WOMEN WHO DARE Rachel Muscat.
As global collaborations director of adidas Originals, Melburnian RACHEL MUSCAT has creative geniuses on standby. By GEORGINA SAFE
RACHEL MUSCAT has to push her phone interview with BAZAAR back by 40 minutes because she’s stuck in Los Angeles’s notorious traffic after a full day of meetings with Pharrell williams. “no matter how many times I come here, I’m still bad at judging the best time of day to catch a taxi or an Uber,” she apologises.
Muscat is in LA a lot. In her role as global collaborations director of adidas Originals, she has forged highly successful partnerships with some of the city’s highest-profile residents, including Pharrell, Kanye West, fashion designer Jeremy Scott and Opening Ceremony founders Carol Lim and Humberto Leon. with some of her most notable recent projects including Pharrell’s Supercolor Superstar sneakers collection and West’syeezy range, it’s no surprise Muscat is one of fashion’s most sought-after figures, with a passport that has almost every country stamp from around the globe. “I’m on the road every two weeks and that could be to anywhere in the world,” she says. “i try to sleep on flights, but friends say exercise is also really good for jet lag, so I’ll probably try to find more time for that.”
It’s understandable if Muscat hasn’t always managed to find time. Based between Portland, Oregon, where adidas has its North American headquarters, and Herzogenaurach in Germany, the location of the brand’s global HQ, she says her schedule stretches to particularly long hours to accommodate the time difference. “If I’m in Germany, I have to work later to catch the LA and Portland time zone, and if I’m in Portland or LA I seem to always be on a 7am conference call with head office,” she says.
Muscat’s globe-trotting existence, rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in music and fashion (“It was Pharrell’s birthday earlier this week, so we made him some special shoes and gave him a birthday cake”) is a world away from her upbringing in Melbourne, where she grew up tagging along with her two older sisters, who had the streetwear brand Mytiko in the ’90s. “Being around my sisters during the early ’90s rave and hip-hop culture really let me see a world not many get to see at such a young age,” she says. “I was only 12 years old, but watching them design and seeing those music and fashion subcultures really stuck with me.”
Muscat began her career in marketing in Melbourne, where she worked for the 2006 Commonwealth Games before moving to Hong Kong at 23, applying for a job with adidas in 2007.“The adidas job combined my experience watching my sister’s fashion business with my experience working in sport for the Commonwealth Games,” Muscat says. She rose swiftly through the ranks, leading to her current role working with the likes of Mary Katrantzou and Palace skateboards. Despite the diversity of her partners, Muscat says the qualities she looks for in a collaborator are always the same: “It’s about an authentic relationship between you and that partner, and being able to bring something fresh to the consumer and to the industry,” she says. “you have a responsibility to make sure that what you do is not just a cut-copy. you have to challenge each other to do something unique and interesting.”
Projects with Kanye and Pharrell have been particular highlights. “kanye is a creative genius,” she asserts, adding that Pharrell’s strength lies in inspiring and nurturing his colleagues. “what Pharrell is really great at doing is bringing his team along for the journey.” In 2015, adidas launched Pharrell’s 50-hue Supercolor range and reported sales of more than $21.5 billion, making the year its most profitable to date (2016 saw more growth) and Muscat one of the industry’s most influential figures. But street and youth culture are ever-changing, and Muscat says it’s crucial she never rests on her laurels. “it’s really about listening to your network and the people you have around you,” she says of staying on top of new trends. “I’m in the very fortunate position where my job allows me to have access to a lot of these amazing icons and fashion designers, so you are constantly seeing the insides of their worlds. But you also have to invest in your own cultural development, which for me means taking in as many new experiences as possible in the different cities I travel to, as well as going to lots of museums and seeing art.”
On a day-to-day basis, Muscat’s role involves everything from meetings with management, designers and factories to checking samples then devising sales strategies and deciding which city to launch a collection in. “it’s everything from the start of the development process to finally bringing those collections to life,” she says.
For someone with such an all-encompassing role, it’s fortunate that she prefers work/life boundaries decidedly blurred. “my work has become ... I don’t want to say my life, but more or less it has,” she says. “when you love what you do, you want to do it all the time.”