Some of the traditional schedule’s big name brands like Celine and Louis Vuitton either sat out Paris Men’s Fashion Week Online entirely or used their slots to tease upcoming action as they recalibrated their own proprietary calendars.
But the moves opened the door for emerging designers and names which might not otherwise have found their way onto the schedule at all or simply got lost amid luxury labels with production budgets commensurate with their revenues.
Here are nine must-see shoes from cult labels like Y/Project and GmbH and new names to know like Casablanca, Palomo Spain, Botter and more.
Hawaii-High-5: Casablanca X New Balance
Despite its April 18 release in the middle of the lockdown, Casablanca’s debut collab with New Balance still managed to sell out in less than 60 seconds. For spring ’21, LVMH Prize winning designer Charaf Tajer dropped the partnership’s second wave, the 237, a white / red combination kick with accents in the same paisley print that peppered the ready-to-wear. The collection, aptly titled “After the Rain Comes the Rainbow,” (expressing hope for brighter days to come) drew inspiration from Hawaii with psychedelic hibiscus prints partout. The collab sneaker is set for a January drop.
Comma Heel Couture: Palomo Spain
Creative director Alejandro G. Palomo paid tribute to French savoir faire with a collection of 12 looks inspired by 12 haute couture masters from Cristóbal Balenciaga to Christian Dior. He gave it an “of the moment” spin by fashioning his tailored, couture-esque silhouettes with fabrics upcycled from his own archive, combining more traditional silks and crepes with floral embellishments made from PVC — notably crafted by the last remaining hand-embroidery workshop in his native Madrid. And the same went for the footwear. Santiag mules in his poppy spring color palette of black, lime green and rose pink came with asymmetric comma heels — a nod to the footwear designed by Roger Vivier for Christian Dior in the ’50s and ’60s.
Jelly Shoe Sneakers: Botter
Lisi Herrebrugh and Rushemy Botter’s label has its roots in Caribbean culture. The duo presented their spring ’21 collection as a short lo-fi film which addressed the Black Lives Matter movement via a voiceover spoken by the designers themselves. “We are standing against racism, ignorance and lack of empathy,” they said. Known for their DIY aesthetic and use of deadstock fabrics, this season they gave a similar treatment to the footwear: sneakers with a jelly shoe overlay. Similarly, a sweater and a T-shirt featuring the slogan ‘Do You See Us Now’ were repurposed from a collection of a couple of seasons ago. At the time, the phrase was a reference to the fact that they had just been named co-creative directors of luxury house Nina Ricci. In today’s context, however, it took on a whole new resonance.
Back to School: Ernest W. Baker
Inês Amorim and Reid Baker’s label takes its name and from Baker’s grandfather, Ernest Baker, from whom it also derives its creative identity, to reinterpreting classic garments that might once have sat in Baker’s closet. This season, the duo extended their inspiration to Baker’s wider family as they spent lockdown watching home movie footage of Baker’s father and his own childhood so spring ’21 also drew on the idea of old fashioned schoolboy uniforms. And nothing is more emblematic of a back-in-the-day school uniform than the British Start-rite T-bar sandal. The brand shared its moodboard images with FN featuring advertising material used by the school shoe label in the ’50s which informed their contemporary take on the childhood classic.
Game for Anything: Li Ning
Instead of showing a full collection (a physical show is set for September), Ling Ning used its slot in the online schedule to screen a film which charted its last three decades. However, the company still got pulses racing with a premier of three of its new spring ’21 sneaker silhouettes. Most impressive was the Xuan Kong with its custom TPU ‘bow’ mechanism (as in bow and arrow) between the shoe’s front and rear soles. The construction draws inspiration from early Li-Ning running footwear — also featuring said ‘bow’ technology — which allowed the wearer to literally spring into action. The designer team also looked to one of China’s most famous bridges, the Zhaozhou Qiao, itself a feat of engineering, for visual cues to help create the silhouette’s architectural functionality.
Smoking (gun) Slippers: GmbH
Signature shoe for GmbH design duo Benjamin Huseby and Serhat Isik is their Chappal loafer inspired by the criss-cross motif of traditional Pakistani sandals. For spring they are reimagined as mules in stop-sign red and midnight black velvet. The brand also unveiled a film entitled “A Season of Migration to the North,” by artist Lars Laumann. It tells the story of LGBTQI+ activist Eddie Esmail who was arrested for being gay after taking part in a fashion show in in Khartoum, Sudan (where being gay is illegal) and fled to Norway to seek asylum.
Evergreen Jeans: Y/Project
These Y/Project boots are modeled on a pair on the brand’s signature cult jeans — complete with the Y/Project denim tag to the rear and stitching on the sides. Available in classic blue denim and black, they are made of certified organic cotton and form part of ‘Evergreen,’ Y/Project’s new 100% sustainable, eco-friendly, unisex line. The line features 16 Y/Project signature pieces from previous seasons and Martens has also reinterpreted some of his brand’s core classics including pop-up jackets, cut-out pants, extended collar shirts and those all important jean silhouettes.
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American Dream: Rhude
Designer Rhuigi Villaseñor arrived in the U.S. from the Philippines at the age of nine, and this is his first collection since officially becoming an American citizen this year. The collection riffed off his idea of the American dream. The footwear drew inspiration from his American childhood, recalling both the loafers worn by his father and those of his own school uniform. Informed also by a trip to Rovello, Italy, he swapped classic Italian calf leather for suede to give them a more preppy Americana vibe.
Hero High Tops: Mike Amiri
Another designer to present a teaser rather than a full collection was Mike Amiri. Set against a backdrop of emblematic images of his Los Angeles home, Amiri documents his journey into the luxury universe and is shown sketching in his L.A. studio where he also reveals his spring ’21 sneakers — high tops with colored accents. The film also features testimonials from his loyal fan base, which include endorsements from international music artist J Balvin and retail industry heavyweights such as The Hundreds Kyle Kuzma, Selfridges buying and merchandising director Sebastian Manes, Saks Fifth Avenue chief merchant Tracy Margolies and Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman.