Art On An 80’s Shoe: Yeo Kaa Puts Her 'Strong Girl'

The local artist shows her youth and design prowess in her recent collaboration with a major sports brand.

A silhouette born from basketball but made famous off-court, the Adidas Rivalry 86 Low is set to make waves in its reintroduction to the Philippines. The launch of the new “Strong Girl” colorway in collaboration with Filipino artist Yeo Kaa. Her iconic candy-colored characters with different emotions depict her paintings and sculptures that the artist is popular for. She is one of the leading Southeast Asian artists with constantly sold-out shows in the Philippines and abroad.

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Who is she?

Born in 1989, Yeo Kaa studied Advertising at the College of the Holy Spirit Manila. She has exhibited extensively internationally and has completed residencies in Kyoto (2022); Berlin (2019), Indonesia (2018) and Finland (2018).

Yeo Kaa/ Photo by Pepper Teehankee

Before becoming the artist that she is today, Yeo Kaa faced competition, criticism, and self-doubt. Her own personal challenges ultimately helped her come out stronger and allowed her to see the beauty in life. This experience is reflected in the “Strong Girl Needs Rest Too” art theme depicted on the shoe.

Illustration details in her collaboration with Adidas/ Photo by Pepper Teehankee

She shares, “Yung concept ng shoes is about strength. Yung pinaka-pinaghuhugutan ko ngayon is yung feeling na akala ko hindi na matatapos yung ganong pakiramdam na masama at mabigat. But lilipas at lilipas rin pala siya at magiging okay rin ang lahat sa huli. (The concept behind the shoes is strength) I drew inspiration from how I felt. That hardships and heaviness would be endless, but I realized that, this too, will pass, and everything will be okay in the end).”

Art and Fashion

Furthermore, the Rivalry 86 Low has a clean leather upper sporting the iconic 3-Stripes, but the “Strong Girl” colorway also features several unique design elements. The bright blue and solar green stripes contrast with the off-white footwear. Which Yeo Kaa associates with her new state of calmness and freshness. Also, the graphic print of the word “Strong” in Yeo Kaa’s own typeface can be found in the midsole. Yeo Kaa’s signature character, as seen in most of her artworks, appears on the shoe with the largest and most noticeable is stitched to the heel. The character has its arms flexed to depict personal strength. The character is also seen in the mudguard where three expressions of the character’s face are shown: surprise, happiness, and determination — emotions that reflect a journey to finding the motivation to keep fighting.

Collaboration shoes/ Photo by Pepper Teehankee

Like the local artists before her, Yeo Kaa also took the opportunity to put her art in the shoe’s sock liners. Her signature character makes its final appearance with an inscription that reads “Strong Girl Needs Rest Too.”  

Illustration details in her collaboration with Adidas/ Photo by Pepper Teehankee

Adidas Philippines Brand Activation Manager Jen Dacasin says “Through this collaboration, we continue our commitment to support Filipino creators by giving them a platform to share their art, and the messages within it, to a larger audience. We couldn’t be happier to have Yeo Kaa as the first Filipina to design Adidas footwear and for that shoe to hold such a profound and important message of strength and rest.”  Other Filipino artists who had collaborated with the brand before include Egg Fiasco, Quiccs, Jappy Agoncillo, and Von Alcantara.

Banner photo by Pepper Teehankee.

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