Sneaker collaborations have become a necessary part of the footwear business, it almost seems impossible to find a pair of kicks that isn't a joint effort. The best collaborations accurately reflect all parties involved, while offering consumers something new that transcends traditional hype. This year especially, it was all about special textiles, colors and patterns to make classic styles pop.
Casual sneakers are arguably easier to design because the focus is purely on aesthetics rather than performance. It's been a great year for Converse First String and one of the brand's most successful partnerships this year came between Canadian sportswear brand Reigning Champ and the Chuck Taylor Ox model. The lowtop silhouette rendered in Reigning Champ's heavyweight terry cotton in both heather grey and navy (and lined in pale blue) Oxford material is clean and simple. What makes this collaboration so impactful is the execution – wearing sweatpants material on your feet has never looked so civilized.
Converse First String also teamed up with Missoni, for their own spin on untraditional textiles used in footwear called The Converse Missioni Archive Project. Signature deadstock Missoni fabrics from the archives were used in conjunction with the Converse Pro Leather and Auckland Racer models, to create a bespoke collection, for Parisian retailer Colette during Paris Fashion Week. Unfortunately, this specific collection is limited to only twenty pairs, but it really illustrates how well sneakers can provide a true fusion of fashion and function.
Selvedge denim is one of the most popular apparel textiles and on December 14th, Ronnie Fieg and his store KITH is releasing a sneaker that utilizes the material beautifully. The latest Gel Lyte III by Fieg, features a deep indigo denim upper and contrasting red and white accents, for a sleek style that will surely get just as many wears as your favorite pair of jeans.
Pattern play has been a trend in fashion for the past few seasons, from head to toe. The new Kenzo creative team Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, worked with Vans to create accessibly priced printed kicks for their own boutique chain, Opening Ceremony (for both men and women). The bright and whimsical patterns, juxtaposed with the classic Vans Era silhouette, made them the perfect addition to both neutral outfits looking for a pop of pattern as well as more wild ensembles that went for prints all over.
Camouflage and animal print are two designs that are seemingly always in and out of trends, but this season both were used in abundance in sneakers. On the camouflage tip, one of the most successful collaborations was between camo kings A Bathing Ape and UNDFTD with adidas, in creation of the Consortium ZX5000. The all over neutral colored camouflage print was complemented with tonal olive green touches on the upper and midsole, red, white and blue stripes and a gum sole. The result was eye catching, yet not overwhelming busy or cluttered.
Animal print can often be styled in an overwhelming feminine manner or cheap manner (word to Peggy Bundy.) However, Clae's collaboration with standout Japanese brand Maiden Noir is both masculine and effortless. The Strayhorn midtop Chukka model feature an all over animal print and leather detailing including laces to elevate the sneaker to a sophisticated taste level without compromising comfort.
Prints dominated both men's and women's sneakers this year and respect must be between the Nike and Liberty collection. The all-over floral prints polarized sneaker fans, but the use of the signature pattern finally delivered a line of shoes to ladies who craved a fashion forward style.
A signature colorway can kill or make a sneaker collaboration. Respect must be paid to Jeff Staple for the Staple and Size New Balance 577 "Black Pigeon." The most recent version of the classic colorway is now part of sneaker lore and it's executed beautifully on the New Balance timeless silhouette. The rich materials and pops of bright color really helped this shoe fly off the shelves and elevate it above hype.
Bright colors may not always be the first choice for those buying new kicks, but it's hard to deny the beauty of the New Balance MT580 collaboration between French boutiques LaMJC and Colette and American's UNDFTD. The saturated shades of navy and red and white in the midsole, pack a sartorial punch utilizing New Balance's rich materials. The red, white and blue is a nod to both countries without obnoxiously displaying their heritage.
Finally, sneakers are great way to insert humor in your outfit and take risks that you may not in your apparel. The "When Pigs Fly" Nike SB Dunk High Premium by Concepts are both cheeky and chic. The pale pink upper, blue swoosh and laces and flying pig lace locks prove that real men can wear pink. While these kicks might be tough to find, like the other aforementioned collaborations they're high quality and a stylistic way to show your fashion appreciation in your footwear using color, print or fabrics. Just do it.