Rodent Stock

This Lunar New Year, brands are scampering to take your money for ratty fashion

 

ChinatownCNY 2020This year’s Eu Tong Sen-facing street decoration in Chinatown

By Mao Shan Wang

Rats! This year will soon arrive. I don’t know about you, but I am, in real life, not a fan of rats. Not one bit, these muroids, with their dirty-brown hair and pesky tails, and their love for gnawing and scavenging. I can deal with cockroaches, however many, but rats just sickens me, even just one. There, I’ve said it. I don’t deny that my distaste for them borders on disgust.

Despite their icky appearance, the Chinese zodiac has a special love for them, placing the rat ahead of the pack. The current CNY decoration in Chinatown best illustrates this. According to my mom, the rat is very smart, ingenious even, so much so that it’s able to outsmart and kick the cat out the race to be right ahead of the 12-animal conga line. That sounds pretty smart to me. But, according to Chinese Zodiac myth, the rat actually hitched a ride on the ox and jumped off the beast to propel him to the front! Talk about stepping stones!

Apart from the rat’s intelligence, the creature is, according to the ancients, also blessed with other anthropomorphic traits: charm(!), quick-wit, diligence, and practicality. I’m not sure what that would make (a good husband?), but I think that many would find such a character attractive, if not endearing. Which may explain why, in the cartoon world, so many lovable characters are based on rats.

Mickey X MangoMickey Mouse at Mango

The shu nian, like many years of the different animals before it, is opportunity for fashion brands to sell merchandise sporting the star creature. They could choose from so many of them, be they from books or screen animations, but they narrowed their choice to one—many chose predictable and bland Mickey Mouse, which, conversely, have been described as, among other qualities, handsome and heroic. I suppose abdominous Mickey is convenient and identifiable. Using him requires no starting from scratch. Why bother with a new delineation when Disney will readily licence a very white black mouse for any use, even for a largely Asian audience? And he’s available in so many forms—old and new.

If they really wanted handsome and heroic—appreciable modern rarities, there’s Remy from Ratatouille or Jerry of Tom & Jerry (to be sure, Etude House used them) or Minute of Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse (too old?). Or, if muscles are the prerogative, Mighty Mouse (the cartoon character, not Apple’s input device from 2005!). Or, if literary associations vital, Stuart Little. Or, if a female is preferred (in a post-Wonder Woman world, they are), Miss Bianca from The Rescuers. Or, if gender-fluidity is a must, Coney from the wildly popular Line characters. Or, if racial inclusiveness the most crucial, my all-time fave, Speedy Gonzales. No, they prefer same-old and sure-safe Mickey Mouse.

Gucci jeans & track top SS 2020Gucci track top and denim jeansDsneyDisney’s own Mickey Mouse merchandise with local expressionsH&M X Disney SS 2020H&M sweatshirt featuring a 3-D Mickey MouseDisney X Aldo sneakers SS 2020Disney X Aldo sneakers

Mickey appearing on Uniqlo or H&M tees is understandable—expected, even, but as a mascot for a luxury brand such as Gucci? To me, it’s jejune and unimaginative and too convenient. Mickey Mouse is there for the taking, so take it. That’s what it says to me. After all, the brand had already collaborated with Disney; they’ve produced a USD4,500(!), 3-D printed plastic handbag in the shape of Mickey’s head to mark the mouse’s 90th anniversary in 2018. No sweat if Disney’s beloved character is used. Again.

Some other brands do try, with varying degrees of success (authenticity? That’s another point). There’s a blotch of a rat at CK Calvin Klein, accompanied by a message: “TO SEE WHAT OTHERS DO NOT SEE THAT IS TRUE VISION”. Yes, in full caps and WhatsApp-worthy lack of punctuation. That’s probably paraphrasing Jonathan Swift—“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others”, but what the saying has to do with rats is anyone’s guess. Perhaps cuteness alone isn’t quite enough; you have to appear smart (isn’t that already a rat trait?), better still, literary.

cK Calvin Klein shirt SS 2020CK Calvin Klein shirt with message and mouseNudie Jeans jacket S 2020Nudie Jeans Vinny Year of the Rat denim jacket at The Denim Store, 313@OrchardBrooks Brothers SS 2020Brooks Brothers sweater and a dressed grey mouse20-01-23-01-36-34-390_decoNikelab’s rat pack for DSM. Photo: DSM

Elsewhere, a pointy-nosed Japanese-esque mouse is seen on a Nudie Jeans trucker. The creature is described as a “metal rat”. They got that right. A small appreciable detail. If CK Calvin Klein’s rat is a literary one, then Brooks Brothers’ affable-looking rodent is probably its sporty compatriot. Given a baseball cap with a pair of unmistakable double Bs, the nameless creature could be Yankee’s (Everyone’s Hero) avatar. To appeal to those who are partial to cyberpunk aesthetics and who care not to be auspicious, the Earn Chen-led (he who founded Surrender and Ambush, and now the guy behind Potato Head Folk)  Singaporean label, The Salvages, offers—at DSMS—a robotic rat with a menacing scowl and red eye. Even Starbucks isn’t leaving themselves out of the rat race, selling a coffee mug in the shape of a rather corpulent Rattus. Not all brands use solo rats. Also at DSMS, Nike’s special capsule features one T-shirts with a quintet of basketball-playing rats of the ’hood. But perhaps most fascinating is one by Doublet: there’s an embroidery of a rat on the chest. If you look closely,  you’d see a loose thread. I was told that if you pull it, the stitches will unravel, revealing an ox—a tee for two consecutive years!

