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Former Adidas Exec Launches Zero-Waste, Zero-Plastic Streetwear Brand

Eric Liedtke oversaw all Adidas brands for nearly six years.

As the executive board member responsible for global brands, Liedtke launched Adidas’ partnership with Parley for the Oceans and grew collaborations with Kanye West, Beyoncé and Pharrell Williams. Then, in 2019, he left the company, suddenly bringing his 25-year career there to a close.

After more than a year and a half of relative silence, Liedtke finally revealed his next endeavor this week: a zero-waste, zero-plastic streetwear label called Unless.

His goal is to develop a business model that addresses the millions of tons of plastic the apparel industry sends to landfills each year.

“We’d talk about it in my old job, but you couldn’t get there because you have a $26 billion business to run and you have responsibilities to shareholders,” Liedtke said.

Eric Liedtke helped cement Adidas' partnership with Kanye West
Eric Liedtke helped cement Adidas’ partnership with Kanye West. Adidas

Unless’ co-founders reportedly include former Adidas creative director Paul Gaudio and Quicksilver’s former global marketing director, Maarten Teijsse. A $7.5 million seed funding round has valued the brand at $30 million, according to Business of Fashion.

The label’s newly launched website, TikTok account and Instagram page reveal little about the specific items Unless will offer. According to Complex, which shared images of a T-shirt and a collared, button-down top, Unless will offer a wide range of products, including apparel, footwear, accessories and more. The first drop is reportedly coming this fall.

Aware of the logistical trouble of recycling and composting textiles, Liedtke said that Unless is considering establishing its own industrial composting facility. To incentivize participation, he said the brand may reward shoppers who return items with credit toward a future release.

Since Liedtke’s departure, Adidas has pushed further ahead in its own sustainability efforts. On a mission to eliminate the use of virgin plastics by 2024, the company introduced two new sustainable materials early last year: the Parley Ocean Plastic-based Primeblue and the virgin plastic-free Primegreen.