her success. It always piqued her interest from an early age — thanks to her father who has had a heavy influence on her fashion sensibilities — but the storytelling and energy behind sneaker culture has largely influenced her taste, aesthetic and career trajectory.

Oberg made the conscious decision to select the adidas Samba for her Sole Mates feature, and this makes perfect sense considering that her overall style is heavily reliant on both versatile and classic pieces. HYPEBEAST had the opportunity to catch up with the female entrepreneur to talk about the origins of her love for sneakers, the differences between living in LA and Paris and more.

HYPEBEAST: Who or what got you into sneakers?

EO: My dad was a sneakerhead in high school, and to this day he still collects sneakers, so I’d say they’ve just been around throughout my entire life.

What would you say his influence was on you in terms of sneakers?

So he’s actually a mailman and comfort is really important to him. In terms of his favorite silhouettes, he really loves the Air Jordan 1, and he really loves all Nike Air Maxes, more specifically the Air Max 97. When Nike Shox first came out, he was definitely really into those as well. For me, I think his affinity for Air Maxes and Shox really translated over to me. Now that I’m getting a little older, I typically will pander towards heels or boots, but when I do rock sneakers I tend to stick with the classics.

What was sneaker culture like while you were growing up in Calgary, Canada?

It was super niche. We had one or two streetwear stores called Group Seven which no longer exists, and the other was Goodfoot which — to this day — I still think is one of the best sneaker stores that’s ever existed. They both just had the best brands and the best sneakers.

Was there a specific silhouette that was very omnipresent throughout Calgary?

The skate scene was pretty big thing if you lived in Calgary. So as a result, you would definitely catch a lot of people rocking Nike SB Dunks and Vans.

Do you remember what shoes you wore a lot growing up?

I actually used to wear a lot of Nike Dunks, both high and low. I was a pretty avid buyer of sneakers, but they were definitely harder for me to find because I would typically wear a men’s seven even though they were way too big because that was the only way you could wear sneakers as a girl as they didn’t really make girl sizes back then.

Is there a specific pair that you find really memorable that you had in your collection back then?

Around the time that I was either 13 or 14 years old I remember having the Nike SB Dunk Low “Taxi Cab.” It was a bright blue colorway with black accents and was definitely one of my favorites. I got those from Goodfoot back when you were able to just walk into a store and pick them up off the shelves without any line. I also had a pair of white Dunks with royal blue Swooshes and that was another pair that really stood out to me.

“I learned that I need to be an entrepreneur because that’s what I’m meant to do. I felt like I needed to follow my own vision because building someone else’s dream didn’t feel fulfilling and there was no purpose in that for me personally.”

Your gateway into the fashion industry was through Complex and later on at KITH. Can you describe your experiences working at both of those companies and what your biggest learning lessons were from each?

Working at Complex was the best time period of my life because it was so much fun. I never went to college so that was basically my college experience. My biggest takeaway from working there is that working at a company is very political and you have to know how to get along with others, be liked, make sure that everything is smooth and learn how to be a team player.

I knew I wanted to eventually work for a brand so ending up at KITH worked out perfectly for me. It was definitely a learning curve and a transition from working with my best friends every day and having the time of my life because at Complex we worked but more so had fun because we were always attending events/parties and traveled. KITH was a real job, and I learned there that I can’t work for someone. That was my biggest lesson. I learned that I need to be an entrepreneur because that’s what I’m meant to do. I felt like I needed to follow my own vision because building someone else’s dream didn’t feel fulfilling and there was no purpose in that for me personally. I learned what I didn’t want to do.

“I’d say Frances Ann Lebowitz is amazing, I really love her style. Jerry Seinfeld when he was younger and doing the show and Adrian Brody as well. I love old Ralph Lauren ads and anything that’s tied to college, waspy and preppy culture.”

It’s a pretty bold move to go from working at a company like KITH to going out and fully focusing on building your own brand. Can you describe what it was like going through that transition phase?

After KITH I was thinking that I could just freelance for a bit doing styling and consulting for other brands. Then again, I realized that I was still building someone else’s brand and image when I really still just wanted to do it for myself. I’d say my ex-boyfriend, who is now my CEO, really encouraged me to go out and just start and given that the first drop did really well I just ran with it from there.

I associate Emily Oberg with a very clean aesthetic, luxe pieces that are timeless, vintage furniture and a healthy lifestyle. Who are your biggest muses for style, food, lifestyle, aesthetic etc.?

Honestly, my boyfriends are always my muses. It sounds weird and I know it’s typically the other way around, but I always date people and their style and lifestyle influences me. In terms of celebs, I’d say Frances Ann Lebowitz is amazing, I really love her style. Jerry Seinfeld when he was younger and doing the show and Adrian Brody as well. I love old Ralph Lauren ads and anything that’s tied to college, waspy and preppy culture.

Nowadays you spend a majority of your life between Paris and LA. Can you describe the energies between both cities and how each contributes to the ethos of Sporty and Rich?

I’d say LA is sporty and Paris is rich. LA is sun, beach, workout, healthy, eat well and permanent holiday lifestyle. It always feels like a vacation. Paris is more city life but still relaxed because Parisians just enjoy their life. They take two hour lunches and chill. It’s beautiful, old and classic, and I think it’s the most beautiful city in the world.

Let’s switch gears here a bit and talk about your shoe choice. You picked the adidas Samba for your Sole Mates feature. What is it about this shoe that piques your interest?

I’m not really into the chunky sole, bigger shoe style anymore and so I think the Samba is super versatile. You can rock it with pretty much anything whether it be a dress, skirt, trousers or denim. It’s super chic, classic and elegant.

What are some of your favorite Samba colorways and/or collaborations?

I’d say the classic white and black is probably my favorite one again because of the versatility and timelessness. And then I really love the Samba collab that Wales Bonner did.

The adidas Samba isn’t necessarily a shoe that many collaborators will touch nowadays and it’s sort of an always-on-the-shelf type of shoe. Are you a fan of the shoe’s status in that sense?

Yeah I definitely think that aspect is cool. I think there are some shoes that are obvious and make more sense for brands and people to collaborate on, but I love that the Samba isn’t so obvious in that war. To be honest, I feel like it was kind of slept on for awhile, and now I think it’s having its moment.

Do you remember your first pair of Sambas and when you got them?

It was probably around three or four years ago when I received the classic white and black pair. When I first started at Complex I was an adidas ambassador for a year and I was rocking a lot of adidas shoes and so the Samba was one that I kept in rotation a lot.

“And I do appreciate the fact that it’s kind of one of the only things in fashion that has so many stories and meaning behind them.”

Why are sneakers and the stories they hold important to you?

I have a connection to them through my dad, and because of that I think sneakers are always going to be important and have a sentimental role in my life. And I do appreciate the fact that it’s kind of one of the only things in fashion that has so many stories and meaning behind them. You can’t really say the same thing about jackets or dresses, and I feel like sneakers are the only thing that have that so I think that’s super cool.

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