It isn’t yet clear if the pick up rate for these ratty fashion will spike during the CNY shopping season. Frankly, I don’t really know the purpose of luxury brands getting into Chinese New Year symbolism other than to cash in. In fact, I don’t recall the wearing of clothes that feature the animal of the corresponding zodiac year to be common. It’s definitely not traditional! Come to think of it, I remember Marc Jacobs’s men’s wear used to have a mascot/logo featuring a rodent named Stinky Rat. Mr Jacobs had never deliberately released clothing bearing the creature during CNY. Does wearing one’s zodiac animal (or spirit animal?) make things a little more season-appropriate, a little more festive, a little more auspicious?

Ill will unintended, I don’t give a rat’s ass.

Editorial note: for convenience, I use ‘rat’ and ‘mouse’ interchangeably, probably to the annoyance of mammalogists, biologists, zoologists, and the like. Photos (unless indicated): Chin Boh Kay. 

Really, Why Bother?

Some collaborations simply don’t stir, but they can get away with it 

 

19-12-23-22-58-35-147_deco.jpg

By Ray Zhang

My friends know I am a Nike fan. And they were quick to ask me what I thought of Nike’s recent collaboration with Dior (or is that the other way round? Or, Kim Jones’s pairing with the Swoosh). Frankly, think I did not. Why mull over something this bland, even when it’s been trending as madly as the Saddle bag’s pointless return that was bolstered by the fervent posts of taste-lite influencers gifted with one?

Sure, I understand that after a period of ‘dad’ shoes that stretched a little too long (and with more late adopters than for any other trends of recent memory, and with adoption still unabated), designers are keen to return to shoes that are less OTT and closer to the OG. But what does Dior’s take on the Air Jordan 1 High, featured at the Miami show early this month, really say about sneaker trends? Or the direction designers are taking for the new decade?

I had a clue when images of the Adidas X Prada Superstar first appeared. It bothered me that ‘normcore’ might return even when many members of the media, impressed by the collab, tried to convince us that the design distills what is “ultimate luxury”: best material and craftsmanship. Now, plain is plain, no matter how luxurious. What does it all say to me? Why try so hard when it’ll all be landfill feed in no time?

To be honest, I am not expecting a Nike X Undercover’s Daybreak moment. Even Jun Takahashi may not top that again. But did Dior’s reiteration of the Air Jordan 1 High enjoy the briefest or skimpiest moment of re-imagining? Frankly, I do not know since picking Dior grey for the upper and filling the Swoosh with vintage, repeated-monogram print hardly require the frontal cortex to go into overdrive. Or is that just Kim Jones doing an Hedi Slimane?

So if you ask me, can we not encourage brands to be this lazy by succumbing to the hype and opening up our wallets?

Product photo: Nike

Walk Like A Skeleton

To be transparent, wear your X-Ray results

 

Skeletal AW 2010

By Ray Zhang

Halloween is over, but that does not mean we can’t wear a stark reminder of our mortality as if it’s a Rick Owens leather jacket. I know I can. But would I? The thing is, I have an irrational fear of the macabre and I am not sure wearing an outfit that reveals my skeletal whole is particularly appealing when I am already known among my friends as a broomstick. As they say, state not the obvious. Or, embrace not bad fengshui.

Yet, despite its place in Halloween celebrations and in the proverbial closet, skeletons are a bit of a fashion fave right now. First, it was Nike that dropped an Air Force 1 sporting the side view of a skeletal foot complete with tarsals, metatarsals, and phalanges that will make sense to (or even delight) an orthopedist, not the many of us. But unless its worn in a dark space illuminated by UV lights, the fright that it might inspire would be a mere boo from behind Teddy, Mr Bean’s BFF-bear.

Not to be outdone, Loewe, too, has up their sleeves, rather than one body part, a full skeleton, split into a sweater and a pair of shorts. It is as if designer Jonathan Anderson knew there would be Nike kicks to match. But as the house explains it, this is homage to the British tile designer (also potter and novelist) William de Morgan, whose works, including stained glass and furniture, featured fantastical birds—among them the Dodo, and were sold through Morris and Co, the design firm of his friend, the textile designer (and similar multi-hyphenate), William Morris, leader of the British arts and crafts movement of the Victorian era, who was just as known for his poetry and novels.

Mr Anderson is similarly into arts and crafts, especially for the house of his Spanish employers. The skeleton, while an unusual subject for needlework and much that is made by hand, is given an unmistakable craft twist—yarn emerging randomly throughout the sweater that Loewe calls “loose fringes”. The skeleton is interestingly anatomically correct in the front and back. Only thing missing is a skull. Loewe would need a balaclava for that.

