A Striking Balance

The collab between Puma and Helly Hansen yields some fine kicks. This is one of them


Puma X Helly Hansen Trailfox.jpg

Among those in this equatorial hothouse who seek outdoor wear for cooler climes, Helly Hansen (HH) is likely an unfamiliar name, if compared to, say, Timberland. But HH is a heritage brand, one that was founded in Norway 142 years ago, making it more than twice the age of the Boston-born Timberland, which started in 1952.

Helly Hansen is known for their pro-grade gear for skiers and sailors, and their outerwear is especially popular in Japan, where they are sold through retailers such as Nanamica (a cult fave) and Beams, as well as in their own free-standing stores. So sort after is the brand among the Japanese that Undercover has recently collaborated with HH to tap into the growing demand for rugged and handsome outdoor styles.

The curious and uninitiated here now can get to savour Helly Hansen goods (girls, they’re not connected to Sally Hansen!) as the results of the brand’s collaboration with Puma, which have been available since late September, includes clothing too, are available on our shores. So this is not off-the-factory new. Yet, this pair of trainers caught our attention again recently when we visited Puma’s flagship at Jewel, and it looks even better the second time round, perhaps because the trend in outdoor styles is so prevalent and is more compelling than the persistence of street wear.

Helly Hansen has chosen to work on Puma’s Trailfox, a sturdy-looking poly-terrain, originally designed for trail-running, but now assigned the role of a “training shoe”. Given the anything-goes attitude of the footwear wear choices of gym-goers, it won’t be out of place on a Nautilus track. Nor with anything trendy; as an affordable and no less stylish alternative to the Balenciaga Track.

The Norwegian brand does not remake the Trailfox into an out-there shoe. In fact, HH keeps to a conventional black suede-and-fabric upper atop a two-tone—white and a dove gray that is subtly perforated—middle, underscoring the logo-on-logo branding. Attached to this is an IMEVA mid-sole, under which is a rubber out-sole that offers traction and durability, and a distinctive cool touch: spot colour of hi-vis orange. To us, that seals the deal.

Puma X Helly Hansen Trailfox training shoes, SGD199, is available at select Puma stores. Photo: Chin Boh Kay

No Blunder

Ader Error’s collaboration with Puma shows that sneakers need not be over-designed to look good


By Ray Zhang

I don’t know about you, but I have had quite enough of super fancy shoes. The Malay language has a perfect word for how I feel: jelak (‘bored’ is inadequate a description, but you know what I mean). Enough of complex uppers (Balenciaga Track and Louis Vuitton Zigzag), brick-thick air soles (Shoes 53045) and superfluous text and hanging tags (anything Off-White). The comeback of Nike’s Daybreak and Tailwind made me realise that I no longer want super yachts for shoes, a catamaran will do.

Which means I won’t be going back to Stan Smith and kin. I still want my kicks interesting, but I don’t need them to be the next exhibit at the museum of footwear excesses. I like some colour since I won’t go full nurse mode nor goth gloomy. I like textural contrast since two fabrics are better than one (suede and leather!). And I like a few details since these would be so discreet they’ll be my inconspicuous enjoyment.

The one recent sneaker that meets all these requirements is the latest Puma X Ader Error collaboration, based on Puma’s classic tennis shoe CGR, with a few additions, naturally. Korea’s most feted streetwear label overseas won’t have it any other way. They don’t offer token makeovers a la Pharrell Williams; they are wont to deconstruct, but without transmogrifying the shoe’s recognisable form.

This CGR appeals to me because it’s not some basic silhouette on steroids (which, as we know, are banned in sports anyway). I like that it has a whiff of the 90s and includes visible yet discreet details such a labels alongside the lace guard (which includes two pairs of contrast-coloured D-ring lace holders). The colour story and details have, in fact, been explored in the collab’s RS9.8 and Roma sneaks, but I find that they’re better executed in the CGR, which comes at the right time—I’m retiring them dad shoes!

