31 October 2019

Creating Fashion Objects: Sneaker Collaborations

Spring/Summer 2019
i-D Magazine Editorial
Photographer: Sasha Samsonova
Models: Teyana Taylor & Gilda Ambrosio










I dismissed Jerry Lorenzo's work for the longest time thanks to the adoption of the Fear of God aesthetic into the fuccboi uniform a few years ago. Speaking of which: what is the fuccboi uniform these days, and is there even a defined singular aesthetic anymore? I suppose there are multiple avenues, what with eboys, those TikTok kids, and the Instagram streetwear look with the oversize sweatshirt, white polo shirt buttoned up, exposed necklace, cropped trousers and chunky sneakers (which literally reminds me of British school kids, so it is unfortunately a rather infantile aesthetic to my mind). Anyhow, back to Jerry Lorenzo - his Nike collaboration came along and the sneakers forced me to pay attention. From the Air Fear of God 1s, to his reinterpretation of the Air Raid, I really do enjoy the risk he took in creating entirely new models. Lorenzo used his own Fear of God lasts in order to provide the sneakers a sleeker toebox and that rather recognisable profile. The sole with the small exposed air unit that features heavily across multiple models was also a nice change to the floating window or more contemporary Air Max units where parts (if not all) of the midsole are essentially formed of giant air bubbles.

As mentioned in the past I also loved Lorenzo's take on the existing Skylon II model, which was released as a "Recrafted" model. He employed felt and mesh on the exterior true to the original, albeit with a patent swoosh, while the interior was lined in a buttery soft leather for a touch of hidden luxury. I actually ended up buying a pair for my own wardrobe, which goes to show how much I liked them because in the past year I have won raffles for Yeezys, Off White Nikes, Sacai Nikes, and Undercover Nikes, and flipped all of them. I really am grateful for the insane resale prices because they helped me buy more fashion books and pay for my cat's vet bills. There is also the fact that I admittedly have weird taste when it comes to footwear, but as long as I can get the sneakers I like for under retail I take that as a definite win.

I really am fascinated by the sneakers that emerge from designer collaborations, because I believe that sneakers are the closest thing we have to democratization in fashion. Everybody wears sneakers, from toddlers to CEOs of billion dollar businesses, and you can find them being worn in just about every single country on Earth. They are now a mass cultural object, and whereas footwear in general has historically been a highly gendered object, sneakers have slowly begun to mend that divide. To be sure there are still a number of lazy women's only releases that are just pink colorways, but the fact that more women's sneakers are being released in extended size runs means that those with larger feet can actually take part. Sneakers make up the largest segment of the footwear market worldwide, which I always find amusing given that there is infinitely more academic writing on high heels than sneakers, although thankfully that is changing. In light of this I find designer collaborations so intriguing because they deftly mark the passage of how a cultural object is transformed into a fashion object.

Whether it is Rick Owens with his Adidas Springblades (I still want to try a pair of those on and bounce around), Karl Lagerfeld's luxurious take on the Reebok Insta Pump Fury for Chanel's Spring/Summer 2001 collection, or more recently Chitose Abe and Virgil Abloh's respective Nike collaborations, and Kiko Kostadinov's original models with Asics, there is a wealth of interesting design. Admittedly there are also some shoes that you can probably skip. Raf Simons did an amazing job with the Adidas Ozweego, but how anyone spends money on his overpriced Stan Smiths puzzles me, because they are just ordinary Stan Smiths with an "R" formed of perforations along the sides. I am also not entirely sold on any of the Stella McCartney Adidas sneakers either, although the performance clothing is nice. Jun Takahashi (the designer of Undercover) also creates really nice performance clothing with his Gyakusou line in collaboration with Nike, which provides some of the coolest running gear around.

When speaking of collaborations between fashion and sports brands, the gold standard for me will always be Yohji Yamamoto's work with Adidas. Y-3 was formed in 2001 and in the years since has undeniably changed sneaker culture, opening up the space for the vast number of designer collaborations we see today. More than that, Y-3 is actually how I was first introduced to Yohji. I was around sixteen years old and I came across some Y-3 sneakers, which had the name Yohji Yamamoto printed down the side of them. I looked the name up online and found not only the Y-3 catwalk collections, but also his mainline labels. That was the exact moment where my awareness of Fashion began. It was the first time that fashion clicked for me and became something I aspired to wear. I have been fascinated by clothing for as long as I can remember, but that was when my interests went from dress to fashion.

I also believe that sneaker collaborations provide designers with a truly unique opportunity, if only because of the research budget and technology available to sports brands such as Nike and Adidas. They pump millions of dollars into research and development to create some of the most cutting edge wearable technology around. I remember when Nike's Flyknit first came out, with its featherweight yarn upper that utilised computational design, and being amazed at the technology. It took four years of research and experimentation to produce the first Flyknit sneaker. Nike's Vapormax model took seven years, and the mold for the sole unit is composed of over 39,000 components, which would have been entirely unthinkable just a few years ago. And then there is the Vaporfly Next%, which was worn by Eliud Kipchoge recently to break the sub two-hour marathon for the first time in history, which absolutely blew my mind. Over at Adidas you have the Futurecraft 4D with its 3D-printed sole made using liquid polymer, that took years of research and molecular science to design and create. Their efforts in creating fully recyclable sneakers, alongside their Parley collaboration, which recycles waste ocean plastics to produce sneakers with no discernible negative when it comes to performance or comfort, is also fantastic to see.

While there are designers such as Iris Van Herpen achieving truly remarkable technological feats in fashion, the majority of fashion brands are understandably unable to compete with the research and development of the major sports brands (not that they have to, because it is two entirely different fields). I really do feel that it must be a fascinating experience for designers to have the chance to employ such advanced technology, which the majority of wearers do not even think twice about, in order to create new products that usually end up having a broader consumer base by virtue of the size of the sports brands. The future of fashion and footwear technology really does excite me, and both come into play with sneaker collaborations (and performance clothing collaborations). We are living in the future and I can't wait to see what comes next. 

xxxx

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