At U.S. Open, Japanese Companies Leave Nike, Adidas in the Dust – Bloomberg September 11, 2016 — 6:17 AM PDT Updated on September 11, 2016 — 5:26 PM PDT


It’s called the U.S. Open, and the crowd is definitely from New York, but the clothing on the court is decidedly Japanese.

Stan Wawrinka, wearing Yonex, thrilled fans with a four-set victory over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, sponsored by Uniqlo. The semifinals featured another Uniqlo athlete, Kei Nishikori, and Gael Monfils, who is backed by Asics.

As the 2016 Grand Slam draws to a close, Japanese brands have far outpaced their Western competition. Led by Djokovic and Uniqlo, Japan’s apparel makers have turned up in seven men’s Grand Slam semifinal this year — more than Nike, Adidas and New Balance combined.

The marketing is part of a broader push to strengthen international sales and offset the effects of Japan’s aging, shrinking population and stagnant economy. Uniqlo now has more stores outside of Japan, and Yonex Co., the racket and clothing maker backing Switzerland’s Wawrinka, earned more than half its profit overseas last year for the first time.

The exposure won by Japanese brands on the tour this year comes at Nike’s expense. Until this year, Nike stars Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal dominated men’s tennis, bringing the swoosh to all but eight of the 40 Grand Slam finals since 2005. Neither is invincible anymore: Federer, 35, canceled the remainder of his season after losing in a Wimbledon semifinal, and Nadal, 30, was upset in the fourth round of the U.S. Open.

Tennis players tend to rise and fade in cohorts, and the ascension of Djokovic and, more recently, Nishikori has been a boon for Uniqlo. The company signed a five-year deal with world Djokovic in 2012, after taking on Nishikori in the previous year.

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Adidas Spins Plastic from the Ocean into Awesome Kicks – MARGARET RHODES. 06.07.16 9:31 AM

From a distance, Adidas’ newest shoe looks seafoam green. But it’s an illusion; up close that pellucid hue gives way to white, with teal thread stitched around the upper in contoured rows, like lines on a topographic map. That thread comes from a company called Parley for the Oceans, and it’s special, spun from plastic waste and old fishing nets retrieved from the coast of Africa.

The company prototyped the idea last summer, but it wasn’t exactly ready-to-wear. “It was a functional shoe in that you could put it on,” says Alexander Taylor, an industrial designer who works on special projects with Adidas. But today, Adidas is releasing a limited edition run—just 50 pairs—of a new, improved version of the shoe that meets all the same standards as the rest of their athletic wear. The upper on the new design is entirely recycled plastic—about 16.5 old bottles and 13 grams of plastic from gill nets go into a single upper on one shoe. The only virgin material in the footwear is the thermoplastic polyurethane in the Adidas foam pellet Boost sole, which gets fused together with biowaste-powered steam. Plus, unlike the first shoe, which was unforgivably stiff, you can actually run, comfortably, in this one.

Thread, made from plastic from fishing nets, gets stitched around the upper in contoured rows, like lines on a topographic map. Adidas

Adidas is only giving away 50 pairs because spinning plastic ocean trash into high-performance fibers is hard to do. The Adidas x Parley shoe is made of two kinds of recycled plastic: PET, used most commonly for water bottles, and nylon from gill nets. PET is relatively soft, easier than most to melt and reincarnate into fibers. (For the 2010 World Cup, Nike-sponsored teams wore jerseys made from recycled plastic yarn.)

The gill nets, though, were tough. For starters, there’s the smell. As their name suggests, gill nets are made for snaring fish by their gills, so used nets smell, not so surprisingly, like rotting fish. But even once textile makers de-smell-ify them through an intensive cleaning process, their job is just beginning. Gill nets are made from a heavy duty nylon that’s designed against dissolving in the ocean’s salty, crushing waves; making the nets soft enough for athleticwear requires grinding the plastic into a powder and then extruding it—a process that required new partnerships with materials engineers from across the United States, Germany, and Asia.

That’s where working with Adidas really benefited Parley. The former is a huge company with more capital to tinker with new technologies and the R&D connections to tackle a problem like turning tons of oceanic garbage into shiny, new apparel.

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Gallery: Adidas, Parley Create World’s First Sneakers Made From Ocean Trash…- Ecouterre July 1, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at Jul 2, 2015 12.45

“At Parley for the Oceans, we want to establish the oceans as a fundamental part of the debate around climate change,” Gutsch said. “Our objective is to boost public awareness and to inspire new collaborations that can contribute to protect and preserve the oceans. We are extremely proud that Adidas is joining us in this mission and is putting its creative force behind this partnership to show that it is possible to turn ocean plastic into something cool.”