Second chance makes first class fashion career with Adidas

There’s no formula for the perfect educational journey. Some of us are ready when we leave school to choose our futures, while others need more time and life experience to figure it out.

For those that aren’t quite ready, university can be a difficult and disappointing experience. Gary Aspden was one such student, starting a degree at another university at 18 and dropping out before graduating. His story isn’t unusual. At what he describes as a “colourful and wayward time” in his life, he admits he “didn’t understand what the implications were” of not completing his degree.

It took a few more years for Gary to figure out what he wanted, and that education might be the answer to changing the “dead end” in his life. What he needed was a second chance, and just before his 25th birthday he got one. This time with us on a BA (Hons) Fashion Promotion.

Second time around it was very different for Gary. He was driven, “self-motivated and worked hard”. He knew what he wanted and enjoyed his studies. During his year in industry, he worked seven days a week, balancing internships (including spells working with Diesel, Giorgio Armani and Donna Karan) with part-time work to pay the bills, before graduating with first-class honours. He used his time here wisely, building up a list of industry contacts, one of whom inadvertently got him started in his career with Adidas.

"A massive thanks to UCLan. I am forever grateful to the people who gave me a second chance"

Gary Aspden, BA (Hons) Fashion Promotion graduate
Gary Aspden - photo credit Ki Price
Gary Aspden - photo credit Ki Price

Gary had been connecting an entertainment marketer with musicians he knew in exchange for free trainers. Although the marketer left Adidas, when her bosses realised how instrumental Gary had been in building her contacts list, they asked if he was interested in a job. As a broke but determined graduate, of course he said yes, and spent over nine years as an employee at Adidas, where he finished up as the Global Head of Entertainment Marketing before going freelance.

Since then, he’s featured twice in The Face magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in Fashion. He’s travelled the world, attending every major sporting tournament and music festival, meeting his heroes along the way, all in the name of fashion. He contributes to Arena Homme+ and, delivers guest lectures on fashion marketing and occasionally judges the Creative Marketing Award at Graduate Fashion Week. There’s no doubt that Gary is at the top of his field. His work has impacted and influenced the sportswear industry over the last two decades.

Gary is known and respected for his work with Adidas, which includes launching their global Originals range, and designing and curating the Spezial capsule collection. With his vast personal archive of vintage Adidas products, his knowledge of the brand is second-to-none. And his relationship with Adidas is still going strong; he’s now in his 24th year working on the brand in various capacities. Yet for all his success, he remains grounded, maintaining that “in truth my biggest achievements in life are outside of what I do for a living, looking after my family and friends, treating people how I like to be treated and being a dad to my teenage son.”

Now, we’re thrilled that he’s come back to his roots to share his expertise and experience as one of our Leaders in Residence. Generously donating his time for free to support the next generation of creative minds, some of them mature students just like he was, he’s come full circle, proving that second chances are worth taking.