The skull was once a hot motif, but that’s now so last decade. Or Meghan McCain (she told The New York Times in 2011, “I have 10 of them”. And why have just the head when you can have the rest of the body? Regardless of what I said earlier, I know I like the look of Shaggy Rogers electrified! If the late Alexander McQueen is thought to be the trend-setter when it comes to the skull (even as far back as his 1992 graduate collection), perhaps Jonathon Anderson could be the leader of the skeletal pack.

Loewe Skeleton sweater and shorts are not in store yet. Call for release date and price. Nike Air Force 1 Skeleton Black, SGD209, is available at select Nike stores or online. Product photos: respective brands. Collage: Just So

React Element 55 Gets Its First Collab

Kendrick Lamar puts his spin on one of Nike’s most interesting silhouettes of the past two years

Nike x Kendrick Lamar React Element 55

By Ray Zhang

It is noticeable that any rapper worth his pots or Grammy awards must have a sneaker collab to his name. Kendrick Lamar does not seem like an obvious choice since his sartorial picks do not stand out the way Lil Pump’s (or, pick your own) does. Yet, Nike sees it worthwhile to team up with the good kid (m.A.A.d City—that kid!) probably because of his considerable influence on the hip-hop scene (Dr Dre’s a mentor) rather than his potential as the next Ronnie Fieg.

The shoe that Nike and Mr Lamar released (out yesterday) is the React Element 55. Dubbed the “Multi-Platinum”, it comes with an upper that seems to mimic marble, forgoing the original’s semi-transparency, and is available in two-tone monochrome: half black and half white. This is possibility one of the subtlest versions of the sneak ever released. Although Nike describes the React Element 55 as an “understated” interpretation of the React Element 87, they must know that, for sneakerheads, understated does not quite cut it, less so when the (older?) 87 sibling has enjoyed one particular designer collaboration in heart-tugging colours. Yes, Undercover, of course.

Nike x Kendrick Lamar React Element 55 P2.jpg

To be sure, this is no way an attempt to take on that React Element 87, but that it is blander than anything Pharrell Williams has done with Adidas is a little surprising. Fans of rapper-linked kicks would know that this isn’t K-Dot’s (his initial singing name before he dropped it prior to the release of good kid) first fling with the Swoosh. His previous were four Cortezes, with the slip-on Cortez Kenny IV “House Shoe” the strangest, but not uninteresting.

While Mr Lamar has been associated with the Cortez and, now, with React Element, he was once a rather prolific collaborator with Reebok, producing no less than six styles since 2014, with the Ventilator the first. It isn’t clear why he switched camp (they tend to, just as his pal Kanye West did), but the cross-branding will just add more sneakers to the re-sale market, with astonishing four-figure price tags, much to the satisfaction of those who can command them and the thrill of those willing to submit to the commanders.

Nike x Kendrick Lamar React Element 55 KL, SGD229, is available at Nikelab, Dover Street Market Singapore. Photos: Nike

Air Force One For Her

The colours are sweeter, but the recognisable silhouette remains the same. Girls do get the best

 

Nike AF1 P1

By Shu Xie

I have been a fan of Nike’s Air Force 1, but never had the courage to wear such a chunky (but not ‘dad’-like) and somewhat tall sneaker—that Shibuya toast of a midsole! Of late, I have been looking at the many iterations of this thirty-seven-year-old silhouette (also, the first to employ Nike’s proprietary air soles), and I realise that my resistance to the AF1 is not its mass or height, but the colours it tended to come in. As kicks that started life as a basketball court staple, it was mostly in solid colours, with white supposedly the all-time, off-court favourite.

According to those who bother to count (and the breed exists), the AF1 has hitherto enjoyed more than 2,000 variations. It was, however, the arrival of the Acronym collab (actually on the Lunar Force 1) in 2015 that got me into re-considering the AF1. Admittedly, there wasn’t that much colour to scream about. It really was the zip that did it for me. Then, when the 07 ‘Just Do It’ pack hit the stores last year and in that orange, and with those tags and labels on the upper (okay, quite Off-White, but I’m not going there), I was sold. Not long after, when the almost too-sweet ‘Easter 18’ pastels emerged, I have to surrender to the futility of resistance.

 

Nike AF1 P2

Now that colours on sneakers are making the colour wheel look bland, Nike is issuing their classic shoes, such as the AF1, in chromatic variations that make their past colour lives look positively lacking. And it’s the women’s shoes that are leading the way. I first noticed the enticing colour play in the women’s M2K Tekno. And now the ladies’ Af1 is getting an even jazzier chromatic treatment, especially in the ‘Shadow’ release, a remake with so many additional details you’d forget its first life as a shoe for shooting hoops.

According to the brand’s website, “The Nike Air Force 1 Shadow pays homage to the women who are setting an example for the next generation by being forces of change in their community. This sneaker reflects this ethos in its design with double the Swoosh, double the height and double the force.” That sounds to me like double the marketing fluff, but twice the good stuff does not only apply to the branding. Conceptually similar to Sacai X Nike’s Waffle Daybreak (another high-in-demand-low-in-supply sneaks), the AF1 Shadow comes with two eye-stays, two mudguards, two back tabs and two Swooshes, all with one beneath the other like, well, a shadow. Sneaky! And swell, too.

