Decade of adidas Spezial to be celebrated in curator Gary Aspden’s hometown of Darwen

Published Wednesday 20 March 2024 at 20:00

The Lancashire market town of Darwen is set to host an international adidas exhibition to celebrate 10 years of its successful Spezial range.

A lifelong three stripe fan, Gary, who previously headed up the label’s Entertainment Team globally, created the concept for the adidas Spezial range back in 2014.

It’s a modern, premium, archive-inspired range of footwear, apparel and accessories which has often celebrated and taken inspiration from his proud Lancashire roots.

Over the past ten years the Spezial range has released a host of products that give nods to the area from the Feniscowles jacket to the Intack SPZL trainers and the Sudell tracksuit.

The free exhibition will be called ‘DECADE – 10 years of adidas Spezial’ and will run for ten days across two weeks from May 17th with a full programme of events being planned.

Gary is passionate about the importance of bringing cultural events to support regeneration in towns like Darwen as he has demonstrated on numerous occasions.

Back in 2019 his team hosted a large scale adidas exhibition in neighbouring Blackburn – drawing in die hard Spezial fans from right around the world.

Furthermore, his team launched the LG2 SPZL shoe with Liam Gallagher at an intimate charity gig with the star at Blackburn’s King George’s Hall.

In 2021, Gary also convinced C.P. Company to bring their 50th anniversary in a repurposed underground car park in Darwen – attracting a number of famous faces to the town – from Dynamo the Magician to Goldie and Shaun Ryder.

All these events have helped to raise vital funds for local homelessness charity, Nightsafe – a charity Gary is passionate about and has supported for many years.

Announcing the new exhibition, Gary said: 

Blackburn with Darwen is regarded as the birthplace of Spezial – graphic designer Gary Watson who works on the range with me is also based here – so it feels appropriate to celebrate its 10-year anniversary here in my hometown.

I have a connection to Darwen that I find difficult to explain or verbalise.

When I’m creating Spezial collections, I often draw on my personal experiences in my youth as a source of inspiration.

Darwen and Blackburn – where my mum is from – in many ways have made me into the person I am.

I like to celebrate the area and I’ve often used locally relevant names for Spezial products.

I suppose by hosting this new exhibition here in Darwen, it’s my way of saying thank you.


The last adidas exhibition in the borough marked the launch of the much-celebrated Blackburn SPZL shoe with Blackburn with Darwen Council helping to secure the legal rights to be able to use the name.

There are plans in place this year to release an anniversary version of this now highly collectible shoe.

The adidas Spezial team have worked with a number of famous faces for their marketing campaigns, including on films for recent collections with actor Stephen Graham and footballer Roy Keane.


Gary, a die-hard Blackburn Rovers fan, added:

People often question why I’m so keen to keep doing things locally when these exhibitions could be anywhere in the world.

I just hope that the projects help show what can be possible with a bit of investment and imagination.

This new exhibition will once again attract thousands of people to Blackburn with Darwen and we’re looking forward to running it over the same weekend as Darwen Live – the largest free music festival in the whole of the UK.

I have a huge amount of respect for the people who are involved with that event as I believe it’s been pivotal in transforming Darwen into a great town for a night out – boosting the nighttime economy in the process.

More details about the event will be announced on Gary’s Instagram in the coming weeks.

It’ll include an exhibition, evening events and an education programme to help inspire younger generations.

The exhibition is set to be hosted in Darwen town centre in an empty shop space recently leased by Blackburn with Darwen Council as part of its £120m regeneration plans for the town.

Decade of Spezial – Cllr Riley with Gary Aspden

Councillor Phil Riley, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: 

We are incredibly proud of Gary and what he’s achieved with adidas, including the super successful Spezial line.

We are also grateful that he continues to choose to showcase our borough with these events, which really are incredible.

Gary has been visionary in his determination to help regenerate our towns through culture, something we’re passionate about here in Blackburn with Darwen and are really making waves with.

His journey from an East Lancs lad to a curator with adidas is fascinating and we hope this new exhibition will help inspire others to live their dreams.

You can read the full interview with Gary on 10 years of Spezial by clicking here.

For all the latest updates on Spezial and the events, follow Gary.Aspden on Instagram.

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