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From Armenian SSR with adidas

A history of licensed adidas factory in Soviet Armenia, that still produces sneakers up to this day. Читать на русском языке.

When in Armenia, you may often spot elderly men wearing a particular pair of sneakers with four stripes. But don’t get fooled, these are not another fake sneakers made at low cost in no name overseas factory.

Four stripes are not a coincidence, it’s a hint. These sneakers were made in Armenia by a contract factory built by adidas in the Soviet era. Some sources say that the sports committee of the USSR had been collaborating with adidas since the 1960s. The reason is trivial — the Soviets didn’t know how to manufacture proper sportswear.

Photo 1 — Soviet athlete Viktor Sanaev; photo 2 — women’s handball team «Spartak» from Kyiv; photo 3 — Soviet women’s national handball team during the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.

Official relationships between the Soviets and adidas were officially established right before the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. Already complex collaboration with a company from a capitalist country was put under even more pressure with the Soviet—Afghan War that was criticized by the Western world. Somehow they still managed to reach an agreement with adidas with two critical conditions: factories should be located inside USSR and the soviets can get rid of the original branding. This is how adidas Moskva sneaker was born as a crossover between Samba, Gazelle, and Campus.

Armenian kids trying on Adidas sneakers. Source: TASS / Martin Shakhbazyan
Astronauts training in Kazakhstan in 1989. Notice the sneaker in the left-down corner of the photo, especially the distinctive contrast inserts in the white sole.

A factory in Yeghvard, 40 km from the capital city of Yerevan, was opened in 1987. Imported equipment cost reached almost $8 000 000. People from adidas came to Armenia to launch the factory. They hired only young women without experience in sewing to teach them from scratch according to adidas standards. Some employees even went to Germany and Austria for internships in adidas factories.

Photos 3—8: Melo Sofoyan

After the Soviet Union collapsed the factory lost its license to produce adidas sneakers. Nevertheless, the factory continued its operations under a new brand — «Yechvard». This is how the fourth stripe on the sneaker came about.

Time proves quality. Looking at the Armenian men in Yechvard sneakers today you can easily tell that these are some hard-wearing shoes. They wear them for years and years so that a white sole turns yellow but still maintains its original function.

Source: Yechvard

The founder of a contemporary Armenian brand Berq Studio Melo Sofoyan (who I’m honored to call a friend) had been trying to collaborate with Yechvard for years without any luck. Until one day his friend introduced him to her grandfather.

The result of that encounter came in the form of two pairs of Yeghvard sneakers in suede: one in total black and another in blue on a white sole. Melo left only one stripe out of four, that’s why the shoe no longer reminds of adidas. Luckily the original sole remained the same, which means that the sneakers will still last for years to come.

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