This talk was delivered November 15, 2023 by "Aristide Feldholt" at the Web Summit 2023, "the largest tech conference in the world," in Lisbon. See also the complete video of the entire event, courtesy of Web Summit. Try watching karaoke-style, with this page as the lyrics!
"ARISTIDE": Helloooo Web Summit! We are so excited to be here. And we are so excited to invite all of you to be part of this historic launch of what is sure to be one of most important innovations in all of commercial history. It will solve a huge and impossible challenge, not only for Adidas, but for all the largest companies in the world today.
This innovation is brand-new and cutting-edge — but it is also 99 years in the making.
I want you now to come with me in a voyage through time — to 1924, when two humble brothers and their humble mother began making sporting shoes in a small Bavarian basement in Herzogenaurach.
They were such good shoes that they made the American win the 1936 Berlin Olympics! And that made many people now want these shoes.
So we outsourced the making of these shoes to a large number of our friends in the Bavarian worker community...
But then, in 1940, a big challenge: the entire German army wanted us to make shoes for them!
We had to outsource again — this time to people more needing to work even than Bavarians, and at an extremely economical price point.
Another crisis in 1943 — when that same German army demanded we make munitions instead of shoes. Munitions are a very unpleasant technology.
In 1945, the American army threatened to destroy our munitions factory down… but instead they let us revert it to shoes once again!
The American soldiers loved our shoes…
… and so all America soon comes knowing our shoes!
Now we must outsource again — this time, across the ocean, to factories in America.
Then in 1987, another big challenge over which we must innovate:
... the death of the very last Dassler, Horst Dassler, the son of Adi. Without Horst, the company entirely collapsed!
But then this man, Bernard Tapie, purchased Adidas and helped us to modernize outsourcing, by making our shoes where the cost of labor is lowest — or even lower than that!
Soon half the world makes our shoes for the other half!
We all know the challenges that come with this kind of outsourcing.
There is child labor. There are many problems with child labor — but the main one is: nobody likes it. So we innovate to this challenge and stop almost all child labor in almost every one of our factories quickly!
Our next big innovation is this. We sign up the biggest artist in the world, who for almost ten years takes adidas through the roof and makes the whole world go POP.
I do not need to explain our next challenge.
In one second we lose 2 billion euro of revenue — every year.
And yet we still "have" a great many factories, in dozens of countries. But we do not control them.
Because of how outsourcing works, there are contracts, subcontracts, sub-subcontracts… And anywhere along this chain of controllessness there can be many issues.
There can be:
- non-pay of wages
- non-pay of severance
- wages pay below minimum
- firing workers to destroy union
- and so on and so on and so on.
Even without our massive 2 billion euro loss every year, we cannot guarantee workers' well-being in real life.
Bad workplace conditions break open our hearts — but we have no control over the factories, by law and by contract and by design.
The innovation I will momentarily unveil solves this impossible challenge for Adidas and for every large company that outsources work.
I want you now to come with me on a voyage, this time across space, and imagine a place…
… where workers even so poor can have anything that they want…
… where workers with not one good meal per day can feast all day and all night…
… where workers with pre-work-age children can educate and care for all offspring…
… and where even without adequate money, workers can still live full and rewarding lives.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, this. place. is. real. And you are about to see it.
I would like now to invite to the stage an incredible performer and great mogul of youth, who is partnering with Adidas to let everyone know about this great new world we are building for workers. Web Summit friends, I present to you — Marshmello!!!!
("Marshmello" comes out followed by eight breakdancers from the Lisbon Breakers. Their clothing, designed by Threads & Tits, features the three stripes of the adidas logo extended for one to two meters. They very slowly slither to the center of the stage as a single mass.)
He y'all — I got something to say.
I'm dropping my new track called "All day I dream." I'm getting real with this song. Because I've been dreaming about a better world.
You know I like to party. But it's hard to party when so many people in the world are suffering.
Some things you and I can't fix. But others, we gotta start somewhere. Like, we can can be aware of what we wear.
I've been educating myself on what it means to buy fast fashion. What it does to the planet and to people. I just got made aware that garment workers in faraway places are suffering from wages too low to pay the bills… when they even do get paid. Sometimes they don't! In eight adidas supplier factories in Cambodia, workers are owed US$11.7 million in unpaid wages.
Rihanna said "bitch better have my money." But I'm not Rihanna. I'm a bit more emo. Y'all know what I say:
"Lately I've been thinking.
I want them to be happier.
I want them to be happier…"
It’s not fair that they go hungry while we dance. And it’s not cool that we party all night in Fortnite while they're stuck in the real world. It’s not right that they’ve got to give up their dreams.
But I'm dreaming about a world where those workers can do anything, can have anything, can even get paid. They can rub shoulders with the likes of us, the well-heeled, the rich, the famous.
I'm super excited to be part of a new world. I'm excited about a world where adidas signs the "pay your workers" agreement and finally pays those workers in Cambodia.
Thanks to adidas, a new world is born today. Today we cut ourselves free.
(When "Marshmello" says his last line, the Lisbon Breakers freeze in a position, holding one of them arms out in a crucifix position. At this point, Threads & Tits emerge and use giant scissors to ceremonially cut all the Lisbon Breakers free from their bonds as "Aristide" talks.)
"ARISTIDE": And now, ladies and gentlemen, the time has come to show you, with the help of a brand-new hit track from Marshmello, the place that solves all the problems that come with outsourcing. It is nothing less, Web Summit friends, than an entire virtual world called the adiVerse.
In the adiVerse, workers who cannot afford even one good meal every day will be able to live richly beyond their dreams, and even the destitute can live full and rewarding lives even without "real" money — because a tiny implanted device measures their labor directly, and generates — via blockchain! — a currency called the adiCoin.
This virtual world is currently being tested by mid-level adidas managers. But it exists for the workers.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you... the adiVerse! Marshmello, hit it!
("Marshmello" drops his new song, while two massive screens display a profoundly demented "live" video feed of the adiVerse. Meanwhile, the Lisbon Breakers do some truly spectacular dancing.)
1. adidas' History of Wage Theft (Clean Clothes Campaign) is a great source for cases of adidas's wage theft, severance theft, etc. For Cambodian cases alone (not just adidas), see "Fashion brands fail to address pandemic-era wage theft in Cambodia: Garment workers deprived of $109 million." Of course adidas is far from alone in this.
2. For more on the systemic problem of outsourcing, and how to fix it, see ______.
3. Adidas knew Kanye West / Yeezy / Ye was a Nazi sympathizer from the get-go. See "Kanye and Adidas: Money, Misconduct and the Price of Appeasement" (New York Times).
4. Adidas used forced labor during WWII. See Adidas - Wikipedia, Was Adidas Founded by a Former Nazi? | Snopes.com, etc.
5. "Adolf Dassler's wife convinced the American soldiers that the company and its employees were only interested in manufacturing sports shoes. American occupying forces subsequently became major buyers of the Dassler brothers' shoes." (From Adidas - Wikipedia.)