Nike Air Force 1 Shadow, SGD179, is available at Nike flagship store, The Foot Locker, AW Lab, and Left Foot. Photos: Chin Boh Kay

Classic Track Top Gets A Touch Of Fashion

Nike’s latest A.I.R. offering reminds us of a certain designer label’s fun side

 

Nike Windrunner AIR fall 2019

By Ray Zhang

My friends know I am partial to Nike. Apart from the fact that I was an early adopter—as early as 13, when I bought my first pair of kicks, the Air Zoom Pegasus, I am also an avid follower of the permutations that the Swoosh is able to give to its classic shapes and silhouettes and, geez, the very Swoosh itself. While I am getting increasingly bored with fashion (I know you are too), I am still fascinated with what Nike is able to continually do to arouse fan interest.

Take this track top, the Windrunner, a jacket that goes back to a very distant 1978. I own quite a few of them. Each time a colour-blocked version is released and, especially, in the nylon that’s as thin as tissue, I succumb. But I have never seen one conceived in this manner of colour-and-pattern-block symmetry. And this isn’t under the more experimental Nikelab. Sure, Nike, more than any other athletic brand, has embraced graphics so bold and off-court/track that you’ll think their design team works mainly with those who are perpetually equipped with aerosol paint. Still, this new Windrunner took me by delightful surprise if only because it immediately reminds me of CDG and Play.

Nike AIR Cody Hudson

There is, of course, the dots, which is a fave repeated pattern at CDG, and the two eyes in the rear that are not unlike Filip Pagowski’s peepers for the heart shape that the Polish artist designed for Play. Nike’s version is part of the graphical composition conceived for the brand’s Artist in Residence (A.I.R.) seasonal program by Chicagoan Cody Hudson, who is also behind the graphic design outfit Struggle Inc. Mr Hudson, who acknowledges that he can’t draw (an admission that I can relate to 😊), relies on irregular shapes that is akin to doodling, and it is this aesthetic naiveness that lends his work freshness.

And, as a consequences, this Windrunner looks different. I like the khaki and obsidian combo and that the jacket easily goes with anything I own under the CDG umbrella. The track top (an odd description, I admit, since it likely won’t see even a running path) comes with a packable hood (can be folded into the collar), which is perfect for those of us who really prefer to conceal the extraneous until needed. The polyester shell has the added advantage of being water-repellent and, if you need it for the darkness of night, is given reflective details. I should wear mine out tonight to see if the eyes will glow to better ward off the stealthy advance of PMD riders!

Nike Windrunner A.I.R., SGD149, is available at Nike flagship, Jewel Changi Airport and online. Photos: Nike

The Swappable Logo

To give you even more mileage, some sneaker brands now offer kicks with logos that can be removed and changed for a different colour or print

 

Nike Air Force 1 '07 LV8 opNike Air Force 1 with removable Swoosh

By Shu Xie

It’s a gimmick, of course, but not without appeal. These days, sneaker makers are offering a small measure of DIY to help you do your own thing so that you can express your own individuality. One way is to offer you a chance at your own customisation without online services such as the Nike By You customisation service or offline options such as the personal touch of SBTG or Mr Sabotage Mark Ong himself. The easiest, as I saw this past month, is to allow swappable logos.

It’s no coincidence that both Nike and Puma have launched sneakers that allow their respective logos—the Swoosh (1971) and the Formstrip (1959)—to be substituted by another. This option is available for the Air Force One and the Ralph Sampson Lo respectively. These Velcro-ed detachable logos come in a set of three for both brands, which allows for adequate creativity. This is possible now that logos are not as sacred as before. Nike has allowed its Swoosh to swoop down to the mid-sole (the Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2 or the Air Force 1 Jester XX) and even go squiggly (the Air Max 270 React released to promote mental health awareness). With the re-attachables, I was thinking that I would deliberately attach the logo askew!

Puma X Chinatown Market opPuma X Chinatown Market Ralph Sampson Lo Trainers also with the Formstrip logo that can be detached

Both shoes available with three choices of logos aside, the colour stocked locally is white for Nike, as well as Puma. White, I guess, is an easier neutral canvas on which to play with the logo as you please. Nike’s Air Force 1 has always been popular regardless of season and, in white, the preferred sneaker for those who want to apply their creativity on the upper. Surprisingly, Nike’s three Swooshes come in three rather conventional colours: a Hender Scheme-tan (which matches the box logo at the top of the tongue), a black that Nike prefers to call “obsidian”, and the denim blue to go with most washes of your jeans.

Not to be outdone is Puma, whose collaboration with the “bootleg aesthetic brand” Chinatown Market, means wackiness won’t be ruled out. The logo options accompany the lo-top Ralph Sampson, named after the American basketball player, a legend of the ’80s, who is known as a “7-foot-4 (2.24m) phenom”, are, to me, a lot more fun that Nike’s for the Air Force One. There is the expected black (for those who can’t get enough of two-toned kicks), shiny tri-coloured (blue, red, and green), and the black/yellow checkerboard pattern, which, I suspect, aficionados of CDG would, without hesitation, approve. Or, would that be fans of Vans?