Puma X Ader Error CGR (White & Surf the Web pack), SGD189, is available at Leftfoot. Photo: Chin Boh Kay

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

Father Figures

For late adopters and those not willing to shell out a chunk of a month’s salary for a hunk of a shoe deemed the height of fashion, but shall no longer be, there are alternatives


Dad shoes

It’s been a year since we were acquainted with clunky, heavy, thick-soled shoes so monstrous they had to be associated with dad to be evocative. What should have been a dud has, instead, become sneaker culture’s unlikely hero and energiser. From then, there are dad shoes and more dad shoes, and some are seriously daddier—or uglier (in fashion speak, glorious!)than others. One of them is not Adidas’s own Klump, the Yeezy 700. Despite their chunkiness and their so-uncool-they’re-cool oddball stance, these shoes are being released by brands like Buddhists freeing turtles into the sea (放生, fang sheng, or live release, for improving the devotees’ karma). Dad shoes, it seems, have quite a long life to come, now that even unlikely brands have come on board, from Aldo to Skecher, even Timberland!

It is, of course, a no-brainer to just go buy a pair of the slowly-fading Balenciaga Triple S or, if you’re the leader of the pack, the even flashier Track, but not many, although able, are willing to cough up close to S$2,000 for a pair of kicks. Rather than consider the likes of Gucci Flashtrek (or, gasp, the bejewelled version), auditioning real sneakers by sports brands could be a lot more fun and rewarding, not to mention easier on the wallet. Some fashion types think that fashion shoes should be purchased from a fashion brand and would, therefore, consider Zara or China’s not-too-shoddy Urban Revivo. But at a specialist sneaker retailer, you do get better value even if most of the desirable sneakers are above S$200, as well as the performance that come with the DNA of these shoes.

This could possibly be virgin territory for those used to the Stan Smith and co. While you are looking for a hunk, you do not wish for too much heft. And although the side of the shoe may be a pull, do not dismiss the top view: you do prefer architectural wonder than a slab of dough. Since these shoes are designed to look at least one-and-half times the length of your actual feet, be prepared for them to appear unusually large. Stick to your usual size and do not allow ill-informed sales staff to tell you that your feet are “too small”!

Nike M2K Tekno

Nike M2K Tekno

This is a sneaker that Nike, for reasons unknown to us, isn’t offering in large numbers. In fact, they’re not easy to find. The women’s version (above) has recently appeared and, as usual for most trending shoes, is available in fetching colours, such as this sweetest of pinks (and the strongest of reds). Colours aside, what works in Nike’s favour, as handsome dad shoes go, is its form. From the top view, the M2K Tekno is wickedly well-shaped, with adequate spread and corridor on the sides to give these kicks the right balance all shoes with a hulky silhouette should have. In this case, the shapely upper is unsurprising as it sits atop the equally dad-like, beautifully grooved mid-sole of the Air Monarch, which is another shoe to consider if only because it is a lot cheaper.

Style strength ★★★★★ Chunk aspect ★★★★★ Comfort factor ★★★★★

Nike M2K Tekno, SGD 159, is available at AW Lab

Adidas Yung 96

Adidas Yung 96

It isn’t quite clear if the current craze for the Falcon (women’s only) is because girls think they are handsome dad shoes or because Kylie Jenner is the kick’s near-billionaire model. If you don’t care about celebrity endorsement, you may prefer a cousin, the Yung 96. This kick may not score as the daddiest of dad shoes out there (that honour goes to its sibling the Yung 1), but it sure looks like the geeky kicks its pitched to be. The Yung 96 has the prerequisite chunkiness, but it also sports the three stripes that looks decidedly a relic from the ’80s. Nothing, of course, wrong with that since most shoes today are built on the very old soles of yore. Still, Adidas, could have given it a fancier spin, especially the somewhat lame mid-sole.

Style strength ★★★☆☆ Chunk aspect ★★★★☆ Comfort factor ★★★★☆

Adidas Yung 96, SGD159, is available @ Foot Locker and JD Sports

Puma Thunder Spectra

Puma Thunder Spectra

When the Thunder Desert first appeared two months ago (now in peach or peppermint shades for women!), many people thought this is the shoe the Ye should have designed. When the second iteration Thunder Spectra (above) launched last week, many consider it a worthy competitor to the Triple S. This is arguably the most striking sneaker release of the season, one that can be traced to Puma’s collaboration with Alexander McQueen back in the ’90s. Its handsome profile and the layers of colours are exactly the reasons people post shoe photos on IG. When worn, the snug is a delight and the total mass an eye-opener. However, the top view of the Thunder Spectra has more in common with a baguette, not those you’d find at Delifrance, but the corpulent versions at neighbourhood bakers.

Style strength ★★★★☆ Chunk aspect ★★★★★ Comfort factor ★★★★★

Puma Thunder Spectra, SGD201, is available @ Puma stores, AW Lab, Foot Locker, JD Sports.

Reebok Aztrek

Of all the brands seen here, Reebok has the potential to release striking dad shoes based on some of their past styles. But they have not done so in a big way—pun firmly in step. Their most dad-looking is the Aztek, first released the ’90s, but it is an uncle of a shoe if compared to the Adidas Yung 96. Still, the Aztek, cut higher at the ankles than others, is appealing because it is the most retro of the selection here. Serious-looking, even! With the Vetements collaboration on the brand’s revolutionary Instapump Fury still fresh in mind, many are turning to Reebok for kicks with street cred that do not—normally—shout out loud.

Style strength ★★☆☆☆ Chunk aspect ★★☆☆☆ Comfort factor ★★☆☆☆

Reebok Aztrek, SGD139, is available @ Reebok stores and Foot Locker

Fila Disruptor II Premium (W)

The comeback sports brand of the year (thanks to Gosha Rubchinskiy?) wasted no time in releasing flagship styles that are consistent with the craze for the thicker and the taller. The Disruptor II does not only has the bulk, it has the height to go with the girth, which is why, we were told, it is especially popular among women. This is the clunkiest sneaker seen in the stores, and, in large sizes, do take up space in the MRT train. And, offers less than ideal flexibility to sprint for the bus. While it may be mistaken for a Skecher, the Disruptor II, even in white, is the exaggerated kick that defines fashionable footwear now.

Style strength ★★★☆☆ Chunk aspect ★★★★★ Comfort aspect ★★★☆☆

Fila Disruptor II Premium, SGD269, is available @ Fila stores and Foot Locker

New Balance 99H

NB 99H

The New Balance silhouettes for its shoes have been rather consistent through the years: neither too narrow nor too broad—chunky not being the UPI of their past, which means they are not the first brand you’d go to for styles that are tagged ‘dad’. In spirit, however, there’s something quite papa’s shoe about the 99H. Sure, the mid-sole isn’t thick or complicated-looking enough (compared to the 990 that sneakerheads prefer or the 608 that girls are now gravitating to), but this is an elegant reflection of what’s trending, and possibly a shoe you’d still want to wear after the current craze is not even a vestige of our collective memory.

Style strength ★★★☆☆ Chunk aspect ★☆☆☆☆ Comfort aspect ★★★★★

New Balance 99H, SGD199, is available at New Balance stores and Robinsons at The Heeren

Under Amour Forge 96

Under Amour Forge 96

Under Armour, while a brand now frequently seen among gym goers, isn’t exactly known for their forward or trend-leaning ‘lifestyle’ sneakers that you might wear to Manhattan (the bar!). The appearance of the Forge 96 this month may change all that as it is the first pair (in different trendy colours, it should be said) that launched UA’s Sportstyle category. The Forge 96 is less retro than retro-futuristic and is, despite its appreciable hunk, rather minimalist, if placed next to the more expressive Puma Thunder Spectra. Strictly for (fashion-considering) fans.

Style strength ★★☆☆☆ Chunk aspect ★★★★☆ Comfort factor ★★★★☆

Under Amour Forge 96, SGD 159, is available at JD Sport

Calvin Klein Jeans Leather Chunky Trainers

Calvin Klein Jeans Leather Chunky Trainers

We’re hesitant to include this in our line-up, but since it’s sold in a sneaker store, we thought, why not. Calvin Klein Jeans, even in its re-branded form, is late in the dad shoe showdown, but, as it’s always said, better late then never. Their version, simply called Leather Chunky Trainers, are rather attractive even if they look a tad too close to those by Balenciaga. The mixed upper of mesh and suede (and those eyelet stays!) gives them a rather high-end, fashion-y vibe. And the colour combo of the above is what non-white sneaker fans would want to cop.

