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adidas / December 2023

Return Trip: The Birth Of Clot & The Evolution Of Edison Chen

Edison Chen is a bridge. A bridge between East and West, between cultures and creatives. He’s a bridge between then and now, now and next—a bridge between ideas and realities, challenges and opportunities. Edison Chen is redefining a generation. We caught up with EDC in Japan fresh off of a flight and in between trips to China to talk origins, the evolution and expression of Chinese youth culture, his recently refined aesthetic, and streetwear in the drive-thru.


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"The easiest way to start breaking that shell is by finding your fashion angle because you can say something without saying anything."

You just landed in Tokyo from Shanghai and CLOT’s massive twenty-year celebration museum takeover. You’ve achieved icon status in major avenues. You’re back in adidas sneakers… but If we could take your story back a bit for those less familiar—where have you been, and where are you now?

I was born in Vancouver (Canada). I grew up in that simple life—super simple. Biking with my sisters to the convenience store, buying five-cent candy. When I was nine, I met my father for the first time… in Hong Kong, and something inside me was like I need to follow my father. So, I moved to Hong Kong, which was a huge culture shock. I stayed in Hong Kong until about ’97. I started learning more about Chinese culture; I learned Cantonese. I was at an international school, so I met a lot of international kids. Hong Kong showed me different cultures and different perspectives and really opened my eyes to globalism.

’97 ’98, I was in New York for a stint, Vancouver for a stint. Fast forward to ’99, and I'm spending the summer in Hong Kong. Randomly at a club—I was nineteen at the time, so it was okay for me to be in the club [laughter]—I got street casted to be in a commercial. I shot the commercial, and then, low and behold, Jackie Chan called me and signed me. So that kind of thrust me into the entertainment industry. I shot my first film and overnight became a celebrity. I didn't really know how to grasp it. It was mind-altering. I kind of got accustomed to the culture, but what I didn't like was I felt like I had no personal rights. I felt like I was a piece of meat.


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I finished my second movie, and my management company sold me for $2,500,000. I found out at a press conference. They said they could do whatever they wanted with me. And I said, Okay, out of the $2,500,000, what was my cut? I didn’t get anything.

This was a very important moment. That's when I told them, “You don't own me, and you can't tell me what to do. And good luck finding me…” and I came to Japan. I came to Japan, already buzzing in Asia, like this new heartthrob or whatever, and a lot of these people that I considered my idols that are now my friends were like, what are you doing here for so long? Are you filming a movie? I explained my situation, and they said, Hey, you know what? We need someone like you to push youth culture in China. So, I went back to Hong Kong and started Clot and Juice, 100% self-owned and independent. That’s when I broke free. That’s when I felt in control of who and what I was going to be tomorrow.

2008 rolled around, and I had to leave Asia on a whim, literally overnight. I decided to move to Los Angeles; that’s been my home since. I'm very grateful to the city. I've created a whole network of really good friends out there. And a lot of these people, when I first met them, had no idea what I did. So, in theory, this celebrity was shed. I loved it. I loved being just that guy again. Being in LA allowed me to be in a whole different world. I got a new sense of being; I got a new sense of passion. I got a new sense of crew and community, and I felt really empowered to go and do what I wanted to do.

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Let’s talk about your seemingly adopted role as the unofficial global ambassador for Chinese youth culture.

Somehow, I became that guy. I didn’t set out to be him, but a lot of people are saying that I'm the purveyor of Chinese culture, that it's cool how I put the heritage and culture into my creations, but I did that really unknowingly and then became the ambassador for it.

“A lot of people say I’m doing this for Chinese culture. No, I'm doing this for the culture. I don't make shoes for the Chinese; I make shoes with a Chinese thought process for the world."

Operating out of LA as your home base and being away from China for some years, going back now, how have you seen things progress?

I didn't come to China for the whole pandemic. I came back and saw people expressing themselves, and I was like, wow, I want to be a part of this. Before I would tell people that China is five to eight years behind—in not a dissing way, in a very innocent, very interesting way, and now I feel like they're ready to start doing something. Five years ago, they weren't even dressing the way that they wanted to dress, and the easiest way to start breaking that shell is by finding your fashion angle because you can say something without saying anything.

So, the first step has been taken, and I feel like I had something to do with pushing them there. The next step is to help them understand and round out their thoughts and present their thoughts to the world. So that's why I said, after this 20th year, I'm more excited than ever. Now, I'm trying to find the next Edison Chen—the next person that's going to push the culture. So with adidas, we're doing something called the Submission Box in China. I said, listen, you guys have a platform; let’s do something… I feel like being able to have these new kids come and showcase on an international level is also very important for the international market.

A lot of people say I’m doing this for Chinese culture. No, I'm doing this for the culture. I don't make shoes for the Chinese; I make shoes with a Chinese thought process for the world.


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“When everyone is saying that they’re street, you have to find yourself a different way.”

We are very excited to have you back in the mix. Heading into the new season, how would you say that your aesthetic and your approach have changed coming into this new chapter of EDC and adidas?

I think that my whole aesthetic has fully changed. Maybe not today because I'm in airport wear, but my tastes have matured, and I haven't really created through that lens.

I spent the whole summer in Europe, going to all these small towns, and the heritage was insane. That European lens has given me a whole different color palette and has inspired me in a different way. So I think that the new EDC vibe is more chic instead of just street. We’re at a point where street is everything, right? Like McDonald's is street. Really? Wow, that's cool. I'm fine with that. Louis Vuitton is street, like who would imagine? So when everyone is saying that they’re street, you have to find yourself a different way.



SEE MORE ON THE ADIDAS ORIGINALS COLLABORATION WITH EDISON CHEN

adidas / December 2023
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