The most "New York" aspect of this season's fashion week is undoubtedly the indelible—ahem—footprint of sneaker culture. Sure, off the runway plenty of editors, buyers, and street style superstars are readily spotted in rubber-soled shoes, but spring/summer 2015 shows proved just how far the influence of sneakers has come in the fashion world. Beyond collaborations and high-fashion versions of retro kicks, even big companies like Nike and adidas have carved their own lane in the luxury lifestyle market.
When Public School debuted its latest collection for spring/summer 2015, it sent an Air Jordan 1 of its own design down the runway. The limited-edition release was given to friends and family of the brand, with a similar version rumored to be dropping at Footaction’s Jordan-exclusive retail outlet Terminal 23 sometime soon. In addition, it showed a new take on last season's collaboration with The Generic Man, itself a black and white mid-top that looked like a pared-down Jordan XII. This time, the shoe was a low-top.
Less than an hour later, Hood By Air designer Shayne Oliver started his show with multiple iterations of a boot collaboration with Italian company Forfex. The silhouette pays homage to several street classics, the 6-inch Timberland, the Jordan VII, the Nike Huarache, and the Air Yeezy. He followed up with a series of monochrome looks consisting of embossed leather bomber jackets, tarred graphic print jeans, and suede wheat and Triple Black Foamposites, a sneaker whose street cred belies its technorganic, uncanny valley-inducing appearance.
Introduced in 1997, the single-molded shoe was a marvel of lightweight construction and cutting-edge material. It especially developed a following in the Washington, D.C.-area, a clientele that generally favored the utilitarian aesthetic offered by New Balances and Foams. It's definitely a shoe that's a signifier of the inner city—the kind of sneaker you'd camp out for at a place like DTLR or DrJays.
In that moment, Public School's legitimation of sneaker culture in the fashion world was one-upped by Shayne Oliver, who took an arguably more polarizing model and sent it down the runway several times—as if to make sure everyone in the room could clearly see what he was saying.
Oliver is no stranger to sending sneakers down the runway. Multiple looks were capped off with white Air Force 1s. Last season, he sent models walking down in metallic Lunar Force 1s and a Forfex collaboration with an upper modeled after the Air Jordan XI. His first runway show even featured Nike snowboarding boots, while A$AP Rocky closed it out in a pair of Air Force 1 Mids.
Even designers with a more classic American sportswear bent flexed their sneaker muscles. Billy Reid has been collaborating with K Swiss for a while now, and showed new iterations of his simple plimsoll. Mark McNairy, a designer with a penchant for giving the middle finger to classic menswear staples and early adopter of attaching bright soles to bench-made footwear, unveiled the latest editions of his ongoing adidas Originals collaboration at his show. Also keeping in McNairy's unofficial tradition of putting rappers on the runway (Danny Brown, Pusha T, and Cam'ron have walked in previous seasons), Travis Scott giddily skipped down the catwalk in several looks.
Of course, the ripples these particular shoes made in menswear were nothing compared to the women's shows. At DKNY, Donna Karan showed sneakers made in collaboration with PONY, designed (and teased on Instagram) by PONY's Alexander Crawford, but it was Alexander Wang who proved just how much the confluence of sneakers and fashion has come.
Wang's spring/summer 2015 collection took the very idea of sneakers and made it into an entire collection. He flipped the Fairway Green and white colorway of the Stan Smith into a luxe tennis dress. He took the idea of woven sneakers like the Nike's Footscape and Jordan Future and applied it to heels (legit heels, not wedge sneakers). He took the Jordan III's signature cement elephant print and applied it to neoprene tops and handbags, replete with details that nod to Nike's signature Air Bubble. Of course, the designs weren't a direct rip, but a definite knowing nod, mixing in homages to other models like the Air Max, Air Safari, and hypnotic prints that wouldn't look out of place in adidas' current Battle Pack offerings.
While Nike has dropped high-profile collaborations with Riccardo Tisci and Pigalle, and adidas has an impressive roster of collaborators like Rick Owens, Mark McNairy, Raf Simons, and Yohji Yamamoto, the persistence of sneakers in New York designers' collections is a testament to their importance in the history of authentic New York City style. High fashion has been taking cues from the streetwear world for a few years now, and younger designers who grew up dreaming of covetable Jordans and other rare kicks are finding themselves coming full circle.