Ear to the Street – Interview with Till Jagla | Grailify
Ear to the Street – Interview with Till Jagla

Ear to the Street – Interview with Till Jagla

You couldn't ask for a more versatile interview partner than Till Jagla. He was a soccer player in his youth, has been collecting sneakers for as long as he can remember, knows the shoe industry like no other, and literally has "his ear to the street" with his own Instagram account, which you probably already follow. As Global Director at adidas Originals, he is responsible for all running concepts, including NMD and the miadidas program. Have we given you enough reasons to keep reading? We think so.
Hi Till, welcome to your interview. First, please tell us how sneakers came into your life.
Thank you, it's a pleasure to be introduced by you! For me, it all started in 1991. My best friend is nine years older than me and at that time he was working in a sports store. One day I visited him and discovered his adidas Equipment Supports. After a little performance talk, he mentioned the price of 200 D-Mark. That seemed so unattainable to me and must have had a strong influence on me. Since then, shoes have been something different for me.
You come from a soccer background, you're a pretty good striker, and you could have made your living scoring goals. Do you think you have a special relationship with sneakers, since shoes are so important for soccer players?
Maybe, I like all kinds of shoes, but the construction of soccer shoes has always impressed me. I started consuming shoes very consciously when the first Predator came out, and I still believe that I could shoot around the wall best in those shoes. I was also one of the nerds who cut out the tongue of the Copa Mundial and sewed it on backwards so the black side was on the outside. And I painted the stripes black, like a pro without a shoe sponsor, I liked that at the time.
Do you think your history in soccer made an early connection to adidas as a brand?
Absolutely. Since I was a kid, adidas has stood for quality, tradition and innovation for me. When a brand has been with you for over thirty years, it has to leave an impression!

You got into the industry rather by accident - first at New Balance, then at adidas, first in marketing and now in global business at Originals. Most people would say you have an absolute dream job. What qualities have gotten you this far?
The most important thing is discipline and diligence. I quickly realized that you always have to do more to stand out. A big advantage of mine is that I know what I can do and what I'm not so good at. In school, it quickly became clear that I wasn't going to be a nuclear physicist, so I sought out other favorite subjects, like the sneaker and streetwear industry. I'm very good at motivating myself, but I'm also not easy to please, and I like to work. I believe that if you do something you love, you will perform exceptionally well. Basically, I try to be positive about things without losing touch with reality. Setting intermediate goals also helps not to lose energy in the process.
You always seem very motivated and full of energy, which is also reflected in your work. What drives you?
I simply want to deliver a high-quality performance that I can identify with. My basic motivation is fun! If I don't enjoy something, I try to change it. I think too many people act too intellectually. I am very pragmatic in most things. I'm not very careful and I don't believe in the whole "but if" thing. This way you maximize your results, generate more positive feedback and stay energized and motivated. It's a simple principle!
What advice would you give to people who want to get into the sneaker industry because they love the subject? What do you need to bring to the table to make it work?
It's basically important not to be too shy for anything. There are all kinds of different paths into this industry, from an internship or apprenticeship to an integrated degree program or a lateral entry. During my business studies I worked for NB as a freelancer, it was a big challenge to juggle it all alongside sports, I think I learned to work in an organized way back then. I'm afraid that often means leaving your comfort zone too, but that only helps make it bigger in the long run. I can also recommend just talking to industry contacts, sometimes it's not that hard to get your foot in the door. And then it's all about making a good impression and giving what you've got!

Your Instagram account has gotten pretty big, considering that it's just a hobby for you. Do you get a lot of emails from fans and users?
Thanks for the compliment, for me it's a very rewarding and fun hobby. And yes, there are many mails, which makes me very happy and again is a great compliment.
Where does teasing end and leaking begin? Is that a hard line for you to draw when you have constant access to new things and manage an account like this?
I never share blocked content, and I have a good sense of what can and cannot cause harm. Leaking is impious because by posting one image you can undo months of work. The quality is lost. With many leaks, it's obvious they're fake, and yet people spend hours discussing these posts.
You came from a relatively small brand like New Balance and now you're working at a big company. What are some of the things that still impress you about working for a company of this size?
adidas is a global company and the fastest growing DAX company, yet it feels like you're on a university campus. I'm impressed by the balancing act between snapbacks, gray hoodies, tattoos and strategic business plans. Maybe I'm exaggerating, but that's the way it is. When I first started at adidas, the sheer size was overwhelming. Even today, I'm overwhelmed when I walk into the headquarters.
With a job like yours in a huge company, do you ever wish you had smaller projects, some labor of love?
Sure, I've been in the industry for 13 years now and I've been around the world maybe twice for my projects, believe me, there's no shortage of ideas. Something that has grown in me is the desire to start my own small label.

What do you do in your free time?
I try to do sports or spend time with my little son. But I always try to use my time well! Instead of sitting in front of the TV, I will always try to create something, from uncaged "Bloodrunners" or private collaborations to new product ideas.

Do you influence yourself as a consumer as well? Do you get even hotter for products because you're constantly exposed to new projects, or does it get boring to see that over and over again?
I definitely get even hotter! When I'm working on a project, whether it's a custom design or a new inline NMD, I can't wait for it to be released. The market reaction is always interesting feedback for years of planning.

Do you still buy shoes for yourself at all?
I really enjoy buying shoes. For me, it still feels special to unwrap a shoe fresh from the box. It also feels kind of honest. I also take care of these shoes more than the others.

We all know that the first uncaged Ultra Boosts or colored Boost soles were made by you. Were those proper market tests or was it pure coincidence that they ended up coming out as general releases?
Good question. I think the result triggered a lot of feedback at the time. Many people who didn't want to run in the shoe found it more purist without the cage element. In general, I think there are extremely good ideas and products coming out of the customizing game.

Can you tell us about your latest custom projects or experiments?
Recently, I painted the EQT Ultra Support. At first I wanted a Bape Camo, but then decided to go with my variant. Since I still had some rubber paint, I also colored the boost. I liked the white sole better though. Next I had the idea to do something with the NMD City Sock, but somehow the shoe is too perfect.

You're often seen in EQTs, but also a lot in Boost and Primeknit. Modern performance or classic retro style - which do you prefer?
Both have their particular appeal. I usually decide spontaneously in the morning. There are many days when I change shoes in the afternoon to have a new running feeling.

adidas has a lot of classic silhouettes that we've all known and loved for decades, but lately there are also futuristic bombs like NMD or Ultra Boost. How do you see it as a collector - do you think both "worlds" will coexist?
I wear everything, and I'm confident that both looks will persist; they're different enough. As a collector, I find it interesting that sneakers are becoming more functional, lightweight and comfortable. However, I don't want to give up the classic "suede mesh look". I'd say my habit of wearing both looks is about 50/50.
If you had to wear only one shoe for the rest of your life, which would it be?
adilette or NMD R1 PK.
Right now there are a lot of creative IG accounts showing "what if" concepts for possible colorways, hybrids or models. At Three Stripes, do you take note of such things and does it influence your work?
Things like that are taken note of, but most of the time they don't influence it. A lot of people have no idea of the complexity of shoe construction. Those "what if" photoshop images are usually not even feasible. But a lot of them look interesting.
Do you have a favorite project at miadidas?
My favorite project hasn't been released yet. It's something I've always wanted to do that doesn't exist in this form yet. Stay tuned!
As a shoe collector, you're probably well sorted at adidas. Do you still have dreams in other areas of life?
Of course I still have dreams! I want to be my daughter's best friend when she grows up.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with the sneaker world at this point?
What I basically say on a regular basis is that I want to thank all the people who put love and passion into this. Whether it's the store owners, the vendors, editors, photographers or collectors. I just think it's great to follow a passion - not to go along with every trend, but to listen inside and ask, "What do I like and where might I be better off not participating?"
That was good, Till. Thank you very much for the interview.

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