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

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

Believe It Or Not, This Is Converse

By Mao Shan Wang

I have always considered Converse a conservative shoe brand. Sure, since Nike bought the company in 2003, it has seen some semblance of innovation, such as the use of Nike’s Lunarlon sole, or when collaborating with the likes of Clot (the Fastbreak!), but for the most part, it too canvas, too school shoes for me, and too Chuck Taylor. Until this pair of boots popped up in my radar!

Mind you, this is all-new, which means it’s designed from the ground up. Converse releasing rather go-go era looking boots is, it course, reflective of the cross-category tendencies of fashion labels these days (Prada doing plimsolls, for example) and is not, I suppose, too far off from Kim Kardashian selling emojies: Because they can. We are, after all, living in an era of anything-goes—do whatever pleases you.

Back to the boots. This, known as All Star GR82, is quite a chunk of a shoe, augmented by the thick mid-sole and the block heel. Contrast black laces lay between Velcro-fastened straps (as those seen on the Nike Free Huarache Carnivore SP). There’s a whiff of the military, with a fierceness that wouldn’t look out of place in a ’60s-themed party that so typifies corporate D&Ds. I urge: Let not footwear be an afterthought.

No news yet from Converse stores here if the All Star GR82 will be releases locally. For the time being, you can find it for USD110 on Nike.com. Photo: Converse

Knit For The Chuck

Nike’s Flyknit uppers debuted with the Flyknit Racer in 2012. Five years down the road, not only has the knit-tech appeared on many Nike styles, it’s now also graced the Converse kick that the young can’t seem to get enough of: the Chuck Taylor All Star

 

Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars Flyknit

By Shu Xie

It’s really a matter of time. Besides, a good thing should be shared, right? That, I believe, was what Nike was doing when it availed the Flyknit upper to its sibling brand Converse. First released in April this year in the high-cut version of the Chuck Taylor All Star (in six colours, no less!), the newest iteration is a veritably sleek pair of kicks than can go further than after-school use.

Seriously, when I finally saw these shoes, I was not thinking of pinafores, or white socks, but a pair of Calvin Klein pants that are sharply shaped by Raf Simons. I’d wear these Flyknit-topped Chucks in place of those Western-style boots proposed by the house that Mr Simons now heads. In all honesty, Converse sneakers are not exactly my go-to footwear, as they look too much like plimsolls, those cotton canvas lace-ups that remind me of the always-soiled pair a secondary school classmate of mine used to wear. I do, however, like this handsome Converse in the knit that has brought Nike legions of followers and imitators.

If you look back at the past five years of the Flyknit’s high-profile existence, the Swoosh masters of new materials have been so successful with applying the Flyknit, that, unless you follow the fabric’s journey as closely as those who trail Kendal Jenner’s every move, you may not be aware that many of Nike’s classic silhouettes, from Air Force 1 to Kobe 9, come in versions with this knit upper. To me, not every one of those shoes work. Some of Nike’s popular styles, such as the Airmax 90, become bereft of the sneaker’s original bulk when fashioned with the Flyknit. Some sneakers should not lose weight.

Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars Flyknit side view

In the case of the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star—conceived in 1917, the shoe pairs beautifully with the Flyknit since they have always been rather aerodynamic in shape. And the Chuck—not a hunk, even when it is originally a baseball shoe—has frequently appeared in fabrics other than cotton canvas. And most, like the Flyknit, take nothing away from the slender silhouette, which attracts those who prefer their sneakers to be canoes rather than catamarans.

To make sure that no one doubts the origin of Flyknit, Nike has, in major kiasu fashion, dubbed this as the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star X Nike Flyknit Low Top. Not sure if the co-branding is necessary since we already know Converse is a division of Nike. Apart from the Flyknit, something else that can be traced to Nike technology is also used: the unmistakable Lunarlon cushioning—here, it is comes in the form of removable in-soles. Both come together to yield a very light Chuck Taylor All Star.

Adding to these two to make the Chuck look less its original form is the Flyknit toe cap which takes the place of the Chuck’s usual rubber version. It’s fused with TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane that interestingly renders the toe cap a darker shade) for a tougher front so that your toes can live to tell that you’ve kicked someone in the butt.

Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Flyknit Low Cut, SGD159.90, is available at Converse standalone stores. Photo: Converse

A Foretaste Of Things To Comme

dsms-online-storeBefore Dover Street Market (DSM) Singapore opens next year (some time after Chinese New Year, a source tells us), we get to see and buy some of the merchandise that it will carry via their E-Shop. The online shopping site of DSMS—not, as many have assumed, DSMSG—launched this week to no fanfare, which is not unusual when it comes to projects under Comme des Garçons’s watch.

It is exciting, of course, that DSM is going to be here soon, after London, Ginza (Tokyo), and New York, and that there’s even a homepage (below) that pertains to the Singapore store. But if you hope to score the Vetements X Reebok Pump Supreme DSM Special Grey sneakers (available exclusively in the DSM L, G, and NY sites), then you shall be disappointed. In fact, the hungry you will not be able to buy a lot of stuff… not yet.

dsms-landing-pageWhat are available are the tops from the Play line (no Holiday Emoji), the Play Converse shoes, and a range of Comme des Garçons wallets, nothing more. These are non-seasonal items, and are part of what the other sister sites sell all year round. In fact, the only brand listed in the ‘Items’ column on the left of the page, where there is usually a far longer listing, is Comme des Garçons. For fans, that may just be enough to whet the appetite.

Although the DSMS E-Shop looks like the others, it seems, for now, like a test site to us. If you want to know about delivery and shipping charges, for instance, it requests that you “ask the DSM E-Shop” (via e-mail). We did not ask, but at check-out, it is indicated that standard shipping (1—3 days) costs S$15, while same-day shipping is S$30.

After less than five minutes of browsing, you’re inclined to visit other fully-stocked DSM E-Shops. The spring 2017 opening of DSMS, as the website reveals, is just too far away.

The Slip-On Sneaker Slips Into The Big League

Slip-onsThe comfortable ease that the slip-on sneaker projects. Shoes: Flesh Imp. Photo: Jim Sim

By Shu Xie

The first cotton-canvas slip-ons bought for me was in my first year of primary school. The giver, my mother, called them “lazy shoes”. When I was curious enough to know why, she told me that only people who are too lazy to tie shoe laces wear them. Whether that was directed at me, I wasn’t sure. Certain, too, I wasn’t if that made sense, but it was lazy shoes for me outside school throughout much of my pre-pubescent years. When I was old enough to think that perhaps what my mother said was baloney, I was informed by a magazine article that, in fact, any footwear that allows one to only slide the feet into them is considered “lazy”. Somehow, I was still not convinced. Why humiliate the shoe when it is the wearer who is lazy?

These days, while shoes such as the loafer can be classified as lazy, they’re known by their better-regarded names even when, in the case of the loafer, one would usually think of an idler. In fact, the moniker has very much lost its ring in an age of even lazier footwear such as Crocs. These days, the cotton slip-ons that so many of us have worn when we were young are elevated to “sneaker” status. If you know your kicks, and I believe you do, cotton-canvas slip-ons—almost synonymous with summers of the West—have been upgraded to “premium” versions. Online and among knowing consumers, they’re “slip-on sneakers”.

However highly perched they may seem, these easy-to-wear shoes have, in the past two years, become increasingly ubiquitous, even when the tennis shoe—defined by Adidas’s Stan Smith—seems more visible than any other casual footwear. If the tennis shoe is the ultimate plain sneaker, than the slip-on—best represented by the skate wear brand Vans—is the country cousin, untethered to urban fabulousness, bare to the point of boring. That, however, wasn’t how things played out.

Dienme slip-onsSlip-on sneakers don’t only come in plain cotton canvas; they’re now attractively patterned too. Shoe: Diemme; jeans: Uniqlo. Photo: Jim Sim

Two years ago, when I revisited the slip-on sneaker and bought a pair of Diemme ‘Garda’ in woven leather (tight ketupat style), I realised that the “lazy shoe” was no longer indolent on the design front. By then, brands such as Kenzo were putting on retail shelves their versions in eye-popping prints. Increasingly, more shoe makers climbed aboard the bandwagon, from Christian Louboutin with full-on studs to Saint Laurent with gaudy leopard spots, illustrating, once again, the bubble-up effect that has washed over luxury fashion.

The slip-on sneaker’s resurgence can be attributed to the persistent presence of Vans’s classic slip-on. And the design has not changed much. Comprising a vamp and tongue as one piece (and usually piped with the same or contrasting fabric near the ankle) and a quarter that goes under, the slip-on sneaker is best characterised by the side elastic inserts slot between the two. These allow the foot to be slipped in easily and also to help secure the shoe. Other details include a usually padded ankle collar, heel counter (or a heel tab, but never two together), and a foxing stripe (a mark of vulcanisation when heat and pressure is applied to bond the upper to the sole). The sole is usually made of rubber and is about 3-cm thick (women’s version can come in platform height). What amazes me is the slip-on sneakers’ ability to escape massive technological advances that have affected almost every athletic shoe. It has not even embraced air soles.

