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

These Stripes Won’t Do

Adidas is at it again. This time, they’re suing Thom Browne

They are four rows instead of three (at least seen in the above photo), yet Adidas thinks Thom Browne’s parallel lines are exactly like the former’s. The German brand is suing Thom Browne for “selling athletic-style apparel (also seen above) and footwear featuring two, three, or four parallel stripes in a manner that is confusingly similar to Adidas’s three-stripe mark,” according to the trademark infringement claim filed in New York and reported in the media. It is understandable that three lines, even of different widths, could be “confusingly similar”, but two or four of them will cause confusion, even when everyone not living under a rock knows Adidas never use less than three? That’s confusing! Or is this because lawyers under Adidas’s payroll need to justify their existence? Don’t you dare!

Trademarks, of course, need to be protected, but is it possible that Adidas does not seem confident of their unmistakable, although unremarkable, graphical branding even as they say, “for over half a century, [they] extensively and continuously [have] used and promoted the three-stripe mark in connection with apparel and footwear”? Despite holding fast to the three stripes, Adidas does not consider it adequate or long enough since “confusing” is apparently the result when similar marks appear. And the only way to make things less “confusing” is to take a litigious approach. According to a 2017 Bloomberg report, Adidas had, by then, filed nearly 50 lawsuits to secure its trademarked stripes.

The suit also stated that, previously, there was mediation between Adidas and Thom Browne, beginning in November 2020. Nothing was resolved, it seems. But in a statement responding to Adidas’s charges—quoted by WWD—a spokesperson claimed that they did their part and “acted honorably for all this time”. He added that “Adidas consented for 12 years and now they’re changing their mind. The court won’t allow that. And consumers won’t as well. It’s an attempt to use the law illegally.”

We do not know that the illegal use of the law exists. But as consumers, we are definitely not confused by Thom Browne’s use of the stripes, which, graphic designers will agree, are themselves generic lines and are “devoid of any distinctive character”, as the EU Intellectual Property Office, which had rejected Adidas’s trademark application, said in 2016 (a ruling upheld by an EU court in 2019). Many of us do no think that the Adidas stripes look anything like Thom Browne’s. But never mind what the rest of us actually think. It only matters what Adidas think we may think, stupid us! Will Adidas sue Kit Kat next?

File photo: Zhao Xiangji/SOTD

Marimekko For Athletic Pursuits

The Finnish brand, beloved by women of a certain age, is going sporty, with Adidas joining the game

At each launch of the Marimekko X Uniqlo collaboration, now into their fifth season since 2018, women who have reached a particular station in life and age group make sure they are the first few to cop the cheerful tops and dresses. The collab’s success with this sizeable company of women allow it to be an ongoing project that suits the Japanese brand’s LifeWear positioning or what is described as “practical sense of beauty”. As Uniqlo is well embraced by all women, regardless of age and size, it is unsurprising that Marimekko’s tented shapes, in particular, are adopted and have quickly become the go-to silhouette for those seeking clothes that are forgiving. As one fashion stylist told us recently, “the Marimekko woman is not the Ines des la Fressange woman.”

Marimekko is probably well aware that it needs to break away from the sticky cliché that its designs appeal mostly to those who want loose, bright, graphic-strong clothes that detract attention from the body—unchallenging garments that make the wearer look youthful, too. Sportswear is an inevitable category to go into, even if Marimekko has never traipsed into the path of performance wear (not counting T-shirts) before this. Into the field came serial brand collaborator Adidas. And it’s timely too, considering that track tops and bottoms are presently the fashion choices of many women IRL. That Adidas has had success with pop-centric collabs—such as Beyoncé and Niki Minaj—likely prompted Marimekko to adopt the sports brand’s tried and tested formula.

The Finnish label, which turns 70 this year, calls the collaboration “the art of print and performance”. Indeed, print is synonymous with Marimekko—they can easily draw from an archive of reportedly more than 3,500 graphic motifs. But rather than employ those that have made their collaboration with Uniqlo so rewarding, such as their famous poppy flower (known by the Finnish name Unniko) or the jumble of blooms Siirtolapuutarha, they have opted far more graphic patterns, such as the repeated dots of Räsymatto and the vintage waves of Laine. Perhaps flowers do not hint at performance. The clothes are clearly pitched at the athleisure customer than an actual track-and-fielder. There’s a hip-hop, Missy Elliott-worthy vibe, too. In fact, it could even entice the gorpcore enthusiast if we go by the location of the shoot for the advertising: a hillside or a hiking trail.

The campaign images could also be one of the most inclusive among the collaborations of Adidas. The photographs all feature models of colour—there is not a single Caucasian (is that still inclusive?). The clothes seemed to be for women only, but in their publicity images made available to the media, there is one male model in a cycling top. These days, it is, of course, hard to tell who a brand’s intended audience really is. The clothes could be unisex or that the women’s items could also be pitched or “recommended” to guys. If so, Marimekko X Adidas is really a collaboration alert to the requirements that make today’s fashion brands really tuned in.

Marimekko X Adidas is available online in mid-June at adidas.com.sg. Photos: Marimekko/Adidas

They Totally Ignored Social Distancing For This Shoe

Yeezy madness strikes. Again. What pandemic?

