As this year winds down, we’ve recapped its highlights to bring you the best of 2018 in fashion, sneakers, music, movies, and more.

This really was the year when the collaboration became the new general release. It felt like there wasn’t a single week in which a collab didn’t drop, with dual-branded shoes seeming more common than major brands’ own weekly drops.

Is this healthy for the industry? It’s definitely a 50/50 argument. On the one hand, you have collaborations that generate really interesting silhouettes with strong stories and context behind them. On the other, consumers would now rather wait for a special release than buying the latest reissue or hybrid of a brand’s archive models. I’m sure this is felt in sneaker stores these days — interesting models sit on shelves, with kids more concerned about raffles and resell values.

What happened to pushing innovative designs and trying new ways to rethink the shape and function of footwear? Remember the late ’90s and early ’00s, when the designs were pretty wild? Models like Nike’s Kukini and Flightposite 3, or the adidas’ Equipment Solution, which had all the Three Stripes’ latest tech and materials in one shoe — they were all general releases without celebrities or additional brands tagging along for the ride.

I’m not anti-collab (as you can see from the list below), but what we’re missing is a trailblazing approach to creativity, something to make the whole industry a lot more forward-thinking, or even rethinking and readapting old tech with the new (ahem, Shox). So roll on 2019, let’s see something new.

Pyer Moss x Reebok DMX Fusion Experiment

best sneakers edward chiu 2018 10 PYER MOSS x Reebok DMX Fusion Experiment Adidas Fear Of God Kiko Kostadinov
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I have always been fascinated by DMX technology. My first ever pair of basketball shoes was actually the Reebok Answer 1. I still remember how the gel units shift with the movement of the sole. Kerby Jean-Raymond’s take on the generic DMX Fusion model was simple but effective, completely changing up the silhouette, giving it a more aggressive look. Add that to the fact the inspiration stems from airdrop containers and the multiple straps used to tie them down and I’m in.

11 by Boris Bidjan Saberi x Salomon Bamba 3

best sneakers edward chiu 2018 9 Boris Bidjan Saberi x Salomon Bamba Adidas Fear Of God Kiko Kostadinov
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The Bamba 3 with Boris Bidjan Saberi stayed true to Salomon’s roots by featuring elements that can be found on its ski boots line, which is quite a refreshing take on recent tech wear-inspired sneakers. Details include ski adjustment straps on the sides, windows for the preferred measurement, and Salomon’s signature Quicklace system. The outcome is the shouting of details but in a subdued way. And, of course, other “colorways” include the use of Saberi’s signature dyeing process, so not one shoe is the same.

Tom Sachs x NikeCraft Mars Yard Overshoe

best sneakers edward chiu 2018 8 Tom Sachs x NikeCraft Mars Yard March Yard Overshoe Adidas Fear Of God Kiko Kostadinov
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Definitely Mars-ready, or as Tom Sachs put it, it’s for “Jupiter’s icy moon Europa.” No doubt they’re hard to wear, but it was super interesting to see how Sachs and NikeCraft extended the initial Mars Yard concept by adding another, literal extra layer. Tying it in with Sachs’ latest film Paradox Bullets was also a brilliant move by both camps to connect different mediums. Also, @internet, I’m still hunting for the bag from the first Mars Yard release in 2012!

Engineered Garments x HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra Low

best sneakers edward chiu 2018 7 Engineered Garment x HOKA One One Tor Ultra Low Adidas Fear Of God Kiko Kostadinov
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These are actually my first pair of HOKAs and won’t be the last. I had the urge to purchase the Tor Ultra Hi last year, but the extra height was just too chunky for my liking. I quickly jumped at the chance when Engineered Garments released its own version of the Lows. And who can say no to a Vibram sole?

INVINCIBLE x adidas Consortium Futurecraft 4D “Prism”

best sneakers edward chiu 2018 6 INVINCIBLE x adidas Futurecraft 4D Fear Of God Kiko Kostadinov Maison Margiela
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I had the pleasure of meeting Jimmy Wu for the release to go through the various ideas and design elements of the shoe. The details are minimal but truly reflect adidas’ “Prism” design brief. INVINCIBLE even collaborated with a local artist in Taiwan to create various light installations to represent the Futurecraft 4D’s design, on which multicolored threads are interwoven with the overall gray Primeknit upper, replicating the spectral colors that come from a prism.

A-COLD-WALL* x Nike Vomero +5

best sneakers edward chiu 2018 5 A COLD WALL x Nike Vomero +5 Adidas Fear Of God Kiko Kostadinov
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Although it generated negative talk about its resemblance to another shoe, that doesn’t take away how much thought Samuel Ross put into the design process of his Nike project. Who would have thought of combining brutalist architectural sensibilities with the subject of running?

Not only did the combination make sense in relation to A-COLD-WALL*’s unique aesthetic, the label also created three separate installations for the Nike collection’s pre-release in London, each with its own concept and medium to reflect the collaboration as a whole. Not to mention the involvement of the Architectural Association School of Architecture, too.

Ross even removed the Vomero’s PU coating to accelerate the aging process. A brave move for a commercial product without losing the initial idea.

Kiko Kostadinov x ASICS GEL-Burz 1

best sneakers edward chiu 2018 4 KIKO KOSTADINOV x Asics Gel Burz Adidas Fear Of God Maison Margiela
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Subtle design cues run throughout this release. It’s one of those collabs where you have to look closer to spot the little details and the functionality of the additional elements. A perfectly balanced outcome from the two parties. Let the design speak.

Nike Air Fear of God 1

best sneakers edward chiu 2018 3 Nike Air Fear of God Adidas Kiko Kostadinov Maison Margiela
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This was one of the year’s releases that I had most looked forward to seeing in real life, to see how it was constructed, how the different elements overlapped with each other, down to the inside, where the supporting back arch is used around the ankles. Could this be a simple design feature or something Nike is testing on the performance side of things?

Similar to the Mars Yard Overshoe, the silhouette is unconventional but eye-catching. It’s great to see how the Fear of God silhouette, with its slim profile, was translated to a Nike shoe. And like Jerry Lorenzo’s own line of military-inspired sneakers, they scream quality.

Union x Air Jordan 1

best sneakers edward chiu 2018 2 UNION x Air Jordan Adidas Fear Of God Kiko Kostadinov
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Coming with probably the most memorable promo video in recent years, the Union x Air Jordan 1 collab definitely had the full package. I personally loved how the idea of the project extended well into the apparel line, giving each item context while relating back to the original concept of DIY culture and vintage-hunting. That is a feat that is very hard to achieve, as most collaborations only concentrate on the hero product. A well-rounded approach to an extensive rollout.

Maison Margiela Fusion

best sneakers edward chiu 2018 1 Maison Margiela Fusion Adidas Fear Of God Kiko Kostadinov
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Sorry, sportswear giants, but my overall favorite release of this year had to be the Fusion by Margiela. The model really pushed the boundaries of sneaker design by deconstructing and reconstructing several categories of footwear into one. There’s a runner, trail, and a dad shoe in there, all merged and glued into one. And I do mean glue, as it looks like it was done at an Art Attack session.

The mashed-up look also resembles Helen Kirkum’s creations. She was one of the first creatives who really took customization to the next level. Despite the hefty price tag, the shoe can really be seen as a work of art that reflects the synthesis of our industry today.

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Words by Edward Chiu
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