Doing The Opposite

Is Prada’s version of the Superstar in their collaboration with Adidas a jab at the prevalence of overwrought, clunky sneakers? Or is boring the new ugly?


By Ray Zhang

Last week, to announce their collaboration, Prada and Adidas teased with an image of a Prada paper bag packed with two shoe boxes—one of them in the blue we’ve come to associate with the maker of the Stan Smith. Someone sent me that photo accompanied by a two-word text: “nice meh?”

I wasn’t sure if that question was directed at the photography, the styling of the shot, the two shoe boxes stuffed side by side in a bag, or the thought of Prada pairing with Adidas. It couldn’t be about the shoe since we don’t know until today that the Superstar would be the object of Prada’s collab desire. I left that as an open question.

I don’t know about you and I can’t say for that enquirer, but when I saw the above image that went online this afternoon, I was massively disappointed. Was Prada designing the footwear for a nursing school? Sure, sneakers of white (now a season-less colour) are a staple in any collector’s stash, but for a brand that never shies away from colours that err on the odd (and chromatic pairings that are offbeat), white—a blinding “Optic” white, to be precise—is a little lame. And, too easy.

As these kicks involve Prada, they are made in Italy and come with full-grain leather upper, except the rubber shell-toe. This pristine composition sits on a rubber cup-sole with herringbone pattern on the underside. For those who like their kicks sold in limited numbers, this Superstar will delight: serial digits appear on the side of the heel tab to affirm the shoe’s quantity control. A total of 700 pairs will be released and each pair is numbered.

Repeatedly dubbed “a pop-culture icon”, the Superstar is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. That may explain Prada’s interest in a sneaker known to be exceedingly minimalistic—only the Stan Smith looks plainer. As I look closer at the sole image released then (and enlarging it to be sure I didn’t miss the details of the shoe), I realise that Prada had no intention of doing Yohji Yamamoto’s Superstar, with stitching to represent the Three Stripes that are so long, the wearer risks triping over his step. Or, anything that appears overweening.

This is likely Prada’s response to the unmissable and exaggerated sneaker, ‘dad’ versions included. Leave the NMDs to Pharrell Williams, the Ozweegos to Raf Simons. The Superstar—it shall look like a blank canvas. For a brand that has come up with countless unimaginable shoes and is loved for them; bare, empty, plain, as I see, give boring a clear, audible voice.

Prada X Adidas Superstar is reported to be out on 4 Dec 2019. No pricing is available yet. The shoe is pictured with a Prada X Adidas bowling bag, but it isn’t certain if the shoe comes with it, or is sold separately. Photo: Prada/Adidas