It was a COVID-19 day. If the virus was indeed circulating in Orchard Road yesterday evening, outside the Foot Locker flagship at Orchard Gateway (the other half opposite 313@Orchard), they would have seen a delectable buffet. Such a shocking number of people (videos circulating online showed mostly kids) were crowding the entrance of the sneaker retailer that at some point, the police were called in. One SOTD reader who, was going to Uniqlo across the street, saw what he thought were personnel from the anti-riot Police Tactical Unit. Seriously? Apparently, even social distancing ambassadors could not manage the crowd. People didn’t care. Treasures and profiting were to be had inside Foot Locker. Coronaviruses, be damned.

The said covetable shoe was the Adidas Yeezy Boost 350—released for the umpteenth time. Yesterday’s launch was the V2 Core Black/Core Black/Red (first released in 2017). The Adidas website had announced weeks earlier that the sneaker would be launched yesterday, and by Thursday morning, had declared on their Facebook page that their online ballot had closed and that “winning entrants” would have been notified by e-mail. “For those who were unsuccessful,” it added, “you may stand another chance to purchase—our Pacific Plaza store will be contacting unsuccessful balloters in the case of drop outs on collection day.” And if even that couldn’t help the Yeezer lover, “…fret not. We will also be launching the Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Core Black/Core Black/ Red on adidas.com.sg come 5 December, 12pm.” Adidas didn’t think there would be this many who love the Yeezy Boost so much and want to touch a pair so desperately, they’d risk falling sick—seriously sick—to jam a store front for that chance.

Back to the old normal: The unbelievable crowd outside Foot Locker. Photo: solesuperiorsg/Instagram

But the staggering and disturbing Orchard Road turnout was not the only one. Apparently, over at Foot Locker’s Jewel outlet, close to 200 people crowded the store this morning, hoping to cop what they could not last night. A cheerful but perplexed staff told us that by eight, there was already a long queue. “We told them we don’t have the shoe,” he said helpfully. “Many left, but some still hanged around.” Why did he think people were so crazy about this pair of kicks? “I don’t know; I don’t get it. I think most who buy are re-sellers. I don’t know how they knew we had the shoe (at the Orchard store). We didn’t announce it. When we told them the shoes were sold out, they insisted we still had them.” What spell did Kanye West and Adidas cast on this unsexy sheath of sneakers?

The guy at Foot Locker Jewel continued, understandably on the side of his employer, “Actually, the people who came, they were out of control. We did our best to tell the people to social distance, but no one bothered. Actually the space (including the kerb) that they were crowding did not belong to us. The mall security didn’t help us; they let us do everything ourselves.” When we said we understood, just as we know how hard it has been for F&B outlet operators to tell people not to enter their premises in groups larger than five and not to mingle, he added, “These shoppers didn’t think about those working in the store. When we were asked to close for ten days (as instructed by the authorities this afternoon), all those people would have no work. But our company did not stop them working. The staff were shared among other stores.” Whatever, happened last night, Foot Locker alone should not have to shoulder the blame solely. However much you covet a shoe—any shoe, do not let COVID-19 win. Yeezy Boost is not a talisman.

Illustration: Just So

Bright And Happy

Farrell Williams has brought his brand of joy to Adidas again

 

Pharrell Williams X Adidas Boost slidesBy Shu Xie

Few celebrities have brought Happyness to footwear as Pharrell Williams has. His collaboration with Adidas since 2014 has been about projecting a positive vibe, whether in the clothing or footwear. At the launch of the collab six years ago, Adidas said that much of the designs “revolve around Pharrell’s idea of equality”. And, let me add, sense of colour. Truth be told, I’m not a big fan of their collaborations, but I do find the hues used and the colour pairings appealing.

Now the two names are back at it again. This time the output are slides, but not quite the Adilette. Instead, Mr Williams took Adidas’s most recognised slide and came up with something that might have been destined for the bedroom. The positively comfy-looking version, and brightly dyed, is now identified as Boost, no doubt named after the Three Stripes’ popular mid-sole. At first sight, the padded, triple-layer, adjustable upper looked a tad bulky, but once you slip your feet under, they look pleasingly proportionate. Appearance aside, these are, in fact, as comfortable as bedroom slippers.

Slides, once known as pool sliders, are now worn anywhere away from bodies of water. When I first encountered this anomaly, it was in Hong Kong a few years back. A Chinese mainlander and his girlfriend were flip-flopping in identical white pairs through Dior on Peking Road. Shortly after, as I became more aware of their popularity, I started noticing slides worn by those queueing outside Louis Vuitton or those shopping in The Hour Glass. The humble slide has clearly acquired some vestige of status, and splayed, open toes are welcome in posh places.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pharrell Williams X Adidas Boost slides, SGD140 a pair, available at select Adidas stores and online, and Limited Edt Vault. Product photos: Adidas

They Stick Out, Don’t They?

More and more, heels now come as shelves

 

TheSoloistXConverse vs SacaiXNikeProduct shots: (left) Converse and (right) Nike

By Ray Zhang

Two sneakers are launched this week, and both share a common feature: the heel sticks out. Or, to be more precise, the upper half of the rear mid-sole protrudes. Like a shelf. Or, like the mountain ledge of Trolltunga in Norway. Okay, I’m off track. Running shoe lingo has it as “flared heels”. I don’t know about you, but when heels jut out like that, they don’t increase the shoe’s appeal. Yet, this seems to be the trend. Maybe it’s rather like jacket trends: shoulders stretch to there. Anyway, succumbing to my limited knowledge, I checked with my friends who run and an instructor at my gym, and they say these stick-out points may delight the fashionista, but they do nothing for the athlete. That’s what I thought.

