A few years ago, the most lustworthy trainers were acid-tinged objects that could be probably be seen from space. But a new kind of shoe has usurped them, proving less is more in the sneaker game. These are the brands doing big things with minimalism.
For those in the know, the 10 gold numbers stamped on every pair of Common Projects’ sneakers convey more than just size, model and colour: it means you’re wearing the OG of minimalist trainers.
When Common Projects released its now iconic Achilles model over a decade ago, menswear vets and brand founders Peter Poopat and Flavio Girolami had no inkling that they’d change the entire footwear industry. But it was a nice surprise.
The catalyst in the rise of the luxury trainer, Common Projects takes a pared-back approach not only to its designs, but also its business; the brand has never had investors, only has six employees, and has never advertised. With $10 million in sales last year, clearly it doesn’t need to.
Axel Arigato is new to the game, but in the year since the Swedish brand launched it has released an astounding 100 different styles, primarily thanks to its ‘Drop of the Week’: every Tuesday, a new pair of trainers goes live on axelarigato.com, bringing versatility to an often repetitive market.
The label also forgoes classic wholesale accounts and sells straight to its customers. No middlemen equals more affordable price points, meaning you can refresh your collection each week without having to sell your boxfresh pairs to fund them.
In the age of Kickstarter, Gustin is king. Since launching on the site a year ago, the label has redefined how fashion companies do business, with all of the brand’s products crowdsourced.
The concept is simple: when Gustin gets a new fabric in, you can back any of their potential designs. A few months later, your new shoes arrive in the post. So when people ask who designed your burgundy leather low-tops, or handmade work boots, feel free to raise your hand.
Startup culture has produced a lot of noise, but Greats has managed to shout above the ruckus. The fledgling brand takes classic silhouettes and gives them a modern spin – then sells them directly to consumers.
Most companies have to design their products a year in advance, but Greats’ business model allows them to quickly release on-point styles at prices that make dabbling in trends less nerve-wracking.
Common Projects might be the big name in minimalist footwear, but they weren’t the spark that ignited the trend’s renaissance – that honour belongs to Swedish designer Erik Schedin.
While most people spend their college years testing their liver strength, Schedin was designing shoes and came up with his iconic white leather low-tops for a final exam: no logos, no labels. Sound familiar?
Erik Schedin doesn’t produce a lot of shoes, but everything he puts his mark on, including recent collabs with Commes des Garçons, influences everyone else in the footwear game.
Every other minimalist footwear brand can claim originality, but they all owe their success to one design: the adidas Stan Smith. The first leather tennis shoe, the Stan Smith was not only technologically advanced, but also revolutionary in its simplicity.
Since its release nearly 50 years ago, Stans have made the transition from tennis staple to the ultimate fashion shoe. Raf Simons, Yohji Yamamoto and Jeremy Scott have all designed versions, while everyone from Pharrell to David Bowie considers themselves loyal fans. Sometimes, you just can’t beat the original.