Stan Smith: New Dirty Shoes

adidas Originals X Raf SImons SS 2016

Raf Simons and Celine’s Phoebe Philo OBE were the first two designers who elevated the profile of Adidas’s nearly-forgotten tennis sneakers, the Stan Smith, by wearing the white pair on the catwalk to take their customary bow at the end of their show. Mr Simons went one step further; he walked out onto the runway in soiled and rather beat-up Stan Smith that no mother will approve in her Lysol-ed home.

If people can be a hit in an Insta-second, so can shoes. In no time, fashionistas—interestingly, not sneakerheads—considered the sullied tennis classic positively cool and the only way to wear them. As if to ratify this thinking, Mr Simons belatedly released a version this season that is possibly a facsimile of his own shoes. These are definitely not tried-to-death display kicks.

By now, however, the Stan Smith, although still considered iconic, risks becoming the hackneyed choice of stylish footwear. Only a cursory glance is required to catch the many versions available, at all price points. So omnipresent is the plain tennis shoe outside a court that it is quickly nearing tear-your-hair dull. But, like clothes, they can be refreshed by not making them look fresh.

Dirtying perfectly clean shoes are rather similar, in terms of merchandising objective, to bleaching, staining, or paint-splattering otherwise perfectly good jeans, one of the very few garments of the fashion sphere that actually costs more when not looking perfectly new, or clean. Newness, as product development pros posit, surfaces from the appearance of old. Flog the horse and you can sell a more spirited steed. In fact, there’s such a desire and demand for tatty clothes and footwear that an entire industry has sprung up to make the new old, or at least, less new.

This really means, now you don’t have to go through extra lengths (or even step outside the front door) to get your pair of Stan Smith looking grubby, just as ragged jeans can be had without putting them through the paces in a coal mine. When improved digital products get tagged with a numeral mostly larger than the previous editions, should aesthetically worse-than-the-original shoes get named with a negative number? To be fair, Stan Smith Version -1.0 is really not the Raf Simons interpretation. The latter’s is far from tawdry. Like whiskered jeans, however, there is something oddly appealing about its scruffy appearance. When something looks used, you know it has had an earlier life, even if manufactured.

adidas Originals X Raf Simons ‘Aged’ Stan Smith, SGD499, is available at Ltd Edt Chamber, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands

Two Of A Kind: Pool Sliders Face-Off

Adidas vs Gucci slides

Top: Adidas ‘Adilette’ slide. Bottom: Gucci ‘Pursuit ’72 Slide’ sandal

Which came first? That shouldn’t be hard to guess, but for those whose retro-sense goes only as far back as 1990, when Tom Ford was installed as Gucci’s creative director, then it may require stating that the slippers seen here—now known as slide sandals, pool sliders, or simply slides—first appeared in 1972, when Adidas introduced the ‘Adilette’. Back then, these were thought to be for use in the bathroom or, worse, a descendant of the cha kiak—wooden clogs from a bygone era—that mothers gladly pointed out. Yet, there was something so anti-establishment about them, an alluring counterpoint to the favoured flip-flops of the time, that they caused a mini craze.

Gucci’s, as far as we can remember, appeared in June last year, when they released a white version of the one above. The fact that this style is called ‘Pursuit ’72 Slide’ suggests that Gucci is not even thinly veiling its homage to the Adilette. Just look at the placement of the brand name! In their compositions, these made-in-Italy slippers are not so different from Adidas’s made-in-China ones. Even Gucci’s upper is synthetic, rather than leather. But with Gucci’s distinctive coloured bands—red-and-green—that are inspired by saddle girths of horseback riding, these should have as much prestige as anything with their repeated interlocking Gs.

Adilette SS 2015 @ adidas OriginalsThe current season’s Adilette slides at adidas Originals stores

There’s no denying that luxury brands are increasingly taking their cues from athletic brands, specifically where footwear is concerned. Gucci, in this instance, does not only want to dress your feet for the office or for a date, they, too, want your soles atop their sliders so that you don’t need to go pick your free copy of Today in generic flip-flops. Desiring to cover all categories of footwear is understandable since a business will find all means to grow, but the need for luxury brands to ape the product offering of sports brands is curious. You won’t find Adidas doing leather horse-bit loafers to capture the hearts of fashionable urbanites. Sure, they have their Princetown loafers, as well as those colourful penny loafers conceived in collaboration with Jeremy Scott, but these have a sports aspect to them. Or in more marketable parlance, they’re hybrids.

In Gucci’s heydays, many of their products, from bags to shoes, set the trend, and were much looked at by lower-market brands for inspiration. These days, the reverse is too noticeable to ignore. The bubble up effect is truly effervescent.

Adidas ‘Adilette’ slides, SGD49, are available at adidas Original stores. Gucci ‘Pursuit ’72 Slide’, SGD220, is available at Gucci, The Paragon

Adidas Goes For The Top But Is It The Apex Of Design?