The two kicks with similar heels are the Converse X TakahiromiyashitaTheSoloist All Star Disrupt CX (yes, a mouthful) and the highly anticipated Nike X Sacai LDV Waffle, which, you would have guessed, is sold out as soon as it’s launched, which is today (my fellow SOTD contributor Shu Xie tried scoring a pair for more than 2 hours since midnight, but came up nought). Other similarities, I should, perhaps, add: both are by Japanese brands collaborating with shoes from the same American company: Nike. Could that explain the similarities in heel detail?

20-03-11-15-40-40-263_decoLeft: Converse X TakahiromiyashitaTheSoloist All Star Disrupt CX. Right: Nike X Sacai LDV Waffle. Product photos: Converse and Nike respectively

Between the two, I choose the TakahiromiyashitaTheSoloist’s take on the Converse, if only because the said protrusion is shallower in depth. The Sacai remake of LDV Waffle scores less because it is basically a reissue of the “reconstruction”—hybrid, actually—of the Nike classics LDV and Waffle Racer, now with nylon uppers. Both the All Star Disrupt CX and the LDV waffle are, in terms of silhouette, fetching, but since the Sacai became the most hyped and desired and, as a consequence, the most jelak shoe of last year, another release doesn’t send my pulse racing. And not that back corridor. Despite its peplum rear, the All Star Disrupt CX looks sleek, with the clever declaration “I am the Soloist. Since 2010” on the lateral and “Hello! I am the Soloist. Since 2010” on the medial. Admittedly, I have a weakness for text.

The big-welcome-to-MRT-commuters-to-step-on-your-heel sneaker is, to be sure, not a new trend. If I remember correctly (nowadays, there are, of course, other more important things to remember, such as regularly wash your hands and do not touch any part of your face!), Rick Owens was the earliest to introduce them protrusions in his collaboration with Adidas. At first, it was the Runner, introduced way back in the spring of 2014. The shoe with the split mid-sole has a rear that looks like a pebble is affixed to trip the person who walks too closely to you. And then later that year, the Tech Runner, with a mid-sole that’s a catamaran. Was it not asking other shod feet to come onboard?

Adidas X Rick Owebs Tech Runner 2014Adidas X Rick Owens Tech Runner. Photo: Adidas

Truth be told, I have never tried any of the Adidas X Rick Owens Runners or the Nike X Sacai LDV Waffle. But I have worn kicks with kindred soles. Okay, not as prominent as those two out now. I once took the Nike React Infinity Run for a stroll in a mall, and even when the amble required no heel striking (unlike when you run), I could feel something back there. As I got off the MRT train on my way home, a corpulent woman stepped on the left heel and as I moved forward, the shoe came off. It all happened in a split second. When I turned back to look, another dozen passengers had stepped on that footless sneak, isolated on the station platform.

I thought my feet would be less of an obstacle if I wore the Nike Vapor Street Peg SP, with less of a flared heel (but flares, no less). Again, the rear attracted those who like to pull up to the bumper. Toe box on mid-sole: could that be some kind of Tinder pick up line? Fed up, I finally put the Nike X A Cold Wall Zoom Vomero 5 to the test. Now with this pair, it was not so much a protruding mid-sole that was the problem. What the shoe came with was an AirPod case for the heel counter! Walking down a staircase was hard because I kept scraping against what was the front side of the steps. When I made it to the concrete pavement, I felt a smack: someone had kicked my heaving heel!

Converse x TAKAHIROMIYASHITATheSoloist All Star Disrupt CX, SGD200, is available from 12 March at Club 21 and DSMS. Nike X Sacai LDV Waffle, SGD239, was available at DSMS, and sold out

Chuck Goes Psychedelic

Specifically the Converse Chuck 70 Ox. It’s delectably indescribable!

 

Pigalle X Converse

By Ray Zhang

I have been getting this vibe that sneakers shall soon be over until they’re back. People are telling me leather shoes in all their sensibleness will be 2020’s dad’s shoes. Really? Who knows how this prediction will pan out. I look at all the non-sneakers I own and I am not certain I want to wear them in place of my Air Maxes, all the time. In fact, I think it’s unfair that after weening us sneakers for more than ten years, those who have the power to wield are not telling us that the kicks we have so loved aren’t quite cool anymore.

I am not giving up on my sneakers. Nor looking at them, such as this pair of Pigalle and Converse collab, fashioned on the decidedly low-brow Chuck 70, a basketball shoe that’s now mostly not seen on courts. Truth be told, I am not much of a Converse fan. They are, to me, just too school-shoes-like, with little to no personality, making basic kicks such as the Adidas’s Stan Smith decidedly charismatic. But occasionally, someone (or some brand) comes along and gives the Converse a much appreciated makeover—these by the America-leaning French brand Pigalle, too.

The first thing that strikes is the colour. Rare is the Converse that is this multi-hued—gradated, too. The lightning streaks on the Chuck somehow make the mixed colours less hippie while the upper’s technical fused film (which gives the cotton canvas a nice touch) make it rather of the present. That most of the mid-sole comes in this bright lime green augments this Chuck 70’s deliberately anti-white appeal.