Style strength ★★★☆☆ Chunk aspect ★★★★★ Comfort factor ★★★★☆

Calvin Klein Jeans Leather Chunky Trainers, SGD260, is available @ AW Lab

Shoes are mostly available in men’s and women’s sizes unless indicated. Photos: Zhao Xiangji

More Beads For The Mid-Sole

Puma Hybrid Runner Unrest

By Shu Xie

Two days ago, Neighborhood’s designer Shinsuke Takizawa posted on IG photos of his brand’s upcoming collaboration with Adidas: the Kamanda kicks. It isn’t so much the branding emblazoned across the upper that caught my eye. Rather, it is the bumpy mid-sole of the shoe. The tyre-like bumps on it reminded me of the little pearls encased in the Puma Jamming with NRGY beads.

Puma, it seems, love beads or tiny globules that look like beads, so much so that it has re-introduced the NRGY beads in the two new silhouettes that were launched earlier this month: the Hybrid Runner Unrest (top) and the Hybrid Rocket NETFIT (below). But unlike those of the Jamming, these beads look less like Poh Chai Pills, and more like the pebbled reflexology foot path (seen from afar) in HDB parks. Or even puffed rice!

Puma Hybrid Rocket NETFIT Aug 2018

The things they do to mid-soles these days. Excluding air bags and whatever grid work out there, I can count the speckles, the dots, the camouflage motifs, the marbling, the graffiti, the LED lights. All these extraneous treatment seem to come into effect for one purpose: they’ll look better when the sneakers get their own selfies. The new NRGY beads-encrusted (“filled”, according to Puma) IGNITE foam tempts one to touch it, and are more tactile than the earlier iteration fishbowled in the Jamming.

I am not sure how effective these beads are in giving you extra thrust when you do the 100-metre dash, but they seem a little gaudy for any track. Regardless, I slipped into both the Hybrid Runner Unrest and the Hybrid Rocket NETFIT (actually a lacing system). The former triumphed: the lining under the knit upper allows the foot to slip into the shoe easily without snagging. This, however, was not a princess and the pea(s) moment as I did not feel the NRGY beads underfoot. Still, there’s no denying that the IGNITE foam allows walking, if not on something frothy, at least on something akin to a mattress. Isn’t that easy to love?

Puma Hybrid Runner Unrest, SGD 159, and Hybrid Rocket NETFIT, SGD 219, are available at Puma stores islandwide. Photos: Zhao Xiangji

These Are Without Tongues

Puma X Andrea Pompilio Monte Sandal AP.jpg

By Shu Xie

Onitsuka Tiger’s collaboration with Andrea Pompilio has always yielded some rather atypical kicks. This season, apart from those with the usual patchwork uppers, they have come up with a sneaker, conspicuously missing the tongue.

The tongue-less shoe, which Onitsuka Tiger calls ‘sandals’, could be a blessing if you, like me, are easily annoyed by those tongues that do not come with two slots in the centre through which you can guide the laces so as to better hold the tongue in place. Although tongues gone askew is not a pretty sight or comfort to the upper feet, many sneaker makers still do not consider how they can be secured.

Onitsuka Tiger X Andrea Pompilio’s Monte Sandal AP appears to solve the problem of the movable tongue by dispensing with it altogether. The lace guards and eyelets are also missing. In their places are a simple strapping system—forming a zig-zag—for laces to go through. Although the leather straps can be a little abrasive if you choose to go sock-less, they can be kinder to your feet if they’re first treated to a good shoe conditioner such as the Saphir Renovateur before use.

When you slip your feet into them, they feel like kungfu shoes. If you look at them from the top down, they look like Mary-Janes (with lace harness). Either way, these are kicks that, to me, will go well with wide-legged pants or, if you’re so inclined, ‘skorts’.

Onitsuka Tiger X Andrea Pompilio Monte Sandal AP, SGD169, is available at Puma, Suntec City. Photo: Puma

The Mid-Soles With Poh Chai Pills

Puma Jamming NRGY Beads

By Shu Xie

I don’t know about you, but when I saw this Puma sneaker, with its transparent mid-sole filled with beads, I immediately thought of Poh Chai pills (保济丸).

In my pre-teen days, these tiny TCM spheres were what my grandmother always gave me when I told her my tummy ached. I stopped taking them in secondary school because my mom had another remedy: a bitter decoction of hou po (厚朴 or magnolia bark), which I still remember to be as unpleasant to ingest as Poh Chai pills.