Slip-on sneaks in the MRTSeen in the MRT train: if even a pair of slip-on sneakers with a strong graphic upper is still too plain, bejewelled turn-up cuffs will do the trick. Photo: Jim Sim

If looks can be deceiving, then the slip-on sneaker is. It may appear comfy on the outside, but when worn, the internals can be annoyingly abrasive. It does not matter if under the vamp, it is lined or not. The main problem, in my experience tracking down the best pair, is in the way the elastic insert is attached to the vamp and quarter. When it is sandwiched between the upper and the lining, you won’t feel anything scratchy (and that still depends on the stitching). If it is stitched directly to the underside of the vamp and is exposed to the skin of the foot, there’s no guarantee you won’t feel anything. This is a problem not exclusive to cheaper shoes. A pair of MSGM slip-ons that I love was hate at first wear; its bite worse than an annoyed, temperamental terrier. While the hitch can be solved by a pair of low socks, or what Muji calls “foot cover”, finding a pair that doesn’t slide underfoot is another charmless challenge.

The Vans Classic Slip-On (or style #48, as it’s known to retailers) has a rather brief history. It was introduced in 1977 although the company was started in 1966. In less than 5 years, a revolutionary checkerboard pattern was introduced and it soon became “iconic”. But it was the 1982 film Fast Time at Ridgemont High that set the shoe on its upward trajectory. In the movie’s trailer, the character Jeff Spicoli, played by Sean Penn, memorably hit himself in the head with a pair of Vans, the checkerboard version, no less, and with the shoe box prominently placed on his lap, allowing the brand message “Off the Wall” to talk to the audience directly. I didn’t know then as I know now: that could be an early form of product place.

The slip-on sneaker has since refused to go into obscurity, lasting till now, even when they may pale next to a pair of Ultra Boost. Their popularity is enhanced when so many other brands are willing to work with Vans to release collaborations. In the end, it requires no styling skills to challenge Rachel Zoe to make a pair work with jeans, chinos, shorts, skirts, dresses, or just swimwear. The SOTD editor and I went shopping recently, and these caught our eyes:

Flesh Imp Laird Black

Flesh Imp Laird Black ShoeFlesh Imp, one of Singapore’s better known and oldest streetwear labels, has taken the classic slip-on a notch up by introducing a mock-croc version with a finish that belies, to my surprise, its pocket-friendly price. Unfortunately, the sizes do run a little small.

SGD65, available at Flesh Imp, Orchard Cineleisure

Sperry Top-Sider Striper Chambray Slip-On Navy Palm

Sperry Top-SiderThis is not exactly new since it was launched last season, but since palm prints are so on-trend, this pair by boat shoe maker Sperry Top-Sider has to be included. What’s also interesting is the cotton chambray upper, so perfect with a shirt (or dress) of similar fabric, minus the print, of course.

SGD89, available at Tangs at Tang Plaza

Supra Cuba Navy Stripe-White

Supra Cuba Navy White Stripes

I am not sure if this cotton slip-on by skateboard shoe label Supra is meant to look nautical, but I am attracted to the brushed-on stripes. More appealing, in fact, is the two-in-one. At first look, you see a pair of lace-ups, but then you notice a small discreet loop at the side—above the elastic insert—that allows the laces to be removed so that you’ll get a pair of classic canvas slip-on.

SGD109, available at Bratpack, Mandarin Gallery

Patrick Muret.M

Patric MuretIn 1990, French shoe label Patrick started a made-in-Japan production line and this pair, the Muret.M, is one of the recent outputs. On the white canvas are quirky drawings of people at leisure that capture a certain joie de vivre. This shoe is, unfortunately, sized for women only.

SGD199, available at Star 360, Wheelock Place

Closed Cotton Slip-On Allover Print

Closed slip-onThey’re known more for their jeans than their footwear, yet this season’s small drop of slip-ons, to me, just cuts it. Closed, the Italian label now owned by Germans, has incorporated Japanese wave graphics onto this canvas shoe without heady Oriental overtones.