This is not the first time both brands have paired up. Pigalle, founded in 2007 in the French neighbourhood of the same name by Stéphane Ashpool, has become one of Europe’s rare streetwear brand that has found international fame. Its Converse collaboration, coming after major success with Nike, was widely noted in last September’s All Star Pro BB, as well as the Chuck 70 Ox, which, if I remember correctly, was a lot more pristine.

There is a palpable sense that sneakers, for those who still worship athletic kicks, are losing the exaggerated silhouettes of the past years. This Chuck, not chunk, is suitably streamlined and adequately forward. With its marine-coloured upper, this is the shoe to go with those printed pants we’re told will be big this year. I, however, have other ideas in mind. 😎

Pigalle X Converse Chuck 70 Ox in ‘Lightning Storm’, SGD179, is available at Lmited EDT. Photo: Zhao Xiangji

 

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

Meet In The Middle: The High And The Low

In just this month alone, two announcements of the union of the haute and the not. Will we really be better off buying not one or the other, but both-as-one?

 

Dior X StussyAn imagined logo of the Dior and Stüssy partnership. Photo: Lyle Low

The latest to join the still-important hi-lo brand pairing is the storied house of Dior and the once-a-surfwear label Stüssy. According to “leaks”, now circulating on social media and reported in e-mags, Dior, steered by Kim Jones, is repeating what he once did at Louis Vuitton, where he paired the French brand with an American, the hype-driven Supreme, to incredible ballyhoo and unimaginable success.

Based on what’s been shared, the Dior X Stüssy collab will comprise what the latter is good at producing: T-shirts, polo shirts and caps, and (what looks to us as) the odd bandana. It should be said that Stüssy is on a different level, design-wise, if you were to compare it with today’s choice collaborator, Supreme. Stüssy leans towards design with more discernible tilt than other streetwear brands. It is, therefore, understandable that the interest generated is strong. Dior and Stüssy have, so far, remained mum about the collaboration.

Conversely, Prada and Adidas couldn’t keep the lid tight on their pairing. About two weeks ago, the Prada communication team sent out an advisory about the collab shortly after the news broke online. Although there is, hitherto, no visual released about potential designs, the curiosity generated burns with enough heat to keep sneakerheads on constant lookout for unannounced drops. I, like others, speculate that it would be sneaker releases although why Prada needed to do that given their strength in cool, category-defining (or rejecting) kicks is a little beyond immediate comprehension.

Prada X AdidasThe Prada and Adidas collab is in the bag. Photo: Prada

There’s no avoiding it, these days: luxury fashion names aligning with streetwear and sports brands. It’s bubbling up and trickling down swirling simultaneously, the shang and xia meeting half-way or, in some cases, all the way. Fashion, of course, has to be inclusive, no exception. When the twain once shan’t meet, they now walk hand-in-hand. It has happened in art and music, but when it comes to fashion, the players are a little late in kicking elitism out of the door. It should, however, be said that the Japanese were already there: even before Junya Watanabe’s early collab with Nike and Levi’s, his mentor Rei Kawakubo, through Comme des Garçons had done high by exploring low and what can be further down that tatters?

The world was, of course, once a much simpler place. If you had money and appreciated designer clothes for design, you bought which ever designer name you fancied—decked out head-to-toe, underwear included. If you didn’t have the means and didn’t quite understand why north and south should meet when there’s is already the equator, you stick to those brands that said very little other than this was what you wore, end of story. Inclusivity, for better or worse, has wiped out such distinction.

These days, luxury brands rarely pair with luxury brands. This season, Valentino and Undercover (and to an extent the next’s Dries Van Noten and Christian Lacroix) are exceptions than the norm. When previously a luxury name teams with a mass brand (not even ‘masstige’) to appeal to the latter’s customer base or to produce non-traditional products such as denim jeans so that the bigwig did not have to go into the non-luxury product category, labels today justify their pairings by loftier motivations. As Prada explained their collab with Adidas, “the aim of this partnership is to investigate the realms of heritage, technology and innovation—and to challenge conventional wisdom through unexpected strategies”. Believe and buy.

From The ’70s, For The Present

The ‘dad’ silhouette is obviously not dead

 

By Ray Zhang

Adidas, by my books, have not in the past year or so really pushed designs the way Nike has. Of late, the Three Stripes has no equivalent of the Nike React Element series or the Air Max 720. Their Boost cushioning tech has yielded some interesting silhouettes, but when I tried them on, they do not have the sleekness or wow factor that the shoes of their Oregon competitor constantly project.

When the Three Stripe’s Night Jogger caught my eye recently, I have to admit I gave in. There is certain vintage vibe about, not quite in the same vein as the Stan Smith, but still retro enough to communicate its old soul to me. The Night Jogger, as the name suggests, has the aesthetics of an actual shoe to run in, with none of the bombast of, say, the collaborations with Pharrell Williams or the campy Harden Vol. 3 “Imma Superstar”.

The Night Jogger was originally released in 1979 as a shoe runners can use in the dark. The upper was made of a leather that could reflect light, thus enhancing the safety of those who choose to take to the road to exercise at nightfall. With a studded gum sole, it too was a nod to running shoes of a certain lineage, such as the Sambas and Gazelles, only chunkier.

The latest iteration sport hi-vis detailing—your kicks will reflect light better when you run at night. The thing is, many people buy sneakers for anything other than using them on a track, or along Holland Road for, as the name suggests, a night jog. Adidas, therefore, gave it a 2019 makeover, which won’t be incongruous with your spiffiest threads.

