Sneakerheads have long maintained that good shoes are essential to life but great shoes are an art form.
Just like any other art form, the rarest and most profound pieces deserve curation under the strict custody of those most informed by their provenance and place in the cultural zeitgeist; the sneaker-aficionado, naturally.
It is without a doubt that sneakers have edged their way through the fringes of sportswear to becoming staples of our global contemporary culture in the last 40 years. Not only do we now use sneakers daily but they have become synonymous with fashion itself, permeating every area of our life and enticing every big-name designer to lend their hand in designing their own range.
With a growing crowd of sneaker trends flooding the market, the objective for designers and sneakerheads alike is now to narrow in on the rarest and most exclusive pieces out there. Drops and collabs are the ones to watch with a particularly keen interest in the ones that break the mould, enlisting the artists that shape global art movements and bring fresh ideas to the fray.
DDW takes a look at the greatest artistic sneaker collaborations of the past two decades:
Damien Hirst x (RED) x Converse
In 2010, Converse enlisted Damien Hirst, the world’s best-known contemporary artist to design a super limited edition (400 pairs, total ever produced) of their iconic Chuck Taylor All-Star model in aid of the Product (RED) initiative.
The all-red shoe featured a whimsical pattern of colourful butterflies contrasted against a white sole and laces. The butterfly motif was inspired by his painting All You Need is Love from his lauded butterfly series. On his use of butterflies Hirst famously commented: “You paint the walls white, and then life comes in and fucks it up. Like minimal paintings that have been fucked up by butterflies landing in paint.”
Pieter Parra x Patta x Nike
Best known for post-Pop imagery, highly saturated colours, vibrant hand-drawn letters and surreal characters, Parra is one of The Netherlands’ most sought-after young artists.
In 2009 Parra collaborated with Amsterdam’s most popular shoe boutique, Patta, to deliver one of the most iconic collaborations out there, the Parra/Patta Air Max 1 ‘Cherrywood’. Featuring a luxurious deep burgundy suede upper, blue chenille Nike swoosh and multi-coloured sole, these are beautiful kicks to both wear and cherish.
Cey Adams x ADIDAS
Steve Harrington x Nike
If you haven’t heard of Cey Adams, you definitely know his work; he was the founding creative director of the legendary Def Jam Recordings and has produced iconic imagery for groups like Public Enemy, LL Cool J, Jay-Z, Beastie Boys and Mary J. Blige. Adidas also has deep roots in hip-hop culture, producing the very first shoe for a group in the genre with Run DMC, so a collaboration between the two was inevitable.
In the collab’s limited run, Adams produced a shoe in honour of Muhammad Ali, an ever-lasting inspirational symbol of strength and commitment.
Harrington is known around the globe for his Californian psychedelic-pop aesthetic featuring bright, iconic characters and landscapes intended to provoke thought and conversation. In this collaboration between Nike and Harrington for Earth Day, we see the artist’s fun colourful figures of Earth on a plain white backdrop across the Air Force 1, Cortez and Blazer Low models.
Bradley Theodore x Puma
Known for his signature bright colours and freehand skull paintings of fashion icons, Bradley Theodore is one of the hottest young artists out there with a significant following in both NYC and London. In 2018, Puma teamed up with Theodore to deliver a coveted black suede shoe with his signature colour palette and street art style.
Andy Warhol x Converse
The success of the Damien Hirst collaboration led Converse to seek out the estate of the Godfather of Pop himself, Andy Warhol. Warhol’s Converse Chuck Taylors featured the iconic Campbell’s tomato soup can printed on the heel of the shoe and offered in three different colours with an additional black and grey version available for the Chuck Taylor Low tops. These shoes are worth their weight in gold on the resale and auction market, proving that Andy has still got it.
Brain Dead x Converse
The 2018 Converse collaboration with the international Brain Dead creative collective of artists and designers is a physical embodiment of the sneaker culture itself. Detail-heavy, with high graphic design and stark colour pallet the collab’s Chuck 70 shoe features the irregular line, a cow print motif on canvas and the Brain Dead signature branding. These are pure hypebeast gold.
KAWS x Vans
Kaws is one of the hottest contemporary artists out there and it’s not hard to see why; everything he puts out there is fresh and seems to be two steps ahead of the trends. His art is evocative and plays on themes of popular culture, in this instance referencing the long-running hit show, “The Simpsons”. This collab is renowned for being one of the coolest out there with its Dutch blue delft style sketches on a stark white backdrop and a limited run of 100 pairs per each of the 14 models created.
Takashi Murakami x Vans
Vans collaborated with Murakami, Japan’s most famous contemporary artist, in 2015 – introducing two colourful editions of their classic slip-on model.
The collab featured the artist’s signature anime-style face and flower motifs in a blue and a pinkish-red model. Like everything, Takashi lends his hand to, these are highly prized and sought after by collectors.
Jean-Michel Basquiat x Reebok
There is no doubt that we are living in a Basquiat renaissance at the moment, the artist’s signature urban deconstructed style has been gaining prominence across the globe with exhibitions and record auction sales.
Reebok joined the wave with this much-loved collaboration with the NY artist in 2013, introducing a graphic printed hightop in a teal and black and white colour way on the Classic Leather, Reebok Workout Mid and Reebok Ex-O-Fit.
Keith Haring x Reebok
We love Keith Haring and so does Reebok. The British shoemaker dropped the Reebok Classic collab with Haring in 2014, launching a limited edition drop with the artist’s signature doodle prints and characters as featured in his famous 1983 Matrix mural.
Available in four models including the Workout Mid Strap, the Princess, the Classic Leather Lux and the NPC Lux, these kicks have bold vibrant colours – sure to make a statement.
Yayoi Kusama x LAMMFROMM
An all-Japanese collaboration between the Tokyo-based clothing brand LAMMFROMM and the psychedelic artist Yayoi Kusama.
This collab featured two styles, one in brick red and one in ‘Kusama yellow’ as well as the artists’ iconic dot ‘net’ and ‘tree’ shape prints.
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