I didn’t know until a few years back that Poh Chai pills were reported to contain ingredients considered carcinogenic. It has been quite a while since I saw a stout and slender bottle of Poh Chai pills, until now—these teeny pearls, embedded in a sneaker, so evocative of stomach ache relief of my childhood!

Okay, these beads have nothing to do with medicine grannies were wont to dispense, so I really digress. In fact, these pellets are a part of Puma’s new cushioning technology known as NRGY beads, which, if you ask me, sounds suspiciously TCM!

Puma’s beads are free to move in the full-length pocket of the mid-sole, cushioning your every step, which, I suppose is like the distribution of qi. This distant relative of the ball bearing is but one in a list of cushioning tech that makes you part with quite a bit of money, from Nike’s now-ubiquitous Air to Asics’s less-loved Gel.

Unless you have extremely sensitive soles, possibly from training on pebble walking trails, you may not be able to tell if these beads are more effective than other cushioning systems. To me, they don’t feel any different from mid-soles currently favoured by runners. But for the heck of walking on these not unattractive balls, I am sold.

Puma Jamming with NRGY Beads, SGD249, is available at select Puma stores. Photo: Zhao Xiangji

The Rad Of Dad Shoes

They are way cooler if your father won’t cop them


At this very juncture of sneaker cool, it’s not the technology that counts, not the thickness of mid-soles that matters, not the outrageousness of the design of the upper that entices. These days, the overall package has to have an unsightliness that is so anti-fashion that it is fashion and a vibe that is so off-beat that it can be traced to paternal tastelessness. Father may not be cool enough, but you, standing on what is supposed to be his domain but unclaimed, is the height of high style.

Are we finally free of Stan Smith’s over-long grip?!

In the sneaker-sphere of fashionista-as-geek, “dad trainers” share the same aesthetic motivation as orthopedic sandals, such as slides: designers tap into the vapid and the downright banal to yield something odd, slightly incomprehensible so that some styles can go beyond the ken of the average consumer. Father of today’s dad trainers is irrefutably Demna Gvasalia. He is the major proponent of dubious-taste-as-ultimate-taste and last year, through his designs for Balenciaga has introduced the Triple S sneaker, the patriarch of shoes bearing dad’s lack of taste.

The thing about dads is that they like coming together. Their sneakers too. Following Balenciaga’s pursuit of papa gauche, Louis Vuitton’s Nicolas Ghesquiere launched the Archlight, an exaggerated take on the sneakers your father no longer would touch. And then before you can say lao ba, every brand wants their own clunky, ungainly version. So prevalent they are now that even Dazed has this year’s models “ranked”!

But not everyone is willing to pay the astronomical prices that come tagged to the likes of the Triple S—over S$1,000. So sports brands play their willing part. One of them introducing the dad trainer that isn’t a collab is Puma. Taking a break from their hip-hop outing, Rihanna’s Fenty enabler discreetly launched the RS-O ‘Play’, a chunk of a shoe that would not be out-hunked by its earlier-to-market competitors.

To augment its dad standing, the RS-0 series is inspired by retro gaming and the leather-and-mesh ‘Play’ has coloured inserts in the mid-sole that purport to mimic old-fashioned buttons on hand-held device controls. Sonic the Hedgehog (a collab is reportedly in the works) fans would appreciate the geeky reference.

The trainer looks comfortable and it is. It would not deter dad from wearing it with black socks, but you know better. It has a surprisingly prominent tongue and while it does not stick out like the Archlight, you can live with it. What’s particularly appealing, perhaps, is that the RS-O appears to prefer no gender. Don’t fathers like it better when their girl appreciates dad’s taste, however questionable?

Puma RS-0 ‘Play’ sneakers, SGD199, are available at Puma Select, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. Photo: Zhao Xiangji

Portage In These Kicks

Bag maker Manhattan Portage now carry sneakers? With help from Puma, they are offering rather enticing pairs

Puma X Manhattan Portage

This season, one of the most attractive sneakers with camouflage print is Nike’s ‘Country Camo’ treatment for their all-time fave, the Air Force 1. Joining the handsomeness of military motif for feet is this pair of Puma Clyde Zip, conceived in collaboration with Manhattan Portage (MP), mostly known for their sturdy messenger bags. These version looks nothing like the original Clyde, a basketball shoe named after the American NBA star Walt “Clyde” Frazier.

