Tulie Yaito and Her adidas Forum Hi Collab for Hypebeast’s Sole Mates

The co-founder of NYC-based fashion label Yaito speaks on honoring her Jamaican roots with her Three Stripes collab and what advocating for women of color means to her.

Footwear 
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Fashion is a platform for Tulie Yaito her to express her creativity and put on for her people. Alongside her business partner Carlton Yaito, she’s gradually built her eponymous, luxury-meets-streetwear label Yaito from a made-to-order business to a full-fledged brand with outerwear, accessories and home goods, and has collaborated with everyone from Awake NY to Levi’s, Russell Athletic and Tommy Hilfiger.

As the newest guest on Hypebeast’s Sole Mates series, Tulie Yaito wanted to spotlight her latest collaborative effort: the Tulie Yaito x adidas Forum Hi. For this limited-edition sneaker, Tulie employed a symphony of vivid colors and captivating material contrasts, all of which reference her eclectic design language and Jamaican heritage. “It was important to include my roots in this project because that’s what made me who I am and what continues to fuel me on this design journey,” she tells Hypebeast.

We caught up with the New York-based designer to discuss all of the details on her reimagined Forum Hi, the first adidas sneakers she added to her collection and why advocating for women of color is important to her.

Who or what got you into sneakers?

Having been an athlete when I was growing up in Jamaica, I used to solely view sneakers as a functional tool. But as I grew closer to my fashionable older cousins and had opportunities to express my style at school, I started to pay more attention to how I could showcase my personal taste through footwear.

How has your sneaker journey and appreciation for sneakers been unique growing up in Jamaica and Canada?

After spending most of my upbringing in Jamaica, I moved to Canada and that’s when a new world of sneakers opened up. I realized that sneakers could be a fashion statement as opposed to just a functional item.

When did adidas first come into the picture for you?

The adidas Superstar was the first sneaker that I remember owning. It was around the time when Run DMC was amplifying the brand and had everyone rocking Superstars and tracksuits. I also wanted to do ballet as a kid, and the Superstar’s shelltoe was made of the perfect material to help you stand on your tippy toes.

“When I design, I always reference what I’m most inspired by at the time and aim to be as unique and innovative as possible while still achieving functionality.”

How did the opportunity to work with adidas come about and why did you agree to work on the Forum?

The opportunity started over the DMs as a former adidas employee who supported my brand reached out. I had a few silhouettes to choose from, but I gravitated towards the Forum because I saw the chance to reinvent it in a unique way. I felt I could be most creative with it by playing around with various materials and textures.

Did your approach to design differ when designing a sneaker in comparison to piecing together a bespoke jacket or bag?

Not at all. When I design, I always reference what I’m most inspired by at the time and aim to be as unique and innovative as possible while still achieving functionality.

Break down all of your collab’s details and why they were important to include.

The black, cut-out paisley patterns on the achilles of the shoes represents the strength and creativity of my people. The oversized yellow threads symbolize beauty and wealth and the green suede symbolizes hope and resources. Yaito’s Keijō bags are represented through the triangular cut-out towards the rear of the shoe. From day one, Yaito has used paisley patterns as a staple in our knot bags, home goods and apparel, and that’s why I implemented paisley-embossed leather. I also included detachable cowhide straps, ostrich leather, pebble leather and pony hair to symbolize the merging of luxury and streetwear sensibilities.

Are there any fun facts about this collaboration that we may not know?

adidas took our team to Portland to visit its headquarters and I was told that I was the only partner to get my foot scanned besides Kanye West. We did it because the Forum has unique sizing and we wanted to get that part down as accurately as possible.

What are your thoughts on the state of collaborations with women in sneakers, and how have you seen it grow since stepping into the space?

I feel like it has grown tremendously, especially thanks to creators like Vashtie and Aleali May who have opened new doors for us. The sneaker game is still very male-dominant, but I’d love to see more women collaborations and women’s sizes. That’s why I wanted to design this collaboration in unisex sizing.

“Sharing my art and being vulnerable with the world is important to me, and this has been an amazing platform to do that.”

Why is it important for you to use your platform to advocate for women of color?

It is important because I’m a Black woman first. I always use my platform to advocate for women of color and immigrants. Opportunities with an iconic brand like adidas do not come easy, so I will continue to use my platform to help create those opportunities for women who look like me and who may have the same challenges and experiences as me.

Why is this sneaker collaboration important to you?

This sneaker is important to me because it was an opportunity to cement my place in sneaker culture. I was able to take adidas back home to Jamaica on a journey during the process and unveil my creativity to the world. Sharing my art and being vulnerable with the world is important to me, and this has been an amazing platform to do that.

The Tulie Yaito x adidas Forum Hi is available now via adidas for $130 USD.

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