Despite styling geared at the hipster than the runner, the shoe comes in rather odd, old-fashioned tongue that is akin to those of the original and less haute editions of Stan Smith. If you are not into splashy tech, you can still hold on to the sneaker’s retro vibe without forsaking modern dash.

Adidas Night Jogger, SGD220, is available at JD Sports. Photo: Zhao Xiangji

High On The Tide

The debut Culture Cartel, held at the F1 Pit Building over the weekend, banked on the rising wave of street style to offer a “curated” mix of sneakers, fashion, toys, art, and tattoos. Was it an inviting jumble?

 

Culture Cartel 2018 P1A Bearbrick welcome at the first Culture Cartel

By Ray Zhang

A curious thing happened as I arrived at the F1 Pit Building for the first edition of Culture Cartel, which I was told was the largest gathering of its kind, possibly in Asia, if not the world, for street style and kindred obsessions. But the people I met—both attendees and participants—before I could take in the displays and stalls, told me that I had to try the mee rebus.

Now, I didn’t know there would be food stalls. Nothing wrong with that. We are a nation of hungry citizens. But I had something else in my mind, such as the Adidas Consortium 4D which I had come to see after I was told, via Messenger earlier in the day, that it costs S$600, and would be available, unsurprisingly, though a raffle. That people were more excited about a Malay noodle dish suggested to me, prematurely perhaps, that Culture Cartel may turn out to be a little—how shall I say it?—lacking?

Bringing a different retail experience to those of us unimpressed with the way malls and, equally guilty, stores on our island have filled their spaces has always been what I encourage and support. When Culture Cartel was brought to my attention, it sparked the hope in me that such an event would encourage those with leasable space, even non-traditional such as a car park, to be more creative and imaginative in their use. I admit that as I write this, I am thinking of the now-closed pop-up The Park.Ing in Tokyo.

Culture Cartel 2018 P2.jpgAdidas launched their Adidas Consortium 4D sneaker for S$600 with a raffle draw

The name is perhaps a deliberate oxymoron. Culture Cartel: who’d want to or can own the cartel to culture, unless it’s to do with narcotics? Or oil? Culture belongs to the people, not a cartel. But perhaps it’s excellence in the arts—sorry, street style—that the organisers want to become the international syndicate of. Admittedly, a cartel sometimes has a reprehensible, hence appealing, aspect to it. Even a ring of grandeur. Yet, in a physical space that is the F1 Pit Building, it is the “culture” that the event had to live up to, even when it is no longer prefixed ‘sub’ as it once was.

The problem, for a lack of a better word, with the F1 Pit Building is its long, linear expanse. Retail-centric events such as the Club 21 Bazaar and the Boutique Fairs, which held their ‘Gifting Edition’ last month in the same location, seem unable to grapple with the generous space. Like the capacity of Pasir Panjang Power Station that the organisers of Sole (Street) Superior had committed themselves to in October, the F1 Pit Building, spread over two floors, was too large to fill.

One participant told me, before I could walk past the entrance, that he felt there wasn’t enough “quality exhibitors” and that the space “looked a bit spare”. That Culture Cartel had to include food sellers when major malls are within ten minutes by foot from the F1 Pit Building perhaps confirmed my earlier suspicion. But not being packed to the rafters with merchandise may have been a good thing. There was comfortable room to move in when viewing or shopping. In a fair like this, jostling that isn’t the proverbial necessary evil is definitely welcome.

Culture Cartel 2018 P3Design your own Air Force 1, co-organised by Limited Edition and Nike

In fact, the orderliness of the set-up was rather impressive and was counter to the perceived notion that anything street is characterised by a disordered condition. There was no grand welcome. Just walk in, after paying the S$20 entry charge, and its all there. Culture Cartel was organised under four broad categories: fashion, art, toys, and tattoos (which left food—a culture in its own right—an afterthought, I suspect). While street culture means many things to many people, one does not immediately equate with another. And since all categories at Culture Cartel had equal billing, no particular one stood out, although to fans of body art, the tattoo zone was the most impressive.

Street culture for the most part is an interconnected culture of cultures (and subcultures); a confluence, a clutter. Culture Cartel did not negate that. But for a linked culture to have some value proposition, some things have to enjoy a shout out. There were sneakers, but nothing really beckoned; there were clothing, but most languished; there were toys, but most belonged to someone else, there were art pieces, but they did not reach out; there were skate displays, but nothing major unless you were a groupie wanting to catch a glimpse of SBTG’s Mark Ong with some fancy footwork; there were the tattoos, of course, buy you’d have to be a true fan to have the patience to receive or watch the elaborate work being meticulously done on skin. What was memorable? I now struggle to remember.

You can’t tell from the loose assemblage of participants and brands that it was a result of a selection process that the organisers called curation. All four categories were overseen by a quartet of individuals reputed to be at the top of their field. Yet, I sensed that some of the participants were really just space fillers, offering not quite the stuff that aroused the senses or left an impression I could seriously call deep.