Nike Air Force 1 ’07 LV8 3, SGD179, is available at JD Sports. Puma X Chinatown Market Ralph Sampson Lo Trainers, SGD169, is available at Puma Select, MBS and Robinsons at the Heeren. Photos: Chin Boh Kay

Just As Good Without The Collaboration

Are sneakers sans designer association less desirable or not as worthy? We think not

 

Nike Daybreak SP opNike Daybreak SP in the newest colour combo following the success of the collaboration with Undercover

Sneakers linked to designer names are getting not only discouragingly expensive but also annoyingly difficult to score. Apart from creating a buying frenzy and enormous publicity for the respective brands, collaborative outputs are known for their scarcity. That is, of course, the intention from the beginning of the coming together of two major brands, but what’s good for them is often a bummer for the rest of us—many, it should be noted, defiantly adverse to the ridiculous resale market. No one can explain satisfactorily why a company such as Nike, this year ranked 14th on the ‘World’s Most Valuable Brand’ by Forbes (just two spots below LVMH), can’t produce enough shoes to meet demand.

Most designers who collaborate with sneaker brands work on existing or old or out-of-commission models. At some point, brands will release said model either simultaneously or after the release of the former, in the wake of the reiteration’s success. Nike’s much anticipated React Element 87 from last year, conversely, was a new silhouette and was first launched with Undercover. The shoes, seen all over the Web in their colourful glory, piqued so much interest that they were never, till this day, available in quantities that can satisfy even a quarter of the demand. When the non-collab version finally came out shortly after, they too were so often sold out that people started to wonder if the React Element 87 were really phantom footwear. But at least those could still be seen, even if infrequently, and you stood a chance to cop a pair.

Nike React Element 87 in the slightly off-beat colours of the latest drop

So many of us are now wondering why we allow ourselves to go weak in the presence of the increasingly mindless hype of collaborative kicks. Enough doubt, in fact, that we are beginning to consider the OG (original release) version rather than be disappointed by the failure to cop the designer-linked. Nike, for one, seems to know that (or plotted such an outcome). Following the success of their second pairing with Undercover, a compelling born-again Daybreak, the Swoosh released the OG version quickly enough in no less appealing colours, such as the latest Ocean Fog/Mountain Blue/Metallic Gold (top). Sure, these are not like what Undercover cleverly and unexpectedly did, but they are no less handsome or covetable.

Merely bringing back a style from the past may not be enough to ensure new interest or relieve consumers from retro-kicks fatigue. Look at Nike’s own Cortez: even the expensive Bella Hadid—in an uninspiring campaign—could not save the shoe from lacklustre retail performance. A “premium product” at the start of the Nike brand, the Cortez now looks merely retro, without the edge that other brought-back-from-about-the-same-time sneakers radiate. Perhaps, what the Cortez needed was a pre-comeback designer touch. Post-collab, the Daybreak seems even more desire-rousing than the React Element 87, proving that it can survive the consumer tastes of 2019. The Undercover spin paved the way for new interest in a shoe that, by itself, may not have returned from forgotten glory, especially in the wake of more bombastic offerings such as the over-the-top Sacai-led LDV Waffle Daybreak.

This month, Adidas Originals released Ozweego with a dedicated window at AW Lab

In fact, OGs following successful collaborations so increase the visibility of the shoes themselves that sneaker brands are now dedicating some brought-back-from-obscurity OGs for major launches. Adidas Originals has had some triumphs with their designer partnerships even if they are not as headline-winning as Nike’s. One of them is their attention-grabbing and wildly successful work with Raf Simons in 2013, in the form of the Ozweego (version 1), a shoe already known for its “aggressive” form (meaning the Balenciaga Triple S of its time), yet Mr Simons was able re-imagine it to stunning and, surprisingly, unrecognisable effects. The results, as expected, are forbiddingly expensive—mostly above S$500 a pair.

With keen interest generated by the more avant-garde forms of the co-branded version and a large base unable to own them because of their discouragingly high price, Adidas rolled out the Ozweego, an update on the 3rd version of the style released in 1998, these past months, in the hope of recapturing the success it had with Mr Simons. Priced mostly at S$160, it is easy and tempting to bite, even if the shoes are a far cry from the designer versions. That these born-in-the-Nineties kicks now come looking geekier than before (and in Insta-worthy colours unfortunately not yet available here) won’t hurt its chances at being wildly popular.

Adidas Ozweego Aug 2019In its latest form, the Adidas Originals Ozweego looks quite unlike the the version conceived in collaboration with Raf Simons that sparked massive interest

Adidas Originals has, of course, a track record with strong designer collaborations and then following them up with even more partnerships while simultaneously releasing original releases and updated versions with the same fire as those (still) playing Pokémon Go to keep Pikachu and company very much alive. What comes immediately to mind is the Stan Smith—probably the biggest reboot success of the decade, so lucrative and gainful to the German shoe maker and so delightful to fans that Adidas is still producing and updating the Stan Smith up till today, allowing the former tennis kicks (and the cousin Superstar) to outsell every Nike sneaker released in 2017, according to media reports.