Adidas X Topshop 2015Adidas is no stranger to collaborations. What they can’t do better, they pass to others. What needs re-imagining, they tap the minds of those outside the company. This can be seen as far back as 2001 in one of their earliest collaborations: the pairing with Japanese masuta of the avant-garde Yohji Yamamoto. Mr Yamamoto designed only a few styles of sports shoes then, but they sure did generate enough interest for Adidas to eventually advance the Y3 line. As Mr Yamamoto told Interview in 2011, “we created something that did not exist before and completely projected into the future”.

Fast forward to the future or, specifically, the present. When it comes to collaborations, Adidas is one of the most prolific among sportswear brands. In just the first half of this year, they have launched enough successful design/brand pairings to make those by H&M seem lame. They’ve worked with popular singers, in-the-news designers, and hip retailers, yet there’s more to come. According to an Adidas Group press release, the Three Stripes enjoyed a 17% swell in profits of €4.1 billion (SGD6.1 bil) in the first quarter, no doubt a direct result from pairing with Kanye West and other high-profile stars. Whether it’s the hyped-to-death launch of Yeezy Boost with the indomitable Mr West, the retro-ghetto-fabulous bombast of Run DMC,  the chromatic excess of the Superstar re-coloured by Pharrell Williams, or the comic-cute, street-art-bent jumble of Rita “I’m-a-designer-now” Ora, co-creating has strengthen the Adidas branding rather than dilute it, no matter if some day consumers may forget the label’s association with sports.

So, who would Adidas not collaborate with? At the moment, no one, it would seem. Collab fatigue is not on their mind as Adidas takes Topshop by the hand in the latest twosome-to-create. This is not the first time Adidas, specifically adidas Originals (spelled with a lower ‘a’ and a capital ‘o’, presumably to underscore originality), has worked with Britain’s most recognisable fast fashion store. Last year, they came up with a 20-piece collection to cash in on the sports-meets-fashion craze. While that debut appeared appealing (its street-strong aesthetic not lost on Alexander Wang followers), the current 7-piece capsule collection is a bit of a puzzler: does Adidas need Topshop to create something so regular, prosaic even?

Adidas X Topshop 2015 + 2014Topshop X adidas Originals 2015 (left) vs 2014 (right). Photos: adidas Originals

There’s the “reworked” Superstar jacket, a pair of brief running shorts, a T-shirt, a Trefoil-emblazoned sweatshirt, and two pairs of re-imagined Superstar sneakers. All no doubt smart-looking items, but this time, the street style aesthetic is not immediately obvious. In fact, it seems Topshop has wholeheartedly embraced the sports heritage of Adidas rather than push for a high-street sensibility. Not necessarily a bad idea, but couldn’t Adidas produce these garments and shoes themselves? What has Topshop brought to the table, or, rather, the clothes?

The payoff for either side is not immediately discernible, but we can take a guess at what’s likely: Adidas gets to tap into Topshop’s distribution channel and reach a wider audience, particularly the younger set that has ditched the likes of Abercrombie & Fitch, yet not quite a big fan of full-on sports labels. For Topshop, they get a sportswear line (unlike H&M, they do not have dedicated performance wear) and the association with a brand that’s very much in the news, thanks to loquacious singers with CVs that go beyond music-making. This coming together of forces leveraged both brands. However, when they should have created unique products, this season, Adidas and Topshop output merchandise that’s not exceptionally compelling or innovative. Not one of the seven pieces is anything that Adidas couldn’t do themselves—no celebrity cachet, no designer value.

It is understandable that this collaboration isn’t for fans of the Yeezy or clueless teenage girls with I will Never Let You Down on their Spotify playlist or regular, ardent shoppers at London Skateboard. This is really for fast fashion consumers who, seized by a moment, may just be interested in a T-shirt with an outsized Adidas logo. As a tree might tell you, spread your branches and you really get more sunshine.

Topshop X adidas Originals is available at TopShop, Ion Orchard and Jem

Dots: How Big Will They Get?

SS 2015 Dots G1Spring/Summer 2015 dots. From left: Kenzo Men, Marc by Mark Jacobs, Junya Watanabe, and Dolce & Gabbana

Not since George Clooney’s appearance on the cover of W in December 2013 as Polka Dot Man (well, not quite DC Comic’s supervillian) has polka dots been headline fashion news. How did things get so dotty is a little beyond our comprehension, but we think it has a lot to do with today’s weak preference for plain fabrics in solid colours. Of late, the fashion-consuming public seems to be enamoured of patterns, from floral to abstract shapes. We’re tempted to blame Givenchy’s Ricardo Tisci for it: thanks to him, stars (especially those that encircle the neckline) have led the way, peppering garments with repeated geometric shapes in the same vehemence once reserved for vintage illustrations.