Culture Cartel 2018 P4T-shirts, such as those from Robinsons’s kitschy zahuodian, unsurprisingly, dominated the fashion offering 

There was Mandeep Chopra, overlord of our sneaker-sphere, whose family owns what one Culture Cartel contractor described as “a massive business”—Limited Edition and its kindred stores. He was in charge of sneakers and fashion (although in clothing Mr Chopra has not proved his mettle). Graffiti/comic/street artist Jahan Loh (former graphic designer with The Straits Times) took charge of the art pieces that littered the interior of the F1 Pit Building. Mr Loh is considered to have star quality for his collaboration with Edison Chen and friendship with Jay Chou. Jackson Aw of the renown toy/cartoon design studio Mighty Jaxx put in place the figurines that tempted but were not for sale since most, as I was educated, were part of his own personal collection. And tattoo master Augustine Nezumi of Singapore Electric (formerly Givemelovetattoo) assembled what I was told was the best gathering of tattoo artist on the island, not including ink stars such as Osaka-based Nissaco and the Amsterdam-based Gakkin.

By the thought of it, these merry men should have been able put together a fair of immense pull. I am not saying it did not draw a healthy crowd, but I was not certain that those who attended were terribly impressed, had opened their minds, or their wallets. In that respect, this was rather like the Boutique Fairs: Despite its name, it was not really about fashion, and the truly fashionable would not have been swayed by it. Culture Cartel’s heart is in the street, but aficionados may find it lacked soul.

According to Jeremy Tan, founder of Axis Group—one third of the organisers behind Culture Cartel, the event was “powered” by Mercedes Benz, which is not a name one associates with street culture. Fashion and art, yes, but not quite anything to do with sneakers and the like. But the world of fashion is changing. If the LVMH group recognises street culture’s global influence and reach, it is unsurprising that Daimler AG too want in on the action. The ‘Mercedes is Iconic’ campaign has, in fact, aligned itself with A$AP Rocky. But I am not sure parking some cars in the venue will augment the status of Culture Cartel as one that truly matters for street fashion and art, and the attendant culture. Understandably, an event of this scale requires financial muscle and Mercedes Benz could provide the bulk. Mr Tan was, however, unwilling to divulge how much the car company injected into his pet project, only that it was “less than what fashion week got”.

Culture Cartel 2018 P5Tattooing was probably the main draw as there were as many willing to receive as there were to watch

I do not pretend to be an expert on tattoo art, but on a whole, I could see that the exhibitors and tattoo artists had something going that spoke of their art and community. Perhaps it was the strength of their set-up and the willingness of customers to have their bodies (often whole backs or entire arms) worked on in full public view. Often times, inking is a private affair, unless you choose to do it in a stall at Chatuchak Weekend Market. Perhaps the strength of their presence was augmented by the appearance of the two masters Nissaco and Gakkin, both adding an air of celebrity to the zone.

Another message came to me via Messager prior to my visit; it alerted me to the only Singapore “designer” participating in the exhibition. Amos Ananda Yeo, trading under his first and middle name, had boasted in an IG post of his interview with the Mic, which awaken my curiosity about what the self-styled street wear proponent might show at Culture Cartel. Mr Yeo’s rise in the business has been, by many accounts, rapid, as he made inroads into China, where he has a production base in the IT hub of Shenzhen.

In the Mic article, Mr Yeo asserted that Singaporean fashion has “a lack of distinct local identity.” He claimed that “it was always inspiration arriving from overseas that influenced local fashion.” As I went through two racks of his clothes, I realised that, perhaps, Mr Yeo was referring to himself. Known to be heavily ‘influenced’ at one time by Craig Green, he has, as it appeared to me, moved on to Raf Simons and Gosha Rubchinskiy. I have to concede that Mr Yeo is rather versatile. And adaptive. There was considerable buzz at his store, perhaps bearing out his increasing celebrity.

Culture Cartel 2018 P6Another Limited Edition space, the first-ever collab between Nike and Carhatt

If you needed a pasar malam, Culture Cartel provided one in the form of the Marketplace, a short, narrow, table-flanking strip on which unknown jewellery brands such as Day by They (the fledgling business of two friends Kit Ang and Junie Lim) sold alongside established names such as the bag brand Gnomes and Bows whose affable createur Quanda Ong was at hand to explain the finer features of his literature-motivated leather pieces. This was probably the busiest part of the exhibition, a mix of street style and not, with buying and selling that were visible and encouraging.

Talking about jewellery, what I found interesting was the ring collection, Fragm_nt.of, by one-part owner of the eyewear company Mystic Vintage, Alvin Tan—also one of the players behind the multi-disciplinary art and design collective Phunk Studio. Mr Tan’s rings showed a weakness for exquisitely formed metalwork with artisanal attention to details that could have time-travelled from the era of the Byzantine Empire. The leap from eyewear to rings must have been massive, but as Mr Tan said, “I have always liked jewellery. It took a while, but I think we are doing okay.”

Culture Cartel’s own Merch Store, I thought, stood many rungs above some of the vendors. In two troughs, secondhand T-shirts (laundered, I was assured) can be picked for customisation. I thought that whoever was in charge of this store has a good eye as the selection of vintage tees constituted what would be considered coolly-cute. But even better was that, with each purchase (S$60 a pop), you could have the top customised whichever way you like using the iron-on graphics available for free. You can therefore do your own Doublet-like over-print on top of the existing pictures of the T-shirts, which, I thought beat those brands with a penchant for pedestrian graphics depicting tired, old Singapura.