The Three Stripes showed rather convincingly that classics can become cool and cool can become classic (again). One of the later collaborations that amplified the Stan Smith’s fashion cred is with Raf Simons (check out their odd ‘Peachtree’ Stan Smith). New versions still appear and collectors, it is known, are not satiated yet. The Stan Smith’s undeniable popularity poses problems too, chiefly imitation, not just among Taobao brands, but with luxury names too. Even Gucci can’t resist—their unapologetic take, the Ace, is the conventional, retro-strong sneaker that those not quite into the chunky Rhyton buy with complete and entertaining abandon.

Nike Air Skylon II Armo opNike Air Skylon II is this year’s geek kicks made good, thanks to Fear of God

Not all designer collaborations trump the OG reissues. Some, in fact, look better than the result of partnered tinkering. Nike’s working together with Fear of God in the Air Skylon II resulted in a shoe that did not quite shake the ground on which the kicks would walk on. Sure, there’s the toggle lacing that replaces the conventional laces, but this isn’t quite the heel clip of the Nike X Underground Daybreak. There is, of course, the “luxury” upper, but the ‘Black’ and ‘White’ of the first issues last year, are hardly the colours of post-IG era or the enough-of-basics buying sentiment of today. Drake seen in a pair with his usual I-am-not-wearing-anything-special nonchalance may have brought attention to the collaboration, but not quite enough to subsequently send the kicks must-have soaring.

Yet, it is the designer-free Air Skylon II (debuted in 1992) that we at SOTD find especially appealing. Visually, this is not anywhere near the colourful Air Max 270 React, a shoe that may one day be as remembered as the Roshe Daybreak (who can now recall the Roshe One?!). Still, the Air Skylon II is a charming show of retro silhouette and creative colour story, both coming together to striking and irresistible effects. If only more brands, not only Nike, can whip up such a commercial yet compelling mix. And charge prices that do not match the versions with designer cachet.

Nike Daybreak SP, SGD159, is available at nike.com; Adidas Originals Ozweego, SGD160, is available at AW Lab; Nike Skylon II, SGD159, is available at The Foot Locker. Photos: Chin Boh Kay

Close Up: Another Elusive One

Even with a second drop, this well-hyped Nike X Undercover shoe is nearly impossible to cop. Some sneaker-seekers wonder if it actually exits. It does and it’s totally desirable

 

Nike X Undercover Daybreak P1

Nike and Undercover are playing hide and seek with us again. The second drop of their latest collab, like the hitherto nearly-impossible-to-find Element React 87 (including and especially the Undercover versions), is seen all over the Net, on every social media account you bother to follow, but in stores, both Nike and indie retailers, you’ll be convinced that, unlike the Gyakusou imprint produced by Nike and Jun Takahashi, all releases by the Swoosh and the brand that “makes noise, not clothes” are more holy grail than hot cakes.

The latest is a remake of the 1979 Daybreak, a sneaker Nike proudly calls “old-school”. But Jun Takahashi is never so obvious. Old-school in his hands can be retro-futuristic. And it is his not-quite-running-shoe-looking take that is clearly the draw. Crossing into “luxury streetwear” territory (but nothing as bland and repetitive as Yeezies), the new Daybreak—also known as Dbreak in some reports and e-shops—has all the elements that knowing sneakerheads call cool: a recognisable form factor, daring colour combinations (such as the second drop’s ‘bright citron’ or lemon yellow), and a defining feature—here an exaggerated “heel clip”.

 

Nike X Undercover Daybreak P2

It is really this heel clip (which looks inserted and can be removed, but not at all) in molded and speckled plastic extending upwards and outwards from the natural curve of the heel that really allows the shoe to stand out, if not stick out. And, win so many fans. While this detail in the rear is more decorative (a frame for Undercover’s underscored-U logo) than functional, it does give the shoe an edge that no other recent Nike release—even the Nike X Sacai LD Waffle Daybreak, with the superfluous double Swooshes—can top.

What is especially appealing to us is the Daybreak’s opposite of the dad silhouette that has belatedly gripped the imagination of the sneaker-buying public here. In your hands, the shoe may appear a tad too early Nike running shoes, but when worn there’s a slim-line sleekness that has been missing in sneakers since the return of the Stan Smith in 2014 or post-Balenciaga Triple S—the kick that really kicked aside all shoes not as ungainly. Who’d thought that crowded-train-unfriendly hippopotamus of a sneaker was going to thrill the trainer fan?

Nike X Undercover Daybreak P3

In fact, Undercover’s Jun Takahashi is not a hypebeast you’d call a trend follower. Just look at everything he has done with Nike for his Gyakusou spin-off brand. Except perhaps the collab with Valentino, there is almost nothing in his arsenal that suggests he is swayed by the most-liked post in Sneaker Freaker. That is, ironically, his burgeoning appeal and possibly why all the Nike X Underground releases are maddeningly limited. Sometimes, brands just don’t love you back.


