Monthly Archives: February 2017

Luxury sneakers the biggest trend in men’s style

The recent Paris Fashion Week was no exception. French luxury giant Hermès led the way by presenting half of all looks for its 2016 fall men’s wear collection in sneakers. Combined predominantly with a tailored look, the sought-after effect is known as ‘high-low’ dressing and is all about interweaving street style and high fashion, for the purpose of taking the latter down a rung or two.

Searching high and low

But the last thing luxury labels want to take down, even a single rung, are the prices, which can easily jump into four figures.

As Guy Trebay from the New York Times wrote last month about the uber luxury design houses: “A problem develops when, instead of being reasonably priced kicks with a great heritage back story, the sneakers you offer also cost a million bucks. Irony is essential to high-low dressing: It works only when something exclusive and costly is taken down a notch by something cheap enough for the hoi polloi.”

Regardless of Trebay’s assessment of those who choose not to stump up for a pair of luxury-priced kicks, the reality is that the widespread adoption of high-low dressing has been a boon for sneaker manufacturers, especially those producing refreshing minimalist designs at more palatable prices.

Notable examples are Common Projects and Buttero, whose Italian handmade sneakers (retailing between $400 and $600) have both taken on a cult following. And illustrating that megabrands aren’t trailing hopelessly behind the times there is Adidas, which in recent years has wiped the floor with its ode to simplicity, the Stan Smith sneaker ($120).First introduced in 1963 as a humble tennis shoe, it certainly ticks the heritage box.

New interpretations

But such is the way in sneaker-world, a new interpretation must always be released each season. Rob Ferris, head buyer at luxury department store Harrolds, says the collaboration between Belgian designer Raf Simmons and Adidas on the iconic Stan Smith (which sell for upwards of three times the price of the base model) has been especially popular for igniting high-low dressing.

“A lot of people are wearing them with a cotton suit with a t-shirt underneath their jacket, or they’re wearing a smart pair of trousers with a shirt and a knit or a blazer,” says Ferris.

Lovers of pared-back style will be pleased to know that the sleek, minimalist aesthetic doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.

After attending the influential Micam shoe fair in Milan last week, Anthony Barbieri of Sydney and Melbourne-based luxury shoe retailer 124 Shoes says minimalism remains very much in vogue.

Minimal fuss

“Signature colour palettes are black, white and blue, with tan also being prominent,” Barbieri told Executive Style from Italy.

“Many designers are also deriving their styles from the large sporting brands like Nike and Adidas, but the materials and fabrics used are of the highest quality and give a greater edge to the shoe.”

With the quality of sneakers coming out Italy, France, Spain and Portugal, many Australian sneaker lovers have had their attention diverted from major US sportswear manufactures.

Watching this switch take place has been British-born, Melbourne designer Christian Kimber. After arriving in Australia in 2011, Kimber saw a gap in the luxury sneaker market and designed his own eponymously named range that are handmade in Italy.

It has only been eight months since he launched his often richly coloured sneakers, but already they are being carried by major New York department stores Barneys and Bloomingdale’s. He has also designed a select range for the emerging and widely popular tailoring label Eidos Napoli.

“I met them at a trade show in Florence and out of the blue they said can you design a collection for us? And so I’ve been going to New York to present a collection for the last three seasons,” Kimber says. “It’s been wonderful working with them.”

Monk straps are the hottest trend in men’s shoes

Worn with a sharp suit, it’s about a suave a look as you can get, says William Church, joint managing director of esteemed English shoemaker Joseph Cheaney & Sons.

Graduation style

“We’re definitely seeing a lot more now than we were two years ago, because it just became a fashion within a fashion,” he says.

Church sees it as a ‘graduation’ style; that is, something men make the step up to when they’re already fielding a pair of traditional Oxfords or brogues in the wardrobe.

“The double buckle monk offers that opportunity to just have a shoe that is still classic, but just a bit different from the run-of-the-mill look for a Goodyear-welted shoe,” he says.

For a pair in the classic English style, Cheaney’s Holyrood double monks in bronzed espresso are undoubtedly a timeless classic.

Supply and demand

While the monk strap has always been a popular shoe, the huge spike in recent popularity can be put down to one retailer: Suitsupply.

In recent years, the Dutch company – which manufactures its own suits in China – has taken the menswear world by storm. And, like any successful business, a key part of its success has been its marketing.

A key pitch for any clothing brand is its imagery, and Suitsupply’s are among the most influential in global menswear. Suitsupply models are regularly photographed wearing monk straps, and particularly double monks, typically from revered Italian shoemaker Antonio Maurizi.

Name of the game

Best known as quite a formal shoe, the monk strap’s popularity has spurred some Italian labels to create more relaxed and eclectic versions, says Anthony Barbieri, the co-owner of Melbourne’s 124 Shoes.

“Some of the Italian shoe makers such as Officine Creative and Lagoa are pushing the envelope with their left-field interpretations of a monk strap,” Barbieri says.

“With Officine Creative, these include two-tone and buckle-less varieties, and Lagoa even make a stylish double monk espadrille, which has been very popular in this summer in the northern hemisphere.”

