Collaborated With: Nike, New Balance, Converse, PF Flyers
What They're Known For: Patchworked garments, re-worked pieces, reinterpreting American and British menswear.
Junya Watanabe is a trailblazer when it comes to high-fashion/sneaker collaborations. The Japanese designer first worked with Nike in 1999 on a Zoom Haven, and his following works have been unique to Watanabe's vision. His work on the Haven was just the start of things to come. In 2000, Watanabe worked on a runner with Nike, the Air Kukini, but one his most important collabs to date would be the distressing of classic Nike runners. This idea didn't come together by accident. Watanabe's designs are rooted in Americana. But, there's something different about Watanabe's sneaker collaborations. Where a lot of fashion designers create sneakers that pop in real life, Watanabe's sneakers are understated. They're meant for those who know, and not to impress the passerby, sort of like their own best-kept secret for stylish dudes to keep to themselves.