Visited: Leftfoot

Our island’s earliest indie sneaker store Leftfoot has always been a trail blazer in terms of product offering and shopper experience. Their new store at Mandarin Gallery sees the retailer in fine facile form

By Ray Zhang

Fond memories accompany me whenever I visit the Leftfoot store. I still remember their first in Far East Plaza in the mid-2000 (yes, Far East Plaza had a lot more going for it than their sad present (but Gen-Zers won’t remember). Leftfoot exposed me to the world of limited-edition kicks, as well as those in colours not offered in the regular releases available elsewhere here, before I visited Tokyo’s Atmos and Mita Sneakers for the first time. The Far East Plaza store closed, as were other cool stores such as the buzzy bag shop Trever, led by former Bodynits designer Gary Goh, and multi-label Ambush and Surrender (the first stockist of Supreme) set up by Earn Chen (also, later, Cherry Discotheque And Potato Head Folk), invariably dubbed “the poster boy” of the SG streetwear scene. In fact, if you go further back to, say 1982, there was even designer fashion—Thomas Wee’s first boutique! Yes, Far East Plaza was that happening even if, looking at it now, you would never have guessed.

Leftfoot was founded in 2003 by Anthony Ho and Kevin Lo, considered pioneers of the streetwear scene back then (Mr Ho started in the retail of vintage clothes). After their Far East Plaza venture closed around 2008, to the dismay of fans, they reopened Leftfoot in Cineleisure Orchard, then a youth-oriented shopping destination that seemed poised to take over from the old Heeren, but never quite did (now, in fact, it’s also, like Far East Plaza, a shadow of its former self). A larger store, intriguingly called Leftfoot Entrepôt, followed at The Cathay; it was a space put together with an edge not seen in sneaker retail then, designed as if for hanging out, with a wood-wall store front that practically obscured the going-ons inside. When both the Cineleisure Orchard and The Cathay stores closed in the middle of this year, some of us thought that what we considered an SG institution had come to an end, until they posted on Facebook that a “new location will be announced soon”. Sure, they continued to sell Via Facebook and Instagram (even offering free delivery for purchase above S$60) in the mean time, but, for me, seeing the kicks personally and being able to try them on makes a difference—massive difference. Moreover, I missed the indie vibe of their physical stores, which often made me feel like I was shopping overseas. Leftfoot is not Limited Edt.

That distinction is again made clear with the new Leftfoot store, opened on 16 July in the hard-to-defined (maybe that’s good) Mandarin Gallery. Since its reincarnation in Cineleisure Orchard, Leftfoot always has an edge about it. The store turns footwear retailing quite on its head, and in doing so, draws the attention of sneakerheads. (Sure, Limited Edt also sells, as its name suggest, some merch considered rare and available in limited numbers, but, to me, their stores have no personality and the friendliness level—even in not-quite-atas Queensway Shopping Centre—leaves little to be desired.) Leftfoot never has a window, at least not in the traditional sense of store windows. At Cineleisure Orchard, I remember, the first shelving unit of a single row of them on the left of the compact space, was situated right at the store front. Shoppers were picking up their fave kicks and trying them on the corridor of the mall! Conversely, at The Cathay, there was only an entranceway and shelves of shoes to the right. At both stores, no particular brand was given upfront prominence. Leftfoot seemed to draw mostly those in the know and those who know their kicks.

Their new space is, in contrast, a lot more orderly than I remember them to be. Not that Leftfoot was chapalang (messy) to start with, but at the Mandarin Gallery shop, the striking use of shelving units akin to cabinets in a compactor storage and archival system is eye-catching, and allows shoppers to zero in on the kicks they want quickly. The pale office-grey, too, heightened the pleasing orderliness. Additionally, I thought I sensed a seriousness about what they are doing, as if they are now really curating what they sell—the one-side sneakers on those metal shelves like prototypes ready for mass and limited production. The store has nothing blocking its full-glass front, not even a name. On the left, what looked like vintage traffic barriers were the only display, while on the right, a table on a pair of similar-looking trestles stood. I was in the store on a Thursday afternoon and it was, to my surprise, busy. I already had in mind what I wanted, but no sales staff could, at first, be spotted. When she finally appeared, she quickly came to my assistance, found the sneakers in my size for me to try (I sat on one of three small wooden stools dotted in a row in the centre of the store), and then offered to hold it for me at the payment counter while I made up my mind, and continued browsing. And then I spotted a watchman near the entrance, his vigilant gaze deterring would-be shoplifters, but when I left, he said “thank you” with a nod, amicably.

