New Balance’s Fanciest

The retro-leaning UXC72BB2 is the coolest silhouettes from NB yet

New Balance has been doing rather incredible things to their sneakers. Like so many athletic brands, they look back to see what they could bring back to the present, and with panache. But rather than hybridising or deconstructing, or, as the trend seems to be, creating a new bombastic heel, New Balance enhances the selected kicks’ old-school vibes, with a strong fashion hand. This is so true of the XC-72, a relook at at least two other silhouettes, the 237 and the 327 (our current favourite). The running-shoe-of-yore vibe is unmistakable, and with the visible outsole threads, reminds us of the very appealing and able Loewe Flow Runner. The New Balance XC-72 is, of course, more affordable, but no less stylish. The brand even boldly describe is as “aggressively experimental”.

Part of its appeal to us as fashion-forward kicks is the colour story, which New Balance simply called “Bone/Multi”—a neutral base on which colour-blocking is judiciously applied. Some sneakerheads call it “retro-futuristic”. We would not go that far, preferring to see the chromatic partnership as part Marni, part Junya Watanabe. The suede and nylon upper is primarily split in the middle to allow different colours to take up space on both sides. What’s additionally appealing is that the outsole too is halved: bi-coloured lengthwise, with a thick black line that runs through the middle. In the front, near the toe box, you can see the threads. At the rear, the heel and the heel clip are split, allowing the mid-sole the jut out (those who wear US size 11 and above, do watch out when you are alighting an MRT train!).

The XC-72 first launched in August as a collaboration with the French label Casablanca, one of the winners of last year’s LVMH Prize. We weren’t too crazy about the candy-wrapper colours at that time, and did not pay much attention to the sneakers. Then came this uncollaborated release. The dusty colours, geometrically applied, truly give the shoes new life, and just in time. We are not putting ourselves through another raffle (Nike X Sacai X Clot!!!) and we were starting to get bored with those kicks that still ride on the faded glory of ugly.

New Balance XC-72 “Bone/Multi”, SGD189.00, is available at DSMS and the New Balance e-store. Product photos: New Balance. Illustration: Just So

In And Out Of Subway Cars

Kolor reprises their spring/summer 2022 show with an IRL presentation in a Tokyo mass rapid train

Tokyo, despite the inner-city madness that it often is, provides likely and unlikely locations for fashion shows. From serene gardens to manic metro lines, they offer context for the clothes that Japanese designers dream up, frame of reference not seen on an indoor, purpose-built runway. Kolor’s repeat showing of their spring/summer 2022 collection for Rakuten Fashion Week is a total opposite of its digital show—a walk-on-the-spot presentation filmed in a studio. In contrast, the IRL version takes place in a working train, with guests seated as passengers. The brand is, of course, known to ardently embrace the city in which it is based. Past marketing campaigns and look books were shot in the heart of the capital, sometimes in the busiest areas, in total oblivion to the daunting pedestrian traffic. This time, models are sent through a Tokyo subway platform and train—unmistakable Nippon transportation settings, except for the absence of body-against-body commuters. Too quiet, in fact, to be even off-peak hours.

The lack of frenzy is possibly due to Kolor’s choice of station—this is not Shinjuku. The start of their commute is not at any that obvious, or an eki on the looped Yamanote Line. Instead, the less-known Keikyu Kamata Station (京急蒲田駅) on the privately-operated Keikyu Line is picked. Situated in Ota (大田区, also Ota City), in the Southeast tip of Tokyo, the station lies in what’s considered the hub of the ward—a stone’s from Haneda Airport—that goes back to Edo times. Although Keikyu Kamata station was not errected back then, it is still considered of advanced years—120! Rebuilt and refurbished a few times, it sits in the heart of a ward known as “the centre of Japanese technology”. It is in this off-beat location, a distance from the typical show venues of the capital’s centre, and considered where one might encounter “the real face” of Tokyo, that Kolor showed its collection, amid true local colour.

The runway comprises of the interior of a chartered four-car Keikyu train and the platform of Keikyu Kamata Station itself, where the line arrived (destination reads “charted”) from Shinagawa (品川区)—the ward to the north of Ota City—with the invitees of the show seated socially-distanced. Students, presumably from fashion schools, line the platform. When the train stops, the doors open as they normally do. But there’s no waiting for the show to begin (or anyone to exit). Hardcore techno beat comes on and models emerging from an escalator onto the above-ground platform—just like commuters—immediately enter the first car and walk down the aisle. There is something more substantive in this presentation than the digital version showed during the Paris calendar in June. This is not make-belief. This is not styled for a runway. This is a real (too real?), everyday setting that is familiar among those who need to commute via public transport daily, on-trend fashion in stride. The models look like Tokyo urbanites already populating the city—in a haste, strikingly turned-out, supremely confident.

The co-ed collection, in many ways, reflects the city too. While Tokyo is not as plural as our island, their fashion consumers are, including those willing to adopt styles that are not too everyday, or slack. In Tokyo, contemporary popular culture may clash with traditional aesthetics, but what designer Junichi Abe creates are not weird clothes worn only by certain fashion tribes; these are amalgamated looks one could easily witness in any of Tokyo’s busy trains and on their teeming platforms. As Mr Abe said, in an interview with show organiser Rakuten, “beautiful things, ugly things, and dirty things are mixed, and even though there is a sense of discomfort and anxiety, they (customers) accept as beautiful”. Additionally, Kolor’s choice of Keikyu Kamata Station augments the city’s reputation for having the best mass rapid public transport in the world. It posits the city itself, with all its chaotic madness and modern precipitancies, as the ideal backdrop for seventeen-year-old Kolor’s splendid urban designs. To underscore—or contrast—its aesthetic strength, they need not show in Tokyo’s equivalent of a kampong.

Screen grabs: by R, Rakuten Fashion