NMD Madness: Time To Forget The Stan Smith

Adidas NMDSeen on a commuter on the MRT: Mastermind Japan X Adidas NMD XR1

By Shu Xie

Two weeks ago, in London’s JD Sports on Oxford Street, an unprecedented scene was witness by a friend who was holidaying in the city. Unprecedented because he has not seen anything like this in Singapore. Perhaps, as he conceded, he has not been in the right place, at the right time. There, at one of London’s biggest sporting goods stores, a group of Asian shoppers (possibly tourists; Thais and Taiwanese among them) were crowding a wall of adidas Originals NMD sneakers. “Jostling” was how he described the bunch, and “not a Caucasian among them”.

Just outside that group, a saleswoman with a stack of immediately identifiable blue boxes (seven, according to him) beside her was shouting out shoe sizes with the desperate hope that whoever had asked for them would come forward to claim the prize. The responsive ones were quick to grab their object of desire. At that precise spot, they would immediately try on the shoes, either standing or squatting. “There was not a bench or even a stool around,” my friend revealed, with no attempt at concealing his disapproval. “You know, I refused to pay £120 for a pair of sneaks and to feel I was shopping in a pasar—and this was no Borough Market!”

NMD Primeknit Tri Color.jpgAdidas NMD R1 Primeknit ‘Tri-Color’ Pack

 

Only yesterday, at Seek in Ion Orchard, I saw two guys asking for the NMD. I didn’t hear the first part of their request, but the sales guy’s response was audible: a vehement, nothing-more-to-say “sold out.” Will you be re-stocking, came the desperate rejoinder. “We don’t know. Adidas controls the releases. Our stock sold out within 30 minutes they were in the store.” So, it’s not available in Singapore, one of the shoppers plead-asked. “I don’t think you can find it anywhere here. Even if you were to buy at the Adidas shop, you would have to ballot for it first.”

At the time of this writing, the ballot is closed. The Adidas Singapore website was of no help: a line “There are no products matching the selection” was the response to an earlier search for the NMD.

nmd-xri-camo

One of the most sort-after the NMDs, the XR1 ‘Duck Camo’, released on Black Friday last year

 

Two days earlier, between 313@Sommerset and HMV on Grange Road, I saw a transaction between two fellows who looked like they would be sitting for their ‘A’ Levels this year. The object of the exchange was a pair that looked like an NMD XR1 in black. As soon as the recipient examined the shoes (that was when I saw them) and was satisfied with the pair, he handed cash to the seller, who, in the presence of pedestrians, immediately counted the notes: there were 11 pieces of fifty dollars. At online sneaker re-seller Saint Singapore, the cheapest pair of NMD is S$299 (the R1 Mesh Charcoal Grey), while the dearest, S$1,299 (R1 in collaboration with the street wear label Bape).

There’s no denying the NMD’s popularity. When you walk down any busy street and see a group of guys (women, too, in fact), chances are, you’ll see all of them in NMDs. Herd mentality of course, since many young consumers of sneakers approach the purchase of their on-trend pair the way many once grabbed the Stan Smith: ardently and indiscriminately. The NMD’s standing in today’s important kicks is further born out when Zara recently issued their version with nary an attempt to disguise it as anything else. Theirs came more than a year late, but who’s taking notes?

nmd-x-mastermindTotally high in demand (and sold-out) was the collaboration with Mastermind launched last year. On E-Bay, a pair can be had for as high as USD1,399 

What’s with Asia’s obsession with the NMD? I am not really sure, just as I can’t be certain why so many on the continent are mad about Gucci’s appliquéd denim jackets, but I shall hazard a guess. The NMD is sort of a follow-up to the wildly successful Ultra Boost (and the cousin the Yeezy Boost), a new silhouette in 2015, when it was considered something different from Adidas in a long time. The NMD, according to media reports at the time it emerged, is based on three of the brand’s old-time sneaks: the Boston Super, the Micropacer, and the Rising Star. Just as one assumed a retro style will materialise, Adidas launched a slightly minimalist, not quite bombastic shoe that is not dripping with pre-disco-era styling.

The NMD—an abbreviation of ‘Nomad’ but no allusion to a really itinerant existence—is also not marketed as a serious sports shoe, cashing in on the fact that most of the sneakers we own have not been put through the rigours of court or track. It’s a light and airy shoe, which is more and more preferred than the clunk of, say, the Superstar. This is especially appealing in Southeast Asia where the weather has been more on the side of searing. In addition, as street style is the dominant force in today’s fashionscape, the NMD, particularly the blacks, appeal to those who are weaned on the likes of brands such as Off-White.

nmd-x-bedwinAnother impossible-to-get style, the R1 conceived in collaboration with Bedwin & the Heartbreakers last year

Launched at the end of 2015, the NMD basically comes in two styles (if the less-seen City Sock version is not included) that are causing temperatures to rise and wallets to empty out: the R1 with the brand’s unmissable three stripes and the XR1 with the triangular frame on the side that holds the eyelets. The NMD is built on what Adidas calls Boost technology, essentially a micro-engineered sole that’s touted to be durable and shock resistant: a territory and look that the more critical could trace to Nike’s Roshe Run.