The “Zip’’ edition of the Clyde is unmistakably post-classic, and it is immediately obvious why it receives such a moniker. In keeping with the trend to add horizontal zippers to more trad silhouettes, such as the Y-3 Stan Zip Low-top Neoprene (another sneaker we love!), Puma has given its own a striking fillip. But more than the practical—and for many, useful—detail, there’s also the rather distinctive buckle and strap at the forefoot, as well as lace secures for the entire length of the tongue. How many ups are there against Nike? (Smiley optional)

The New York-based Manhattan Portage’s collaboration with the Herzogenaurach-headquartered Puma, interestingly, isn’t just about shoes (there are two styles, including the Clyde Sock). There are also, as you would have thought, the bags, which reminds us of the Timberland X Porter collab: smart and usable, but unsurprising.

In fact, if you walk into the Manhattan Portage flagship in 313@Somerset, you’ll mostly see rather conventional bags. In Japan, the picture is quite different. Early this year, they have collaborated with Undercover to spread the latter’s Chaos/Balance mantra via MP’s messenger bags. Previously, in 2010, they’ve incorporated Frapbois’s almost cute graphics into messengers as well. They have also teamed with Tokyo-based retailers such as Freak Store and Beams to yield rather fetching, covetable results.

While nothing exceptional can be picked out at the local MP store, just next door at Limited Edt Vault, this pair of fine-looking sneakers, awaiting appreciative owners, are ready to be unlaced, unbuckled, and unzipped.

Puma X Manhattan Portage Clyde Zip, SGD165, is available at Limited Edt Vault. Photo: Puma

Is Puma Doing A Chanel?

If Nike can be inspired by the Bao Bao, it’s not so outrageous that Puma is equally influenced by Chanel. Interestingly, both brands take their design cue from bags. In the case of Puma, the Clyde Dressed Part Deux sneaker seems to take after Chanel’s 2.55 bag, so named because it was in February of 1955 that the bag was released.

Now that Chanel’s first bag (actually, the 2.55 was modified in 1954 from an earlier version that came out in 1929) is no longer restricted to women of a certain age and associated with a certain refinement that reigned 60 odd years ago, people are using the distinctive bag as they like, anyway they like. And since the 2.55 is as likely paired with a pair of heels as sneakers, Puma’s Clyde, now available as Dressed Part Deux, is quilted to play its part.

Puma must have known the potential of the upper of the new Clyde: the diamond-shaped pattern, complete with running stitch that resembles Chanel’s, which, apparently (no one is really certain), was inspired by the riding coats of jockeys (Coco Chanel was a fan of horse racing). Although Puma’s quilted upper could be a deception of personality, many women are indeed enticed by the leather surface treatment that is associated with one of France’s most storied couture houses.

Although Chanel makes the occasional sneaker, theirs aren’t exactly kicks women weaned on the likes of the Boost are inclined to wear.  The Clyde is, according to Puma’s own telling, born of the request by the ’70s basketball star Walt “Clyde” Frazier, who had asked for a custom-made pair in suede. Puma obliged. Like so many classic court shoes now brought back to life, the Clyde is given a fashion makeover—presently called “Dressed”, no doubt underscoring it’s likely life outside the court. It seems that the Puma Clyde Dressed Part Deux and Chanel 2.55 are a match made in heaven.

Puma Clyde Dressed Part Deux, SGD170 is available at Puma dealers. Photo: Puma

Is This Athletic Brand In Crisis?

Kylie X PumaSOTD imagines what the Kylie Jenner + Puma partnership may look like. Photo: #Kylie Jenner. Collage: Just So

By Shu Xie

The question popped up as soon as I read, with—I admit—distaste, that Kylie Jenner has signed with Puma to be “featured in the brand’s Spring/Summer women’s training campaign launching in April 2016”, according to a statement issued by the athletic brand. I am sure Puma’s enthusiasm has something to do with her 52.6 million followers on Instagram (even South Korea has less inhabitants), rather than her natural talent as a model who can communicate the brand’s messages to a sea of potential customers. Or her track record as a face for sporting goods. In fact, Ms Jenner had, until her collaboration with Steve Madden last year, been associated with nail polish (OPI) and hair extension (Bellami Hair). Yes, there was the Kendall and Kylie Collection of 2013, but I am not sure it means anything to the world of sports.