The current fate of polka dots is sealed when Pharrell Williams introduced them to the Stan Smith, which, sadly, has lost much of its humbler looks since the pop singer re-styled the classic tennis shoe into sneakers that seem destined for the streets of Legoland. This is, to us, ironic as the Stan Smith’s appeal is in its inherent plain simplicity. Hipsters took to them as a stand against the over-designed excesses of designer kicks. Mr Williams’s initial dalliance with the Stan Smith saw him working bright colors into the shoe. Then he had them covered with micro-dots before spotting the current ones with those the size of doll-house saucers.

SS 2015 Dots G2Clockwise from top left: Kenzo Nylon backpack, Pharrell Williams X adidas Originals Stan Smith, Hellolulu Ottilie backpack, Fred Perry Mini Classic Bag, Nike Roshe Run NM “City Pack” QS “NYC” and Comme des Garçons leather zip-top case

To us, polka dots are evocative of Mini Mouse’s dress and, inevitably, the oversized bow on her hair: clearly a cartoon celebrity in need of Smurfette’s stylist! They, too, remind us of Comme des Garçons, a label that has made repeated dots attractively modern. In all sizes (big, apparently, is better),  they have been very much a part of the CDG graphic arsenal, and they appear in almost everything, such as those Croc-like slip-ons in collaboration with Native Shoes back in 2013 as well as those season-less Play cardigans worn by stars such as Justin Timberlake. That’s why, to us, Pharrel William’s new iteration for adidas Original’s Stan Smith (above, top right) is nothing new (the dots are embroidered on the leather upper, an idea first seen in Dior Homme shoes last season). It is really not beyond the ken of the average fashion follower that he took a page from the CDG playbook (perhaps to score extra points so that those shoes can be carried in Dover Street Market) rather than dream the pattern up.

IT Beijing MarketPolka dots are to CDG what rectangles are to Mondrian. In fact, CDG loves them so much that black-filled circles, sometimes way larger than dinner plates, are used in their visual merchandising or as decorative motif for shop fronts or building facades. In 2010, when I.T Beijing Market (left), an offshoot of the brand’s retail business Dover Street Market, opened in Sanlitun of the Chinese capital, the blockish building’s façade was half-covered with oversized dots. In a neighborhood of ultra-sleek luxury brands such as the Euro-chic Miu Miu next door, I.T Beijing Market stood like a defiant upstart, striking as it is cheeky—a Damien Hirst in a sea of unadorned glass and severe concrete.

The thing about polka dots these days is that they have become rather gender-neutral. When once mostly women embrace them (the odd bow tie favoured by a few fellows did not mean they were popular with guys), today they are not conspicuously absent from men’s wear. Even blokes’ label Fred Perry has embraced them, introducing polka dots—noticeably large—with such regularity that they have become as recognisable as the brand’s laurel wreath (interestingly nearly as circular as a dot). Has the repeated dot then clearly become a sign of change for men’s attitude towards patterns? We’re not sure it’s clear enough.

Are You Suffering From Stan Smith Fatigue?

Pharrell X adidas OriginalsToo much of a good thing can really be a bad thing. It wasn’t too long ago that we published an opus on adidas Orginal’s Stan Smith, the sneaker du jour. Since then, they have been so many new releases that we have lost count. Just a few hours ago, we read that Isabel Marant, too, has joined the fray by creating her own kicks, called the “Bart”, that look like Stan Smith, but are more akin to Saint Laurent’s too-close-for-comfort interpretation. Not that we really care, since we have amassed all the Stan Smiths we ever wanted, but something ticked: as soon as we thought we have found the shoe we could wear forever, we quickly really don’t want anything to do with it.

Several hours earlier still, we came face to face with Pharrell William’s much hyped Stan Smith. Just released, this is a collab, and it is, to be fair to Mr Williams, a rather fine-looking take. It is good to know that he did not do them in white, currently massively preferred, so much so that the all-pristine versions—such as those done in partnership with American department store Barney’s—are too cool to be cool anymore, and so much so that Alexander Wang has, for S/S 2015, created dresses inspired by them. Mr Williams, chromatic master himself (that pink Celine coat he wore with palpable fondness!), put out three one-tone colour ways: red, blue and black, all with insoles of cartoon-like graphics and marked on the heel tab with Adidas’s recognisable three stripes done in what appears to be brush stroke-filled oblongs. We found the shoes oddly alluring, even when we’re seriously suffering from seeing a surfeit of Stan Smiths.

While we’re no fan of pop-stars-turn-fashion-designers, we won’t pick on Mr William’s partnership with adidas Originals. We’ll save our energy for anything by Kanye West. Happy!

Pharrell X adidas Consortium Stan Smith “Solid Pack”, SGD 219, is available at Limited Edt Chamber, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands