Sneaker Couture

Long before the proliferation of the Internet, limited edition sneaker collaborations were only available to the inner circles of “flight clubs”—a sort of underground secret street society. For days, these die-hard fans would line up and sleep outside of streetwear stores like Supreme in Manhattan to get their hands on these highly-coveted kicks only to flip them for upwards of $1,000 the same day. These designer sneakers were like the “it bag,” or status symbols for this subdivision of sneaker culture. According to Jeanine Pesce, active editor at, “The designer collaboration category was a natural evolution from the customization trend. It was rooted in the idea that customers wanted to stand out and separate themselves from the crowd.” She adds, “The collaborations hit an emotional level, and embodied what it meant to get into a sort of VIP area.” Since then, sneaker companies have latched on to this frenzy for exclusive designs, created a new category of high-end designer collaborations, and introduced limited edition pieces as staples in their lines. Some companies emphasize performance and function in their collaborations, while others are pure fashion.

Converse by John Varvatos

Puma ventures into the fashion realm bringing luxury and understated elegance to their design. Launched in spring 2009, Puma’s collaboration with master Italian shoemaker, Sergio Rossi, was sold at Colette in Paris. Targeted for the fashionista set, the women’s collection features the classic Clyde sneaker reinterpreted in luxury fabrics and vibrant leathers, as well as a sexy high-heeled version of the lace-up model and round-toe pump shape. Based on the success of the women’s launch, Rossi and Puma are set to launch a men’s collection this fall, which is based on the iconic Clyde high top, but has a sleek and masculine edge outfitted in black patent or steely grey leather.


PUMA by Alexander McQueen

Rossi is not the only designer to launch a line at Puma.Since its inception, Alexander McQueen’s Puma collaboration has aimed to incorporate sport-fashion, and bring highlight emphasis on both the technical details and the design. Provocative and innovative, the Fall/Winter collection taps into the new hiking trend and incorporates layered and structured aspects while utilizing revolutionary thermocratic materials and reflective highlights. The women’s collection includes the famous Alexander McQueen butterfly print appliqué representing the amalgamation of street and couture within this luxe footwear collection.

Converse by Comme des Garcons

For Fall, Adidas has teamed up with Y-3 and street artist MOMO to create an exclusive, limited edition sneaker line. Highly colorful and graphic, MOMO is known for his conceptual collage work and urban intervention projects in places as far-flung as Manhattan, Seoul and Madrid. By using silk screens, stencils, and paint, MOMO painted his signature vivid, geometric shapes on three cowhides. During the production process, the hides were cut to form randomized patterns, resulting in three final products that even MOMO couldn’t predict. “A lot of my processes involve a shuffle. I like that as a game, as a means to create surprises for myself,” says MOMO.

PUMA by Sergio Rossi

The Adidas Stella McCartney collection is based on bringing fashionable and feminine elements to performance related shoes, while remaining true to McCartney’s vegan tradition of using synthetic leather. The collection has some pieces focused on durability, high-tech tooling for running and active sports, and sport casual shoes inspired by athletic sports such as ballet, golf and boxing.

Adidas Y-3 by MOMO

For Fall, Converse has been in overdrive with collaborations proving that things really can be better together. Japanese consumers who continue to seek out anything that is limited edition fuel the obsession for collectible sneakers. It is a natural fit that Converse would collaborate with one of the iconic leaders in the Japanese minimalist movement, Comme des Garcons. The design features Comme des Garcons’ PLAY heart emblem silk screened on the silhouette, a ’50s vintage Chuck Taylor All Star model that was originally designed for the US military. Meanwhile, Converse will continue their rock ‘n’ roll theme lines by looking to bands like AC/DC and Metallica for a loud feel with an aggressive and electric style. In contrast, the John Varvatos collection seems based on an idea of modern elegance and refined details. Varvatos bridges the gap between men’s sport and casual style by taking classic shapes in a modern palette and putting his own spin on them, like wing tipped slip-ons, deconstruction of All Stars and Jack Purcells, as well as multi-eyelet Chuck Taylors.

With the footwear industry rapidly evolving for the masses, street credible collaborations can still be found at places like ALIFE in New York, Bodega in Boston, The Darkside Initiative in San Francisco, Goods in Seattle, and Undefeated in Los Angeles. Or, of course, one can always try their luck on eBay.

– Hillary Latos