The Leftfoot Family and Friends Pop-Up Store

The Left Foot pop-up store at Mandarin Gallery

Like the old Leftfoot in Cineleisure Orchard, the store at Mandarin Gallery is accompanied by a sibling sale outlet on the same floor (interestingly also on level two). The staff at the main shop happily referred me to the Leftfoot Family and Friends Pop-Up Store as it’s known, “just behind the escalator”. This sale shop contrasts dramatically and charmingly to Leftfoot itself. While one is all sleek and minimalist and bright, the other is groovy with bohemian vibe, made even more palpable with the discernible smell of incense, wafting in a romantically-lit shoe-box space. Once inside, I thought I was transported to a store lost somewhere in the winding lanes of Harajuku, Tokyo. Nothing about the modestly-appointed pop-up screamed sale. Shoes and bags and other items—even mugs—were mixed with no discernible order, but neatly, as if in a sample room. The bazaar energy intensified the store’s browsability. This space, as I understand, is also an event area of sort, having played host previously to Obey and The Lucky Shop (aka 福乐店 or fu le dian). I would have loved to linger, but it was getting a tad crowded, and the shoppers, probably excited, were speaking too loudly.

It seems that Leftfoot has found itself in the right ’hood. Their immediate neighbours are Carhartt WIP (across) and the multi-label store Manifesto (next door). While not exactly a streetwear haven, Mandarin Gallery—with ‘big’ names fronting the four-story mall—seems to be attracting retailers that offer a street-centric point of view, such as the Euro-cool Manifesto, the goth shop L’amoire, and the alt-bent menswear store Supplies & Company. Some observes think Mandarin Gallery should better define their positioning, but I think it makes a better shopping experience if the mall is less predictable, less like its neighbours, less opposed to unknown/unfamiliar names. And more willing to go with an adventurous retail mix, which now, for a discernible on-going and distant good, includes the 18-year-old Leftfoot.

Leftfoot Family and Friends Pop-up Store will open till the end of year. Photos: Galerie Gombak

The Shoe Companion

Sean Wotherspoon is not the first to plonk a mini-bag on a pair of sneakers, and he won’t be the last

Sean Wotherspoon X Disney X adidas Originals Superturf Adventure SW

Who’d guess that sneakers will one day get their companion bags? Or, as sneakerhead-turn-retailer-turn-designer Sean Wotherspoon is wont to say, “No waaaay, duuude”. Our kicks these days must serve more than what they were originally designed for: sports. As fashion items, brands and collaborators need to do more to them. They can be accessorised! But, it is not good enough to hang useless danglies on them a la Off-White. There must be more that can be attached to a pair of sneakers, but not something pseudo-useful such as Mason Margiela’s iPhone holder strapped on to boots. Sean Wotherspoon, co-founder of Round Two, “the streetwear empire”, as Vice calls it, has hooked up with Disney and adidas Originals (collabs these days are a triumvirate) to conceive the Superturf Adventure, which as the name suggests is for multiple terrains. This is, according to social media blurbs, a sustainable shoes that is “vegan”. But perhaps what is most attention-seeking is the pouch that, like a kiltie, obscures the shoelace.