Second Time Lucky

By Ray Zhang

I have written about my frustration with copping the Nike X Undercover Daybreak. So, truth be told, I gave up. I convinced myself that I do not need another over-hyped sneaker and had, in fact, eyed the Daybreak SP in Ocean Fog/Mountain Blue/Metalic Gold. Then on a Saturday morning, I received a call from a friend. He was in the Nikelab store in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, and the “luxury” Daybreak was just released. No one in the store, it seemed, was concerned with the raging protest at the city’s international airport. It was a buying frenzy. Did I want a pair? Should he be scolded for the redundant question?

Nike X Undercover Daybreak P4

When I finally was able to unbox them shoes, they did live up to the rave so madly generated. These are rather special kicks. Even in the tissue that they were nestled in, I could immediately discern that one day in the future, the Nike X Undercover Daybreak will be considered one of the most important releases of the present decade alongside the partnership’s React Element 87. Once in my hands, I was overwhelmed by an elation I have never experienced before. Can a mere pair of sneakers basically hauled back from the past do this to me?

The shoe deserves admiration before the feet are placed in them. The heel clip, as it’s called, is really quite something: who would have thought of drawing attention to the sneaker’s otherwise nondescript back side? Apparently Jun Takahashi had. In fact, it appears that he left most of the shoe in its original form, save the rear. When worn, I thought I was looking down at the Tailwind 79. Walking in them, I felt the steadiness and comfort of the Internationalist. These are kicks I’d be wearing often. Only thing is, as of now, they’re too dear for unthinking wear and tear.

The second drop of Nike X Undercover Daybreak, SGD239, is sold out at the Nikelab corner of DSMS, the only known stockist in Singapore. Nike.com is reportedly re-stocking. Photos: Chin Boh Kay

Vintage(y) Yet Forward

Nike’s look-back silhouette, the Vapor Street PEG SP, is decidedly modern looking. That it’s inspired by Japanese graphics only upped its fashionable appeal

 

Nike Vapor Street PEG

Nike is such a master at hybrid silhouettes—marrying the old to the new—that we can never predict what they’d think of next. Who’d imagine an Air Max 270 React (Air Max 270 + React Element) for example? This time, rather that bringing together two relatively new styles, Nike has opted to re-imagine the Air Pegasus with elements of the Vapor Street Flynit. The stunning result is the vaguely futuristic Vapor Street PEG SP.

In the latest iteration, the sleek sneak sports a rather striking (and unusual) colour story. They’re rather muted, if put side by side the above said shoe. Although no less colourful, they don’t really blare for attention, yet they would appeal to fashion folk with an off-beat colour sense. As a fabric technologist friend of ours was quick to point out: “how very Marni”.

Nike Vapor Street PEG P2

For us, the colours are only half the appeal. The silhouette has a (fashion) forward-zoom urgency that we associate with Gyakusou, the Nike collab with Jun Takahashi (think Zoom Pegasus 35 Turbo—yes, ‘Turbo’ is the operative word), the man behind Undercover and the latest, highly-hyped pairing with Valentino. This isn’t just a running shoe, and not one for those who go ga-ga over the decidedly old-school Nike Cortez ’72 S.D., with the warped Swoosh, or the falcon—or the ‘Dimension Six’ circle—replacing it, but sneaks for fashion folks who imagine running in the likes of Sapporo Dome, and then, later, off to dancing in Contact, Tokyo.

The Japanese reference is intentional: the Vapor Street PEG SP has an only-the-wearer-knows detail: Kanji graphics on the cork insole, obscured by the equally striking upper that looks like what you’d find in Japanese graphic design website Gurafiku. What we, too, admire is the strange-looking mid-sole. It could pass off as some space vehicle out of old Star Trek! The aerodynamic leanness aside, the shoe has a very pronounced heel, a pointed protuberance that looks somewhat caudal. Those who have a tendency to attract heel steppers, do beware. Unless you can use the rear defensively, like a scorpion!

Nike Vapor Street PEG SP (in Cargo Khaki/Alligator/Sequoia/Spruce Aura), SGD239, is available at select Nike stores. Photos: Zhao Xiangji

One Plus One

Once upon a time, Comme des Garçons was a logo-less brand. Not any more. Together with Nike in the re-release of the odd Shox, CDG made it clear that its visible branding—fully spelled out—is here to stay

 

CDG Nike Shox TL

By Ray Zhang

Back in 2000, when the first Shox shoe was released by Nike, I thought it was the weirdest looking kicks. There were high heels in the rear of the mid-sole, comprising four stout pillars—never before seen in a running shoe. From the side view, I remember thinking that if King Louis IV of France were to wear sneakers to jog in the Jardin du Château de Versailles, these might have been them. The thought won’t go away when Nike released, the Shox with red heels, which, if back in the day of the ancien régime of the Roi Soleil (Sun King), were not only an indicator of political privilege, but direct access to the monarch in his court.

On the court of fashion, Comme des Garçons paired with Nike to bring the Shox back, freeing it from its basketball association. Honestly, the Shox is the last shoe I expect CDG to work on. By now, despite a new reiteration, the TL (now, with a full-length Shox mid-sole, looking like sneaks on stilts!), the Shox is, to me, evocative of yesteryear tech. To be sure, Nike shoes, no matter how old, lend themselves easily for a remake. But, the Shox is, to me, a style that perhaps suits sitting somewhere comfortably in the farthest end of our memory.

However, as with most CDG X Nike collabs, things are not so straightforward or obviously retro, or even sporty. The is classic Japanese deconstruction meet as-classic hip-hop styling. CDG is the earliest proponent of the raw edge, which is a garment finish that appeared way back in the ’80s. With the mesh-upper, CDG now does not give the sneaker neat seams—around the lace guard (which stretches downwards and is conjoined with the toe box), at the top of the tongue, the foxing at the heel, and, unexpectedly, around the surprisingly discreet Swoosh.

CDG Nike Shox TL (2)

The curious thing to me is the chain with the full-name pendant, a hanging jewellery that is less Carrie Bradshaw than Missy Elliot. It sits above the lacing, under the upper end of the pronounced tongue, already boasting the CDG logotype. The gaps between the Shox’s columns in the mid-sole naturally allow something like a chain to be passed through, hence securing the eye-catching link. Sneakers have welcomed studs and other hardware, but not chains; not even used as laces.

I sense this placement is very much influenced by hip hop (what fashion isn’t?!). There’s more than a whiff of the neck-wear preference of the likes of A$AP Ferg and Drake (or if you look, further back, LL Cool J!) here. Also known as “rap chains”, these are part of a growing blink culture that has elevated the status of jewellers such as Ben Baller of If & Co and, naturally, the dynamic duo of Verbal and Yoon of Ambush. CDG, especially through their retail arm Dover Street Market, seem especially drawn to this form of ostentation.

I have, of course, seen this chain and pendant before. Back in November 2015, it was distributed as a door gift of sort at the CDG store’s autumn/winter party. And I continue to witness the same worn by guests at subsequent in-store events conducted by the brand. Did CDG produce so many of the chains that they still have enough of them to be re-purposed (as they have with some of their fabrics)? Could this, indeed, be some sort of up-cycling? If so, you can’t say that Comme des Garçons isn’t giving sustainable fashion a welcome shot.

Comme des Garçons X Nike Shox TL, SGD490, is now avaialable at DSMS an Comme des Garçons, Hilton Shopping Gallery. Photos: (from top) Nike, Chin Boh Kay, DSML, DSML

Another Tough-To-Get

Really tough. Could the Nike X Undercover Daybreak be their React Element 87 of the year?

 

Nike X Undercover Daybreak

By Ray Zhang

I should have given up. Because in the end, I really shouldn’t stress over a pair of sneakers. Last year’s Nike React Element 87 was hard enough. I didn’t even try the collaborative version with Undercover. Even the regular release, as it turned out, was somewhat of a holy grail, unless you are willing to pay the ridiculous prices months later at Sole Superior.

Similarly, the Nike X Undercover Daybreak was so impossible to cop that I started to wonder if some powerful reseller has direct access to them before the rest of us could even have a glimpse of it, online or offline. The Daybreak by what I consider one of the best sneaker collaborations of the past five years is a shoe of palpable authenticity and, concurrently, Japanese quirk.

The Daybreak has been dead (or, on a positive note, hibernation) for 30 years. All shoes in Nikeland, as we keep seeing, can be undead. In resurrecting the Daybreak, Undercover has mostly kept to its original form—the for-running foam mid-sole and très old-school black rubber waffle out-sole!—except the heel counter, which looks like it came from outer space. Did someone dig his heels in on the garbage planet Saakar?

 

Nike X Undercover Daybreak P1

These days, heels are where designers concentrate their efforts. From Rick Owen’s pairing with Adidas (which sadly ended last year) for the Runners (2013) to A Cold Wall X Nike’s Zoom Vomero 5, with the blockish heel counter (and idea also seen in Sacai’s hybridising of classic Nike silhouettes), the rear is now more than ever an invitation for unseeing pedestrians/commuters/strollers to kick or step on.

The major lure for me, however,  is how the shoe is decidedly retro without venturing into dad-shoe territory. I find the nylon upper and the suede trim of the toe box and the eye stay a perfect match: classic case of opposites attract. That in Nike’s communication materials for this Daybreak, the sneakers are paired with a pair of corduroy slacks is certainty that it will have retro appeal.

Last night, I started monitoring the Nike website for the release of the shoe. Even at midnight, it said “coming soon”. Looking at the countdown counter, I knew I could go to sleep and wake up to buy it. At thirty minutes to nine this morning, when the Daybreak would be released, I sat in front of my PC and was ready. I readied my smartphone too, just in case. At nine, sharp, I clicked on the image of the shoe, chose the colour (blue!), and size, and clicked “add to cart”. The rejoinder was “Please try again. Sorry, there was a problem processing your request. Please try to add to basket again.” This went on for the next 30 minutes. In the end, I gave up.

Nike X Undercover Daybreak is launched today on nike.com and DSMS. It is, as we understand, sold out. Photos: Nike

Update (15 June 2019): After releasing the black and blue Daybreak sneakers, a green version will reportedly be out on 21 June. Good luck!