Personally, I prefer the XR1, maybe because of its lack of obvious parallel-lines branding. In fact, the all-black versions could be mistaken for pairs from a Y3 store. Sneakerheads are looking forward to the R2, the not-unexpected follow-up to what for some is the most successful sneaker style of 2016. I’m keen to see that version interpreted by White Mountaineering (first shown at the label’s SS 2017 show in Paris last June), more so after missing out on Masafumi Watanabe’s spiffy pin-stripe version for Bedwin & the Heartbreakers last year. The Japanese just know how to take something current and make it better.

Product photos: Adidas

The Shoe Inspired By A Shirt

Lacoste L 12 12The new Lacoste L.12.12 premium leather sneaker. Photo: Jim Sim

For so many sportsmen and not-so-sporty individuals, the Lacoste polo shirt is an iconic garment. Having crossed the backlines and sidelines of a court to live large in every corner of our urban spaces, the Lacoste polo shirt is no longer restricted to the game of tennis for which it was designed to be worn. Despite its many reiteration and fits and the staggering plethora of fabrications, the original polo shirt, born in 1933 and code-named L.12.12, remains one of the most popular in the brand’s selection of sport tops.

It is, therefore, not surprising that Lacoste would create a shoe inspired by the shirt that has placed the brand on the world’s fashion map. The L.12.12 as footwear is every bit as sleek as the polo shirt, with a purity of design that articulates the same sense of what is logical and practical in terms of wearability. There are no superfluous elements in the shoe. From the padded collar (surprisingly sans pull-tab) to the PU insole (unsurprisingly moulded for extra comfort and cushioning) to the 5-hole perforation at the top of the toe box (to improve internal ventilation), every detail serves a specific purpose.

Lacoste’s introduction of the L.12.12’s is, to some, a little belated, since Adidas’s Stan Smith has staked out a huge chunk of the tennis-shoe-as-fashionable-footwear market of the past three years (not to mention every other luxury brand’s take, including the near-facsimile of those by Saint Laurent). Still, we’re partial to Lacoste’s refined version in monochromatic washes of very handsome hues (there are six colourways, but only five are available in Singapore). The silhouette, with a toe box that’s neither too rounded or pointy, is flattering on wide Asian feet and the Derby construction—characterised by quarters with eyelets for shoelaces sewn atop the vamp—lends the shoe an elegance that can easily make the scene outside the tennis court.

L 12 12 shirt and shoeThe classic L.12.12 polo shirt and the shoe that is named after it. Photos: Lacoste

The L.12.12, interestingly, is not just a style number. L, as you guessed it, is for Lacoste. The 1 “represents the uniqueness of the petit pique material used for the polo” and the 2 is the code for short sleeves. The following 12 (rather than 1 and 2) is the number of prototypes developed before the version we see today is designated for sale. The L.12.12 has spawned not just a pair of shoes, but eau de toilette too.

For those with a penchant for details, a kick may be derived from the knowledge that the shoe is lined with a piqué that is akin to that used in the polo shirt. The piqué is a weaving style—usually used with cotton yarn—woven lengthwise with raised yarns or what fabric technologists call ‘ribbing’. The result is a fairly loose weave that makes the fabric ‘breathable’. Lacoste’s piqué was originally developed with Andre Gillier, the co-founder of La Chemise Lacoste. Mr Gillier was France’s largest owner–manufacturer of knitwear at that time; who had, prior to Lacoste, produced his country’s first men’s underwear label Jil, known for its slip kangourou (or kangaroo slip, a pouch-crotched brief).

For sure, Rene Lacoste, whose last name is now sometimes used as synonym for the polo shirt, was a far bigger legend. However, not many people these days know or remember that Mr Lacoste was a tennis player and a world-famous one too. The ignorance is understandable since France no longer dominates the world of tennis. But in the Twenties, specifically 1925, the sport was roaring with the triumphs of the then 20-year-old Rene Lacoste’s win of the French Open and Wimbledon just a month apart. Within a mere four years, he would claim seven major singles titles together with three doubles championships, securing the status as France’s most eminent tennis star.

As for the crocodile association, let’s leave that to another post. The reptile, however, is definitely sported on the L.12.12 shoe.