It is still hard to determine the usefulness of a little bag placed down there. What does one store inside that does not need to be within reach? Isn’t a similar pouch more practical if hung to a belt loop with, say, the aid of a carabiner? Bending down to one’s feet to tie undone shoelaces is an action that attracts no attention. But, reaching out southwards to retrieve something stored away in a pouch above the foot is not only odd, it’s a bodily move few would not call elegant. Assassins might conceal a dagger in the ankle of boots, but fashion types hardly have anything to put away so far down the leg—not even unattractive Trace Together tokens! SOTD contributor Shu Xie told us that the pouch is for keeping money on days when one does not wish to carry a wallet. Mothers often tell us not to carry our wallets conspicuously as doing so is tempting to would-be thieves. Perhaps to the three brands, money on feet—an area of the body usually considered unclean, and barely acceptable to the average nose—is less tantalising or rousing to the discriminating stealer?

Mr Wotherspoon could, in fact, be considered late to the bag-on-kicks club. In March, New Balance launched the ‘Utility’ version of the X-Racer, an already handsome shoe, now equipped with two flap-top stow-away pouches—in full-grain leather (including the upper)—on each side of each shoe, like a saddle, which means you would be walking about with a total of four pouches on your feet! The mini-bag is larger on the lateral side than on the medial side, which also comes with a zipper pocket on the upper. Plenty of storage, as it appeared, but, again, what can we real carry in them, all? The E-Race Utility came in three colourways, but the white is especially striking for the Hender Scheme-ish tan pouches and the similarly hued trail shoes-inspired outsole.

New Balance X-Racer Utility

Nike Jordan LS Slide

Prada Wheel Re-Nylon high-top

Perhaps it was Nike that foretold the future when, in May 2018, they released the Benassi JDI ‘Fanny Pack’, a slide, with an actual bum bag in place of the wide strap. Back then, we thought the fanny pack on bare feet to be an idea better on paper than on the metatarsus. After all, the waist bag was not going to include the foot bag as member of the family. Looks like we could be wrong now that fully-functional pouches are made specifically for footwear. Before the Superturf Adventure, there was Nike’s Jordan LS Slide. This too came with a removable pouch, or what the Swoosh distinguishes as a “stash pocket“ (that’s not the only detachable part. The slide can be given a heel strap so that it becomes a sandal!). Compared to Mr Wotherspoon’s fancier version (which includes elasticised slots and a ring) for Adidas, this pouch is rather basic, something national servicemen might recognise as a rifle magazine holder.

In fact, one of the earliest to incorporate little bags to their footwear is Prada. The “catwalk” Monolith mini bag lug dole combat boot, for example, is not only eye-catching, it certain draws your attention to the logo-ed oblong bag strapped to the side of the ankles. The idea seems to have come from the brand’s bags, such as the Re-Nylon shoulder bag, which comes with a similar pouch that can be attached to the shoulder strap. Their latest high-tops under the Re-Nylon series similarly spot the “mini bag”, which itself looks like something you can buy separately from their store’s accessory counter. The success of these unusually-placed pouches has even prompted Prada to include them on unlikely items such as gloves! Unsurprisingly, serial imitator Steve Madden has their version with the pouch-strapped Tanker-P boots too. Expect other brands to follow in no time.

Sean Wotherspoon X Disney X adidas Originals Superturf Adventure SW’s availability here is not known yet. Nike Jordan LS Slide, S$129, is available at nike.com. Prada Wheel Re-Nylon high-top sneakers, $1,980, is available at Prada stores. Product photos: respective brands

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

Torture To Go Through

Is it reasonable to spend an hour hitting keys on your smartphone repeatedly to score a pair of shoes and not be rewarded?

By Ray Zhang

“OOPS…” went the full-cap message. Is that the best Nike can do? I sat at my desk five minutes to ten, ready to hit my virtual keyboard on my smartphone so as to enter the necessary information to buy myself a pair of LDWaffle x Sacai x Fragment kicks, launched today on Nike’s SNKR site at 10am. At the precise moment, I selected my size, and hit “Add To Bag”. I was then linked to a page where all my purchase details were listed. I filled in my credit card info, and hit purchase. As if I was played by a ghost (which wouldn’t surprise me since this is the seventh lunar month!), I was brought back to the previous page. Not yet discouraged, I repeated this procedure another ten times at least, and finally I got to the page (above) that went “OOPS”! I would spend the next hour going between the page that asked for my shoe size and the one that expressed surprise at its own blunder. In the mean time, my fingers and my mind were begging for mercy. Despite the exercise I give my thumbs daily, this was still too much stress to expect of them.

