Nike. NewBalance. Converse. You’ve probably got a pair of them in your wardrobe. Common Projects and Y-3 – cult sneakers gone mainstream.
We’ve scoured the globe for lesser-known shoewear players on the rise – the designers making contemporary sneakers you may not have seen on Australian footpaths.
Here are five emerging footwear designers, ranging in price and silhouette – but not in quality – to keep you in step this spring and summer.
Sweden is home to many up-and-coming sneaker designers, including Eytys, a unisex label launched by childhood friends Jonathan Hirschfeld and Max Schiller in 2013. Spot the purple tab at the heel and you’ll know you’re in Eytys territory.
The new unisex Mother Suede style – $235 – draws inspiration from late ‘90s skate shoes, featuring magenta-dyed suede with contrasting rubber soles. The spongy cork insole is incredibly comfortable.
The classic low-top style, Mother, begins at about $200 and comes in canvas or leather with thick rubber soles, providing extra height. Once they’re on your feet, you hardly notice the elevated wedge.
House of Future, USA
Founded by Californians Shaun Nath and Stuart Ahlum in 2016, House of Future uses non-traditional, sustainable microfibre leather (in place of standard leathers and skins) and coated Tyvek paper (to replace waxed canvas) to make its sneakers.
After working for Quiksilver in France, Nath decided to tap into the booming upscale sneaker market by introducing something new: reasonably-priced, well-made sneakers that solve the universal problem of keeping white sneakers white. These trainers are not difficult to maintain thanks to their easy-to-clean weather-resistant finish.
The original hightops ($130) are a contemporary interpretation of the traditional basketball hightop, with waxed laces, micro-fibre leather uppers and welted rubber outsoles – a design that has put this label on the map.
Adam Lewenhaupt started CQP three years ago and it has since bloomed into a cult brand selling thousands of shoes a year.
“Given that we focus on fairly classic silhouettes and craftsmanship and not high-fashion items, we have to build trust,” says founder Lewenhaupt. “My main objective when designing a shoe is not that it should stand in someone’s bookshelf, but like a car, it needs to have a certain presence when not used,” he says.
Designed in Stockholm and handmade in Portugal, two new styles have been released for the fall-winter 2017 collection – the $350 Racquet Sr (a lined version of the classic low-top Racquet model) and the $370 Flyback (a vintage high-top). They come in dusty shades of suede and offer great arch support with minimal padding to ensure a glove-like fit. Each pair is made by hand – their soles stitched in place rather than glued.
The shoes have “a metal shank running along the back, which gives them great comfort and stability” Lewenhaupt explains.
Filling Pieces, The Netherlands
Guillaume Philibert launched Filling Pieces in Amsterdam in 2009 when he was a 19-year-old student studying architecture, a background that informs his design in sculptural lines and symmetry.
The shoes are manufactured in Portugal using Spanish, Portuguese and Italian materials (the factory is around the corner from Lanvin’s sneaker manufacturer).
Our pick is the Low Mondo Ripple Nardo All White ($285), which is a new-season silhouette that nails Scandinavian minimalism, taking cues from the label’s own classic FP Low Top.
Striving to minimise its impact on the environment, Veja uses organic cotton, rubber from the Amazonian rainforest, and recycled canvas. Leather is tanned with low levels of chemicals and water at a factory in southern Brazil.
Founded in Paris in 2004 by Sébastian Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion, the duo works with organic cotton farmers in northern Brazil, taking care to establish ethical and sustainably-minded production chains.
The Volley, inspired by retro volleyball trainers from the ‘70s, is the label’s most popular style for both men and women and costs $120.
Christoffer Brattin and Fredrik Johansson craft shoes made of sandy canvas with a rubber toe and sole. They look similar to a Converse high-top, but they’re made by hand in Stockholm’s Vasastan district,in a factory that has used the same moulds and machinery since the 1950s.
Brattin spent five years at Tommy Hilfiger before consulting for various shoewear labels. The duo actually launched their core range in the early 1970s but it wasn’t until 2012 that they took of. Today, the label has 150 stockists around the world, including Dover Street Market in London and Tokyo.