Lacoste L.12.12 premium leather sneakers, SGD199, is available in black, white, grey, red, and dark green at Lacoste Wisma Atria

The Difference A Dot Makes

 

Erik Schedin AW 2015

Comme des Garçons SHIRT X Eric Schedin sneakers autumn/winter 2015

While we may have declared that we’re getting bored with the Stan Smith, we are not entirely off the aesthetic of the plain tennis shoe. The clean, minimalist leather sneaker is, in our opinion, still the most ideal to carry any outfit, any day, anywhere.

One of our favourite reiterations of the court trainer is the version by Swedish designer Erik Schedin, conceived in collaboration with Comme des Garçon SHIRTS. Truth be told, we’ve liked it for three seasons now. There’s something completely alluring about its unabashed simplicity, quite the opposite of the attention-seeking and constantly sold-out Yeezy Boost.

While new sneaker brands try to find their own Swoosh or Three Stripes to distinguish themselves, Mr Schedin prefers something a lot simpler and painterly. For CDG, there are three distinctive markings on the side of the shoe: a dot, a stroke, and what looks like a reverse, compressed ‘C’, all drawn as if with a calligrapher’s brush. There’s something rather Oriental about them too—a quality we rather like.

Erik Schedin leather sneakersThe original Eric Schedin sneakers. Photo: Eric Schedin

Mr Schedin’s success is rather remarkable as it is essentially based only on one sneaker style. As it turned out, this particular shoe was a final-year class project when he was studying at Beckmans College of Design (Stockholm) in 2004. The end product was so defiantly minimalist, with a clear rejection of logo and labels that it stuck out in a sea of Air Jordans and their lookalikes.

In 2008, the designer decided to launch the shoe on his website, with e-commerce offerings of home ware (even cleaning aid!), stationery, and accessories. It wasn’t long before the clean-cut kicks attracted the attention of some of the most important retail buyers, such as those from Dover Street Market.

In January 2014, Erik Schedin paired with CDG’s SHIRT line to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the original shoe he designed when he was still in school. The re-issues came with the added graphics, and proved so popular that CDG has committed itself to a third season. While the first and second were based on white and black respectively, autumn/winter 2015 sees the shoes in blue and green.

Erik Schedin AW 2014Comme des Garçons SHIRT X Eric Schedin sneakers autumn/winter 2014

We’re partial to the blue, which reminds us of Ikea, and, when worn, Lego. While the blue, to us, isn’t terribly bright, it does attract attention since few sneakers get an all-over one-colour treatment these days. Interestingly, Mr Schedin’s original white version is still available at his web store, together with—no points for the right guess—black.

Apart from its design, our love for this sneaker is also based on the comfort it affords. These shoes are truly made for walking. Consider the details: an extremely supple and smooth leather upper, padded collar that’s extra kind to the ankles, padded tongue for dorsal comfort, perforated leather lining, leather insole, and vulcanised sole. The sum is a shoe that coddles the foot. If sneakers can love you back, these are the ones.

Comme des Garçons SHIRT X Erik Schedin sneakers (blue), SGD490, are available at Comme des Garçons, Hilton Shopping Gallery. Photos (except indicated): Jim Sim

Dots: How Big Will They Get?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tennis Shoes That Won’t Meet a Court

Nike X Fragment tennis classic

Now that classic tennis shoes are seriously enjoying life outside the likes of Le Stade Roland Garros, more brands are pushing theirs to the fore. Nike, not wanting to prance in the shadow of competitor Adidas, has also up the profile of its classic tennis shoe (confuse not with Federer’s souped up monstrosity!). But the ones to own follow the current craze for mostly-white versions, save the heel tab. That means Nike’s instantly recognisable Swoosh is obscured, just as in this pair, a collaborative effort with Fragment.

It may be debatable if the all-white tennis shoe trend really began with the re-start of the life of the Adidas beauty, the Stan Smith, but there’s no denying that even Nike’s updates kicks appropriated some of the ideas of the former. Perforated outline of the logo, for instance? Whatever, the case, there’s no denying that this is a handsome shoe. Fragment, the Japanese design collective headed by Hiroshi Fujiwara, has approach this reissue with a light touch, offering sneakerheads a minimalist shoe with maximum style.

This is not the first time the Nike Tennis Classic is re-imagined. Supreme has placed their stamp on it last year, and just last month, Dover Street Market released a stark, truly pristine version as part of their 10th anniversary limited edition merchandise. The white tennis shoe isn’t going away any time soon.

Nike X Fragment tennis classic, SGD190, is available at Surrender, Raffles Hotel Shopping Arcade

Are You Suffering From Stan Smith Fatigue?

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

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

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

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