Is it reasonable to ask anyone to spend an hour on the same page, doing the same thing, hitting the same keys, looking at the same numbers, reading the same “OOPS” message only to come up naught each time, and be filled with deep disappointment at how unpleasant the entire procedure was? When I checked the page at around 1pm, the shoes were “sold out”. It’s inconceivable to me that a company as massive and wealthy as Nike would put their customers through what I went through. And I was not the only one. Another 12 of my friends who tried came away empty-handed and frustrated—and cursing. One of them said to me, “It is wicked that the biggest brand in the world, with all the resources at hand, would do this to their customers.” If indeed one of the basic tenets of good service is never to let your customer wait (let’s not even talk about letting them down), why did Nike put so many of us through the torment? And if we’re more likely to remember a bad customer experience than good, why would Nike not make purchasing their shoes online even slightly more pleasant?

This is not my first time in such a maddening situation. For as long as I have been using the SNKR site to score a pair of shoes—okay, mostly the Nike X Sacai collabs—I would want to scream my lungs out. I knew my chances here would be as slim as the OG Waffle sole, so I entered the Club 21 raffle last week to, well, double my chance. But someone later told me I would also be wasting my time as Club 21 would likely avail whatever stocks they have to their top-spenders, and I am not one of them. Undeterred, I submitted my details for the raffle. Up till ten last night, I did not hear from them. No word this morning either, not a simple “thank you” for participating. However, on Instagram Stories earlier (close to midnight, I believe), they posted a photo of the shoes and the message, “All winners for the Nike X Sacai X Fragment raffle have been contacted via email. Congratulations to all and thank you everyone for joining.” Should I feel better?

Screen shot: nike.com

This Collab Now Involves Three

Why have two when you can add one more?

Is it possible that when there are more names to a collaboration, the end product would sell better? We might fear the too-many-cooks situation, but brands, especially those seriously trending, are not. In the case of Nike, Fragment Design, and Sacai, three in collaborative mode is the magic number. But how would the extra-name hype increase sales when these collaborative outputs would still be sold in ridiculously limited quantities and priced beyond the reach of the average sneaker lover? We don’t know. As sneaker collabs go, this two-easts-meet-one-west team-up is destined to make big what is already a major hit: the LDWaffle. This time, it is still unmistakably Sacai: double the Swoosh, heel counter, and tongue, and the more obvious the heel wedge, to better let fellow MRT commuters to step on it. But what makes this round of collaboration more desirable is the addition of the third name, spelled out noticeably on the heel wedge. After Fragment Designs, look out for Clot and Undercover, as we have been recently told, courtesy of Edison Chen’s teaser post on Instagram.

Sacai is, of course, the brand name on everyone’s lips these days. No sneaker designer Chitose Abe touches, it appears, does not turn to gold. At least with Nike, that has been the case, starting from the Nike Blazer Mid of 2019. Ms Abe’s former boss Junya Watanabe has, of course, been a long-time Nike collaborator, going back to his debut of the Nike Zoom Haven in 1999 (our favourite is the low-key Super Fly from 2001). At the launch of the Blazer Mid, not many sneakerheads thought Sacai could go as far as Junya Watanabe, but the former did. When the LDWaffle (hybrid of Waffle Daybreak and LDV) appeared in 2020, the sneaker space went berserk. About a year later, the staggering Vaporwaffle, with its gaping heel, sealed the deal and Sacai’s reputation as the collaborator that can produce extreme sneakers that sell was cemented.

That Fragment Design is in the triumvirate is not surprising. Hiroshi Fujiwara’s work with Nike goes back even further: to 2002 when the other threesome—Mr Fujiwara, Tinker Hatfield and Mark Parker (both from Nike) formed HTM (from the initials of their first names) and, later, HTM2, the project that would, hitherto, produce grail-level sneakers. Sneakerheads never get enough of his output, including those under the Air Jordan imprint. Nike’s global director of influencer marketing and collaborations, Fraser Cooke, once said to the media that Mr Fujiwara “has remained relevant for so long because he has good taste and a very acute sense of timing—he’s good at partnering with the right people at the right time.” And that he is a prolific collaborator helps too. The founder of Fragment Design’s other presently-trending collaboration is with Travis Scott, also in partnership with Nike—Air Jordan 1.

For this iteration of the LDWaffle involving Fragment Design, Mr Fujiwara picked a navy, later named Blackened Blue, as the shade of the mesh and suede upper. There’s something almost old-school about the kicks in this colour, a chromatic hush that Nike called “understated”. The heel wedge in white, acting like an underscore, comes with the branding of all three, with Nike’s known simply as ”the classic” (the double Swooches enough to take the place of a single four-letter name?). On the second (bottom) layer of the two tongues, Fragment Design’s logo of the double thunder bolt within a circle is immediately discernible. To fans, this is possibly the most important inclusion above all else. Read, even now, sold out!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

LDWaffle x Sacai x Fragment Blackened Blue, SGD249, will be available on the Nike e-store on 24 August 2021, 10am. Product photos: Nike

“If You Want A Pair, You Have To Buy Two”

From the look of the box, you’d never guess, there’s only one shoe inside

By Shu Xie

The cheerful salesperson at the Lego store was very quick to tell me, even before I could complete my question, that there is only one shoe in the box with the flip-up lid, not a pair. Frankly, I didn’t know that. I have never bought a single shoe before, nor do I know that shoes are sold singly! The recognisable blue boxes—stacked on the floor, as you might find in a shoe shop—certainly look like the regular ones: there is room in each for two. As if to placate my disappointment, she added helpfully, “you can choose right or left side”. Choose? They come as right or left? “No, but you can fix it as a right shoe or left.” Such thoughtful option! But when I looked at the built-up sneaker, placed on top of a shoe box in the acrylic showcase, I couldn’t tell if it was the left or the right (there is apparently a separate bag with the right parts for you to get the side you want). Despite the “real shoelaces” that Lego proudly announced, it appeared as it was—unwearable.

The Lego Adidas Originals Superstar is the toy maker’s first sneaker that is built with their plastic bricks, and conceived for adults. Adidas and Lego have collaborated before. There were shoes and even clothing (for kids, if I remember correctly), but never has there been the toy footwear. Like most of their special-edition items, Lego’s take on the Superstar is for display only. It is massive for a toy shoe—at least men’s size 15, I thought! But since it’s 27-centimetres in length, they are really a very common US size 9 (UK 8 or Euro 42.5), which would sit nicely on top of a book case. It comes with all the logos and trademarks to make it look “authentic”. And, you can even customise it with whatever bricks you already have so that they do not need to look monochromatic. It also comes with a clear stand so that you can prop up the heel (as seen in the photo above). A small plaque with description is also issued, so that the less informed will not mistake it for a Stan Smith!

At S$149.90, the one-sided Lego Adidas Originals Superstar (with a total of 731 pieces) is actually more expensive than the wearable version. I didn’t think it would be, but it is. At the Foot Locker, the regular Superstar in the same colour combination can be bought for S$139. An enticing bargain? But, soon to be released is a very real iteration of the Lego-fied Superstar—in a synthetic upper, but with no buildable parts. The Adidas Superstar X Lego costs S$200, or S$100 a side. A replica of a replica! And a price to match, but still cheaper than its plastic cousin!

The Lego Adidas Originals Superstar, SGD149.90, is available at Lego stores. Photo: Chin Boh Kay/SOTD

Return Of The Rockstud

Valentino’s beloved sneaker is back. With the help of Craig Green, it is looking its handsome best

Looks like it is through collaborations that you can create winning products. Valentino’s once-popular Rockstud range of shoes, bags, and accessories has had its halcyon days. In recent years, with the popularity of monograms, old and new, on almost anything, details such as studs have less drawing power. Valentino, aware that their cash cow Rockstud needs a makeover or “re-signification”, as the brand calls it, approached the star British men’s wear designer Craig Green to reimagine the sneaker version as footwear that would appeal to guys who are no longer drawn to a surfeit of fancy hardware on their kicks, such as Christian Louboutin’s once all-the-rage Spikes. Valentino calls this collaboration an era-appropriate “cultural exchange”.