If you’re after a new pair of shoes, ask yourself if you really need another pair of Oxfords or Derbies. It might be time to leave them aside and go for the shoe with the best name in the game.

Ermenegildo Zegna launches bespoke range of footwear for men

The new, four-story location, designed by architect Peter Marino, has more than 6,500 square feet of space and seamlessly blends the brand’s commitment to sustainability and quality craftsmanship while preserving the 18th-century, predominantly Georgian architecture of New Bond Street.

Even bigger cause for good cheer is the return of Alessandro Sartori as artistic director. He was creative director of Z Zegna, the brand’s more casual, minimalist line, before departing for Berluti, where he helped turn the elite cobbler into a fully integrated lifestyle brand.

A shoe for every man

Debuted at the opening party, the bespoke shoe collection will be exclusive to the London flagship store. It includes nine styles designed for nine different types of men, such as “the art dealer,” a laced casual loafer; “the sommelier,” a dress Oxford; and “the biker,” a jodphur black boot. In total, there are three types of Oxfords, two takes on the loafer, a Derby, a gusset, a double monk, and a boot.

Sartori invites customers to think of these styles as mere jumping-off points: Each is fully customisable, and he suggests combining two-or even three-of the styles to make a custom shoe.

The most versatile style is the loafer, he says, and it’s the easiest one to wear in either casual or formal situations. You can have it made in one of 10 different leathers, ranging from calfskin, leather, suede, ostrich, or crocodile, in 60 different colours and 10 different lining options.

You can adjust the heel higher or lower, or customise the construction of the shoe from a technical side and choose goodyear welding-which fuses both leather and rubber into the shoes to better seal it from the rain-or go with a leather-only construction to create a lighter, softer fit. Because they are handmade, the options are endless.

Though the shoes are designed by Sartori, they will be made by one of England’s most respected bespoke shoemakers, Gaziano & Girling .

Balancing heritage with innovation

The duo of Tony Gaziano and Dean Girling started their English-focused brand of bespoke footwear 10 years ago but already have their own shop at 39 Savile Row and have attracted fans ranging from Fiat heir Lapo Elkann to billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk. The duo also runs a factory in Northampton where all the shoes will be made. Each pair for Zegna will start at roughly $8400, require two fittings, and take six months to complete.

It is this balance of heritage and innovation that inspired Sartori when designing the collection, and it seems indicative of things to come.

“One of the things that I always adored when working at Zegna, both in the past and now, is to visit their archives in Trivero,” he said. “To see so many different and interesting designs, particularly from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, was a moment in fashion when the combination of craft and style became so very important. “

Though Sartori plays with Zegna’s rich history, his real strength is his ability to marry modern design to classic silhouettes. “I don’t want to be nostalgic; one thing is to have the feel, the other is to have the modernity.”

White leather sneakers are the new black

Jerry Seinfeld was once lampooned for his fashion sense, especially his character’s habit of wearing white Nike sneakers with jeans. It looks like Jerry was well ahead of his time, because nowadays white leather sneakers are the must-have accessory for every man’s wardrobe. There are even sites like this one dedicated to chronicling every sneaker the comedian ever wore on the show.

It seems everywhere you turn blokes are slipping into the white sneakers before heading out on the town.

“White leather sneakers are everywhere,” says D’Marge founder Luc Wiesman. “Matter of fact, I’m wearing a pair of Givenchy white leather sneakers at my desk right now.”

Sneaker ground zero

Wiesman says the trend was hot in Europe in 2015 when the now eponymous adidas Stan Smiths hit the catwalk. As white leather sneakers go, the Stan Smith is ground zero.

A simple design trimmed with grass-green padding and with the adidas stripes rendered as perforations, the shoe was launched in the early 1960s and originally named the Haillet, after French professional tennis player, Robert Haillet. In 1971 the sneaker was renamed after American tennis star Stan Smith and has remained largely unchanged ever since. “The adidas Stan Smith is an affordable classic you should invest in,” Wiesman says.

Wiesman says he tends to team his white leather sneakers with a suit, albeit dressed down with a T-shirt. “White sneakers have become the go-to smart casual fashion statement that will take you from the office to the BBQ. The key is to always keep them really clean. As soon as they become dirty they cease being smart casual and just look scruffy.”

Rare Kingdom

One of the newest and rarest white sneakers on the market comes from the Melbourne studios of Kingdom Sneakers. Founded by brothers Ross and Paul Meeuwsen, the pair have recently launched a premium-luxe version tentatively dubbed the 3184 after the postcode where the design was born in Elwood, Melbourne.

“The design is a nod to heritage silhouettes from the late ’80s to the mid-’90s combined with premium fabrication,” says Ross Meeuwsen. “The 3184 is created from the finest grade leather available and is all hand-sewn. It features a custom sole, and an innovative rare earth magnetic strap.”

Although not yet officially launched, the 3184 is already creating a buzz with sneaker freaks and serious collectors; especially as it is limited to just 990 pairs worldwide. Meeuwsen says he wears his with a suit and to business meetings when he wants to make a statement. “Our design is not so conservative as the other leather sneakers on the market, even the packaging is unashamedly over-the-top.” (The shoes come in a full-metal gold box with laser engraved, individually numbered D-rings)