The contract between the German label and the American reality star-slash-model was reported to be worth six figures. In addition, although she’s the face and body of Puma, Ms Jenner will supposedly be able to continue to wear Adidas, a necessary clause since she is likely going to carry on supporting her brother-in-law’s Yeezy line (an assurance to Kanye West’s rant that “1000% there will never be a Kylie Puma anything”?). It is puzzling that this isn’t an odd negotiation for Puma, considering that competitor Adidas is the other brand that emerged from the fallout of the two brothers who started in the shoe business together: Adolf and Rudolph Dassler (the company was originally known as Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik or the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory). Puma (Rudolph’s) is presently owned by Kering, the parent company of Gucci.

Signing Ms Jenner up appears to confirm the belief that, these days, merchandise alone—however appealing—isn’t going to ensnare the paying consumer. If a brand needs to mainly bank on celebrity to augment the desirability of its products, would that indicate that, at its core, their goods are perhaps not so appealing to start with? Puma has had cachet in the past (and, to a certain extent, still do), having collaborated with design heavyweights such as Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan, Yasuhiro Mihara, and Hiroaki Shitano of Whiz Limited. Then in a surprising move last year, it appointed Rihanna as creative director of Puma Women, a move that recalls Lindsay Lohan’s appointment at Ungaro in 2009. Rihanna’s output is the Fenty line, launched at New York Fashion Week early this month. It looks to me like a she-Yeezy, only with less earth-caked colours.

The increased celebrity association could mean Puma is relying less on heritage or DNA. Even its long-time association with the game of football seems deflated. Surprisingly, its own design studio has not updated and re-branded classics such as the Suede (once also known as State) and my fave, GV Special, the way Adidas has with the Stan Smith and Superstar. As with the Stan Smith, the GV Special is a sports-star endorsed product: in this case, Guillermo Vilas, the tennis ace of the ’70s, and, for the TMZ fan in you, one of the era’s most noted playboys.

Ultimately, which brand are we supposed to buy into: Puma or Jenner? What puzzles me to no end is the dire inability for so many brand owners and followers of the members of the Kardashian/Jenner clan to see what the latter truly are: crass. Increasingly, marketing heads these days care more about reach than taste, visibility than discernment, bombast than subtlety. For as long as you (and your family) are a whopping news-making machine, who cares if you look like Kylie Jenner?

The Merlion Inspires

Puma Blaze of GloryWhile Adidas Yeezy Boost 350’s second drop in black last week was making headlines and yielded, till now, crazy behaviour on the part of sneakerheads, a pair of shoes slipped frenzy-free into the market this weekend. The Puma X Limited Edt Blaze of Glory appeared as quietly as an angel at the retailer’s stores in 313@Sommerset and The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. The lack of buzz is remarkable considering that this is, in essence, a collaboration to mark SG50. Clearly, the golden jubilee of a nation isn’t big enough to drown the noise coming from a hip-hop-star-turned-shoe-designer. Kanye West sure knows how to steal a country’s thunder!

From an aesthetic point of view, there’s much to laud about Blaze of Glory. The shoe is inspired by, of all the visible things on our island, the Merlion. Yet, on a whole, it looks more futuristic than retro: an apt tribute to a forward-looking nation? There’s no denying the appeal of the silver, pony hair-covered toe box that purports to represent a lion’s mane or the ‘fish scales’ of the sock-like upper, made out of a reflective 3M fabric to symbolise a fish’s body. These sit atop an on-trend speckled rubber outsole. The shoe laces of candy-cane-like twists of red and white cords are, perhaps, the most obvious SG50 element since they colour-correspond to our national flag. They are also reminiscent of those brown paper bag handles once widely used, but now mostly seen during Moon Cake Festival at the original Tai Chong Kok bakery in Sago Street.

You’d think a shoe that references a kitschy icon would be a product of brash tastelessness. Blaze of Glory is a composite of details that manages to circumvent the obvious for something not quite outré, but definitely on the side of memorable fashion. Kudos to Puma for not going the Adidas way.

Puma X Limited Edt Blaze of Glory “SG50” drops in a limited run of 215 pairs. Each set comes with a specially-designed box, a T-shirt, and a fridge magnet. It is available for SGD250 at Limited Edt Vault, 313@Sommerset and Limited Edt Chamber, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. Photo: Puma/Limited EDT