Rockstud is almost a sub-brand in itself, much like Nike’s Jordan. Last year, Valentino celebrated its 10th anniversary with an announcement that they would open the Rockstud to chosen creatives to re-imagine the use of the house detail. Mr Green is the first to come onboard, as the “Rockstud X becomes a white canvas for new imaginary landscapes”, according to a press release at that time. Characterised by mainly metal pyramidal studs, Rockstud was an instant hit for Valentino. It’s introduction in 2010 in the form of heeled footwear was received enthusiastically. The almost punk studs contrasted effectively with Valentino’s usually ultra-feminine styles. And then came the Rockrunner, the kicks that would augment the growing obsession with luxury sneakers throughout the 2010s.

Mr Green has made the limited-edition Rockstud less a stud of a shoe. The upper is in surprisingly humble knit that looks rather perforated. With widely placed lacing, it sits on a rubber base that is almost entirely Rockstudded, except that Mr Green has removed any extraneous hardware and worked the studs (now oversized, and in rows and separated by what could be parentheses) as part of the entire sole, making the silhouette sturdy-looking and well grounded. This must the least flashy iteration of the Rockstud so far, yet it’s easily the Batmobile of shoes!

Valentino X Craig Green Rockstud, USD1,295.00. is available in four colours on valentino.com. Product photo: Valentino

The Wings On The Tongues

Nike’s latest iteration of their classic Air Force 1 is inspired by its namesake goddess. And it is poised to take flight

Nike has released some unusual versions of their Air Force 1 kicks for women. They are usually in colours not typically found in the men’s or in offbeat colour blocking, and so appealing that guys are often disappointed that those for them are left out of the chromatic makeover. Now, it’ll soon be releasing the Air Force 1 in the non-colour of pristine white, plus a little unexpected detail: a slip of a wing on the tongue of the shoe, peeking from beneath the crisscrossed lace. Given the overall ruggedness of one of Nike’s most recognisable kicks, this is a rather delicate touch, like a butterfly beginning to emerge from a chrysalis.

But Nike’s newest kicks are not inspired by a winged insect, rather by a winged goddess, specifically its namesake Greek deity, also known as the (seemingly trending) Winged Victory of Samothrace. Nike calls this version of the AF1 Goddess of Victory, dropping the suggestion of flight appendages in the moniker. Yet this able goddess is known for its visible wings (at least seen in the Hellenistic sculpture that resides in the Louvre). So Nike couldn’t avoid the wings. The tip of one is affixed visibly on the part of the shoe that, ironically, could be hidden under the hems of pants.

This isn’t the first time Nike has dedicated the AF1 to the (Winged) Goddess of Victory. In March, they launched the first version that was unlike anything the brand has done before. The upper of the shoe was given an additional layer. A rather scrunched up, paper-like fabric was sort of ‘pasted’ on top. On it was a blue drawing of the statue as seen in the Louvre. Nike described this as work based on the “folk art of paper cutting”. In fact, we think this version is more unusual and more eye-catching. And it isn’t the first time that wings are attached to sneakers. Back in the 2010s, Jeremy Scott partnered with Adidas (they are reportedly pairing again) to release a basketball shoe known unambiguously as Wings—a cartoonish version attached to the eyelets of the shoe and secured with the laces.

The wings of the AF1 Goddess of Victory is a sheer, exoskeleton appendage that veils the mesh padding of the tongue and extends beyond the tip (the Nike label on the tongue is still there). When worn, we suspect it could be mistaken for the lace trims of some fancy socks! The shoe’s upper comes in Epi leather and has been described as “premium”. It is not yet known if this is natural or synthetic. But if there’s anything a goddess deserves, it’s the real deal.

No release date is currently available. Check nike.com for details. Photos: Nike

Can Balenciaga’s New X-Pander Be The Next Triple S?