SGD239, available at Robinsons at the Hereen

Spingle Move SPM 179

Spingle MoveHiroshima-based Jap brand Spingle Move is known for incredibly comfortable shoes that only came about after the maker “studied the foot type of the Japanese”. It’s quite safe, then, to say that the shoes will suit generally broader Asian feet. While they make familiar-looking slip-ons, this is the one that caught my fancy. I guess I am attracted to the unusual vulcanised rubber outsole: they say Zaha Hadid to me.

SGD239, available at Star 360, Wheelock Place

Converse Deck Star ’67 Woven Suede

Converse Deck StarConverse is so associated with the cotton-canvas Chuck Taylor All-Stars that I find it strange holding a pair of rather premium looking woven suede slip-on from the brand in my hand. But shoes don’t perch on palms, so I slip them on. The moulded sock liner does its job beautifully: they’re supremely comfortable.

SGD279, available at Star 360, Wheelock Place

Disney X Master of Arts Mickey Portrait MD 07

Master of Arts X DisneyAlthough this is part of the fall 2015 collection, it is still a warm-weather shoe, made more adorable with Mickey’s countenance blown up large over both sides of the leather upper. This Florentine brand is known for their extreme patterns and vivid colour palette, but it’s with Disney’s most loved mouse that they have brought their leather slip-ons down closer to earth.

SGD259, available at Robinsons at the Hereen

Y-3 Laver

Y3 slip-onYohji Yamamoto’s partnership with Adidas is never about the straightforward. Even with a shoe as basic as the slip-on sneaker, Y-3 offers one of the rare few that looks technically advanced. The mesh accent is a nice contrast if the neon, computer-generated graphic is not enough. The perforation on the rear of the outsole reminds me of another architect: Tadao Ando.

SGD469, available at Y-3, Mandarin Gallery

Bottega Veneta Blue Cotton Denim

Bottega Veneta slip-onWhile Bottega Veneta’s slip-on may look the plainest among those featured here, they are appealing because they’re made of a cotton that will never lose its appeal: denim. Here, the denim is rather raw, cut as a one-piece upper, and luxuriously finished on the top edges with leather piping. Those who must have Bottega Veneta’s signature intrecciato woven leather will be glad to know that it appears as an inset within a four-leaf clover shape, located at the centre of the heel counter.

SGD800, available at Bottega Veneta boutiques

Gucci Tian Slip-On Sneaker

Gucci sneakersJust as you thought the double-G logo-ed Gucci canvas is a distant memory, Alessandro Michele has revived it. The recognisable fabric is, however, not plain as the unadorned original. Here, used on its ‘Tian’ slip-on, the canvas is painted with Oriental fowl, flora and fauna. I find the designs alluring and imagine Zhang Yimou’s costumer to use them if the director would film the lives of the rich, Chinese bourgeoisie rather than the fashion-deprived proletariat.

SGD800, available for men and women at Gucci, Paragon and The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands

Prada Ben-Day Dot-Print

Prada slip-onFrom the side profile, Prada’s slip-on has the elegance of a loafer, making it moderately dressier than the casual others. Befitting the brand’s kooky graphics is the print on the calf-leather upper: arrows and bunnies, delineated from Ben-day dots. It smacks of art, rather than street cred, and it’ll be especially meaningful for those who appreciate the legacy of Benjamin Henry Day, Jr, I reckon.

SGD1,070, available at Prada boutiques

Dior ‘Happy’

Dior slip-onsThis comes hot on the heels of last year’s crystal-encrusted “Dior Fusion” (shoe that a 21st century empress dowager, I imagine, would certainly wear!) With a name that suggests high spirits, this season’s slip-on sneaker is truly a joyful shoe to behold. The back half of nappa seems to embrace the front half of dark denim, on which crystals flowers are stitched as if strewn.

SGD1,250 (women’s only), available at Dior boutiques

Christian Louboutin Roller-Boat Flat Toile

Christian Louboutin Roller-BoatIf someone took a bunch of iced gems—those biscuits topped with sugar swirls that we ate when we were kids—and threw them over a pair of Louboutin slip-ons, this is what you’ll get! Instead of the usual silver, gold or black studs that has made Louboutin footwear so incomprehensibly desirable, coloured points in Crayola colours are now enticing those who can’t get enough of all-over micro-hardware on their shoes. And over on-trend Hawaiian print to boot!

SGD1,700, available at Christian Louboutin, Takashimaya S.C.

All product photos of shoes courtesy of the respective brands