Culture Cartel 2018 P7Acrylic painting, ‘Porcelain Boy’, by Singaporean artist Andre Tan, known for his visual commentary on fashion and pop art

Some of the ‘highlights’, unfortunately, did not quite move me. I had thought that the Limited EDT (LE) collaboration with Asics Tiger was lame because the pants immediately made me think of late-Nineties G-Star Raw. Even the graphics on the tops had the familiarity of the Dutch brand’s collaboration with Marc Newson. And the quietness of the dedicated space suggested to me that, despite the fancy and striking fit-out, visitors were not impressed, or swayed or engaged by work/military styles presented in a vertical-garden setting.

I don’t pretend to be mad about sneakers, unlike SOTD contributor Naike Mi, but from what I saw, this wasn’t a true, insider destination for sneakerheads, although those who went may have been delighted to see the Carhartt WIP X Nike collaboration on the Air Max 85—admittedly a handsome shoe. Elsewhere, the Air Force 1 customisation looked to have veered on the side of juvenile. And the Air Jordan XI display was, well, just that one shoe. LE’s presence was not by any means small, but they did not impart their spaces with the same energy they gave to their LE Convenience store at Sole (Street) Superior.

As with Sole (Street) Superior, Culture Cartel showed that, at present, street culture is the preoccupation of male youths. Or, what the ancient Greeks called kuoros. Axis Group’s Jeremy Tan happily admitted that he’s a street-style junkie, who “grew up with a BMX” and once had a shop in Queensway Shopping Centre, where LE laid their roots, called Tinted. “I dreamed about doing this for three years,” he enthused, the satisfaction so clear in his eyes. “I have an advantage because of the support from friends. You need people to support your cause, without friends you cannot succeed.”

Or feed! Yes, there was the mee rebus. I did not forget. Cooked and operated by Yunos & Family, a business founded in Ang Mo Kio since 1979, it was simply delicious.

Photos: Chin Boh Kay

Inside Sole Superior

What is it like at our very own (and the largest ever) version of Sneaker Con?

 

SS 2018 P1b

By Naike Mi

Sole (now also Street) Superior (SS) is big, but not massive. The place is huge, though—a 70,000 square feet expanse that looked to me to be as large as an Olympic-sized pool  complex. If you’ve been to Wheeler’s Yard (although, to be sure, not as large), you’d perhaps know what kind of place this. The merchandise hawked—new and newish—are, however, a little lean on variety, more geared towards the hyped than true collector value.

An annual event since 2013, SS is our own little Mecca for sneaker fans. Formerly at Zouk (even when the club was in Jiak Kim Street), it was a cosy, almost intimate affair, with sellers and shoppers in what was a socially-aware setting, much like a get-together of gamers. This year, the event is held, for the first time, at the Pasir Panjang Power Station (specifically power station ‘A’), decommissioned in the early ’80s and largely disused—perfect ground for haunting stories. Adjacent to Labrador Nature Reserve and with the waters of the Singapore Straits lapping nearby, this is as close to the southern tip of our city as you can get, without going to Sentosa. Although the Labrador Jetty is within reach, I don’t know of any boat service that will bring you here. Your best bet is the Circle Line of the MRT, which will take you to Labrador Park station, and the venue is about a ten-minute walk from there.

SS 2018 P2.jpgView from the other end of the Pasir Panjang Power Station

From the outside, the former power station is monumental and I suspect there would be more space to fill than there are sneaker sellers with unique merchandise to dispose of. I shall soon see that the organisers availed areas to kindred trades people, such as those that sell shoe laces or shoe cleaning liquids, creams, and wipes, as well as those that deal in clothing, and unexpected haberdashery such as iron-on patches. As this is no way within a hop of discernible civilization, SS also includes food and drink vendors. Which perhaps explains why this year’s Sole Superior is suddenly branded as Street Superior—an inclusive stance to better accommodate those whose offerings have nothing to do with soles.

I arrive early, at eleven thirty (no opening hours were given in their publicity material or social media shout out, or perhaps they escaped me), but others are earlier. The line, organised under a tented holding area, is not long enough to be considered staggering. In front of me, a teenage boy is engrossed with updating his friends, via a group chat, about SS. Behind me, a thirtysomething woman in a camo unitard above white Air Force 1 with fancy tongue that I can’t identify discovers that she has left her wallet at home. She asks her Caucasian male companion if he has brought credit cards. He shows her the cards in his wallet and she promises him, “I won’t buy two-thousand-dollar shoes.” Diagonally across from her, a young chap, Balenciaga-clad and Converse X Undercover-shod, tells his attentive—and equally young—female companion, “my father will give me the money to buy any sneaker I like.” Quickly, my ears again pick up from the wallet-free woman, “I can’t wait; I want to see my babies.”

SS 2018 P3Those with adequate stock have their table tiered

We are finally allowed in at noon sharp. Inside, the cavernous space seems to overwhelm the stalls in the distance. From the slightly elevated entryway, they look like the aftermath of a badly attacked buffet. But the first thing that hits me is the heat. Zouk, for all its shortcomings as a retail platform, I now miss. I am soon greeted by a display of shoes entombed in clear domes (read: not for sale) that are the output of sneaker customiser Mark Ong and his brand SGBT. The selling buzz ahead, I admit, is a bigger pull.

In the central stretch, sellers are installed behind four rows of tables. These comprise online-shops-turn-momentary-hawkers, as well as those, I am told, that are “grassroots sellers”, individuals who are not retailers by profession. Flanking this main area are separate lots assigned to sponsors and, presumably, the more VIP of seller-participants. Within this premium spaces, there is, oddly, a “trading pit” where it seems anyone can walk in to peddle what they have. I see three unsmiling boys seated on the concrete floor with their wares before me. It is hard to consider them enterprising when they really should be worried about grades, not glum about sales.

SS 2018 P6Bored boys waiting for buyers

It takes me less than an hour to acquaint myself with the stalls. I am not here to buy, but to see, and, with the quantity overshadowed by the space, it does not take long to satiate the eyes. This is a veritable market—in a pasar malam sort of way, or, for those who frequent Bangkok, with a Chatuchak vibe. I am not sure if that’s a good thing or a draw, but I hardly feel that sneakerheads are geeking out here. In fact, I sense that many attendees are using the opportunity to swagger in kicks of considerable cost than to uncover sneakers that they are deeply passionate about. Or just to walk-walk, as many do at Comex.

I am no collector; I wear what I buy and discard them when they are no longer wearable. So, I am not here for the rarest of the rare or the most trending of the trendiest. I am a sneaker fan who simply love beautiful sneakers, preferably unusual. But this feels too much like Salvation Army (on steroids!), and while there are some new shoes that are probably targets of those with too much disposable income or an unhealthy fixation with Sneaker Freaker, most of the “hot” items I see do not surprise me, such as the Yeezy 700 ‘Mauve’ and the black Nike X Off-White Air Presto, which, for S$1,150 one seller is asking (though not near the two thousand my queue companion had earlier vouched not to spend), is the kind of money I have never parted with at a market stall.

SS 2018 P3Getting rid of personal footwearSS 2018 P7An attempt at visual merchandising even if feeble

One grassroots seller Dimitri, in a Vetements tee, tells me he is selling to “make space”. What caught my eyes is his selection of size-12 sneaks, which are not common in the con. “Yah, I know I am not tall,” he adds, “but I have big feet”, stepping out from behind his table to show me what he means. Size twelves are ruthless space occupiers, and it’s understandable that he needs to free up real estate for more shoes. But others sell because of reduced desire. One chap tells me, “I have no feelings for them anymore.” And is quick to say, “but don’t worry: these are only worn once, or twice.”

Not every stall sells the pre-loved. Chris from DistriSneaks, an online destination for sneakers that tempt and collabs that matter, offers a staggering (compared to the rest anyway) selection and quantity of Nike React Element 87, all above S$300 a pair. This is his second time selling at SS. “I am a sneaker fan,” he tells me, “I even went to KL for Sneaker Lah.” On where he sourced for his React Element 87s when they are even hard to find on Nike’s legit points of sales, he would only say, “from all over the world.”

SS 2018 P5Clothing is a big part of Sole/Street SuperiorSS 2018 P8The interior of the Limited EDT’s stuffy store called Le ConvenienceSS 2018 P9Queuing for a stab at a ballot for an Adidas kick. You’d be forgiven for thinking these guys were buying a 4-D ticket!

I read that Limited Edt is here, but I am unable to spot them, until I see a queue in the far end of the hall, across from a dedicated karaoke room. True to form, Limited Edt has positioned themselves above—and away—from the rest, with their own little shop they called Le Convenience. There is, however, nothing convenient about getting in. You need to get in line to get inside, like you would outside an LV store. Once inside, it isn’t as packed as you’re led to believe. Unless you were in urgent need to buy something only they carry, which isn’t the case with me, you might be better off exploring the main grounds.

There is surprisingly a large amount of clothing, both new and used. As expected, Supreme tees top the selection, both new and used, followed by Off-White, both new and used. Their large numbers, on racks that threatened to collapse, and in boxes that looked like they once held bundled toilet paper, immediately diminish their perceived value and coolness. With prices ranging from S$150 to S$500, they cost as much as the sneakers. Several pieces of Louis Vuitton X Supreme T-shirts are spotted: I see two prices, one seller asking for S$980, while another boldly hopes to trade for “1.5K”, as indicated on a sticker placed above the familiar, desire-arousing box logo. No, my eyes didn’t fail me.

Shoes seen @ SS 2018The trendy and trending kicks seen at SS 2018: each of these sneakers appeared on at least 5 individuals during the 2 hours I was there

But I am here to look at sneakers. Frankly, I would be happier to see-shop in JD Sports. Surprise is what I seek, but, here, surprised I am not. I understand that many of the sellers are here to make a sale, and would stock what they think will sell, but this is a fair with Superior as moniker. I finally know where the Nike X Undercover Element React 87s went: snapped up to be traded here, for a neat sum of S$480 (original price around S$250). Interestingly, I see more of Nike than Adidas, and, unsurprisingly, more for men than women, except for one stall dedicated to Fila, in particular, the Disruptor II.

Sole/Street Superior isn’t vague about its target audience. One exhibitor stood out: Contiki (Tours). It hides not its ageist leaning, announcing unequivocally that they offer “TRIPS FOR 18 – 35 YEAR OLDS (sic)”. Old-bloke me can only turn away. SS is clear about the financial standing of its attendees too. Unlike at electronic fairs, admission fee is payable. If you’re planning to buy something, the S$20 (S$15, if you book online) charged to get in would probably mean nothing, but if you’re, like me, there to only see, the entry price is higher than a movie ticket and it may not be as entertaining as a film on the big screen. To make it less pleasant, no air-conditioning!

Sneaker/Street Superior is on till tomorrow (noon to 10pm) at the Pasir Panjang Power Station. Shuttle bus is available from the Labrador Park MRT station. Photos: Gallen Goh