Loud, waiting-to-be-stepped-on sneakers may still be selling, but some of us are suffering from fancy footwear fatigue

No matter how we look at the X-Pander, Balenciaga’s new sneakers, they appear to us like kicks trapped in some contraption. Regardless of the angle too. Could this be a shoe ensnared in a rodent trap? Or one stuck in a Brannock device, the instrument used to measure a person’s shoe size? Is the rear elevation a high heel? Or a visible heel lift? Can you walk, let alone run in them? Balenciaga, of course, has been churning sneakers that defy conventional silhouettes, but it has not quite needed superfluous engineering. What’s really with the Track-looking shoe on a hydraulic lift? Or a car jack? Is this hi-tech gone mad? Or as the Chinese would say, zuo huo ru muo (走火入魔, to go overboard)?

With a shoe looking like that, questions naturally plaque the X-Pander. The crucial part: what is the “suspended heel” for? We have not seen the actual shoe, so we can only go by enthusiastic media reports. Apparently when worn, the heel of the X-Pander—mounted on a spring—extends, but take a step and rest your heel, it compresses, and your heel is back to the ground. Up, down, up, down, it goes. What all that mechanical action does for your walk (or run, if you’re so inclined) isn’t really clear. Some reports say that the rear set-up is to “ensure optimal comfort and cushioning”. How true that is can’t be determined by just looking at the pictures.

Already, the fashion press is calling the X-Pander “the next street-style blockbuster”. We’re expecting it to be frighteningly popular, of course, but would it influence the future design of sneaker heels not already changed by Nike X Sacai’s split/gaping version for the Vaporwaffle? When the Balenciaga Triple S was launched in 2017, many thought it was outrageously clunky, but it made other sneaker brands take notice. Dad shoes, as they became known, soon ruled, and more abominable kicks emerged. Every brand with a worthy sneaker had their own take on the Triple S. Huge and bombastic shoes blasted their way into popular taste. After four long years, satiated we really have become. And jelak too.

Balenciaga X-Pander, SGD$1,790, is available at Balenciaga, Paragon. Product photo: Balenciaga. Photo illustration: Just So

Go With The Flow

Loewe’s decidedly vintage-y sneakers

It is refreshing to see a pair of luxury sneakers not tethered to the bombastic. Loewe’s latest is clearly an ode to the time when sneakers were not “grailed” kicks that sneakerheads furiously hunt down or those that have to be satanised with human blood to be cool and valuable. The newly launched Flow Runner shares the more low-key aesthetics and silhouettes of the athletic shoes of the ’70s, which, for many, was the “the pinnacle of sneaker design”. Those still unable to grasp the phenom known as social media might remember Nike’s Tailwind or New Balance’s 327 (currently quite the deserving rage). Of, if you are of less advanced years, Nike’s also still-issued Air Pegasus. After a few years of flashy and clunky sneakers, it is unsurprising that brands are issuing those that are, shall we say, more sampan than schooner.

What could be an update of the Ballet Runner, the Flow has a welcome elegance about it, and is sleek, unlike the alien-looking clumps, Yeezys. We like the close-to-the-feet fit, and the simple upper of nylon and suede upper in shades of khaki, with the cursive-L monogram positioned on the side of the shoe, as if its military braiding. The not-shy rubber “wave” outsole, probably the longest ever seen on a running shoe, stretches to the rear, up the heel counter and is tucked under the heel notch, while in the front, it covers, in a tapered manner, the toe tip. The back does resemble the New Balance’s 327; it’s a detail that lovers of car shoes might appreciate. But, on a running shoe, we aren’t sure if there is any real advantage. Fashion footwear does not need technical superiority; it just has to look good. The Flow Runner certainly does.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Loewe Flow Runner, SGD990, is available for men and women at Loewe stores. Photo: Chin Boh Kay

Sneakers: Play Some More

Comme des Garçons sub-brand Play has released a new series of their popular Converse collaboration. It’s destined to sell out

Has Comme des Garçons Play co-created another winner? The CDG sub-brand—with that unmistakable heart logo, distinguished by a blunt chin—has been a hit since its inception in 2002. Their new kicks with Converse (a partnership that has spanned more than a decade) is likely going to be another sell-out at launch—this morning. For the latest, Play has worked its cheery logo into the side of the Jack Purcell, as if a pair of Hello Kitty-like mouthlessness is peeping from behind a wall. There is that bold line on the mid-sole that seems to underscore its sneaky appearance. The current iteration seems to us, the most fun since the born-in-Poland logo debuted on the 86-year-old Jack Purcell in 2011. Yep, a neat ten years ago.

CDG die-hard fans have generally ignored the “entry-level” Play, which to some is disagreeably commercial (there are even clothes for kids!), and usually not adopted by those who could pull CDG off with panache. The Play line has not changed much within its various product categories, T-shirts being perennial best-sellers. But the Converse kicks have the rare quality of being both cute and cool at the same time. In 2019, Sneaker Freaker magazine calls the Chuck Taylor version “the decade’s most influential sneaker”. Despite its obvious charm, the sneakers, also seen in the Chuck 70, have been resisted by some sneaker fans, such as SOTD contributor Shu Xie, who told us that she has not bought a pair for herself because the plain canvas sneakers “are reminiscent of school.” In addition, “most versions are in white (or off-white), which say to me, ‘nurse’!”

That would not be the reaction with the current release. The base colour of the still-cotton canvas kicks is now grey, a perfect tone and density for those find white too ‘nurse-y’ and black too harsh. The logos—three altogether (two on each side and one, dissected, on the back)—are big and bold, and available in black or the OG red. In addition, the silhouette of the Jack Purcell is closer to smart than anything by Vans, and far more flattering for feet than anything by Yeezy. To quote a particular cyborg, resistance, this time, is possibly futile.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Comme des Garçons Play X Converse Jack Purcell sneakers, SGD220, are available from today at Comme des Garçons and DSMS. Product photos: Comme des Garçons Play. Collage: Just So

US$12 Dollars For A Pair Of Gucci Sneakers?

What you pay is real, what you get is virtual

By Shu Xie

Are you so desperate to own a pair of normally expensive Gucci kicks that you are willing to part USD12 (approximately S$16) for a Net version? It seems many are. Or, Gucci seems to think so. They have just ‘launched’ virtual sneakers so that you can wear them on your digital hooves for slightly less than, as I discovered, the McDonald’s 2X Sausage McGriddles with Egg Extra Value Meal (+ French Fries). The avatar fashion for feet, even if un-pedicured. And you can then post the superimposed sneakers on your social media pages and appear as if you’ve been to a Gucci store and bought a pair yourself, at a mere fraction of the boutique price. There must be some draw in that?

Yet, I don’t understand the potential appeal of these untouchable digital-only sneakers. Maybe I am just not aware that Gucci is now truly the first love of geeks and increasingly discovered by gamers (no longer unique to Burberry?). The shoes—just one style—look to me like they might have been designed by the programmers behind Neon Tiles Space Hop. Called Gucci Virtual 25 (apparently Michele Alessandro’s fave number), they probably look fetching on Buzz Lightyear too. You put them on as you would an AR face filter, but instead of rabbit ears, you get Gucci kicks.

The key feature of the sneaker appears to be the double-G logo-ed bottle cap-like dial just above the laces (you can’t miss it) that presumably allows the wearer to auto-lace up. This bears no resemblance to the US-born BOA Fit System, which saw New Balance among the early adopters back in 2017. Everything about the virtual shoe just looks cartoonish, and likely more so on 4K-filmed feet!

Gucci has, of course, embraced everything virtual enthusiastically. Not content with dressing the characters on Zepeto (including footwear), they want to help us get virtually shod. And throughout our digital life (do we now participate in Zoom meetings with our feet up?). Our online appearance at feet level must be so slack that Gucci sees a money-making opportunity to improve the appearance of our chosen footwear. Surely, they’re better off at creating finer-looking real shoes than making those that exist in apps or in the cloud?

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Screen grab: Gucci app