As the most important stop in the European fashion week circuit, Paris is the city where future trends bubble to the surface and major industry shifts can first be observed.
In January, we reported on a handful of the most interesting sneakers making their debut on the FW18 Parisian runway, including the Versace Chain Reaction, Y-3's Runner 4D, Gucci's German army trainer-inspired low-tops, the Maison Margiela Security sneaker, and Virgil Abloh's Nike Air Jordan I, among others. Looking back at recent seasons, brands have relied heavily on statement kicks on the runway to get people talking, posting on Instagram, and taking out their wallets.
Not only have sneakers been more observably present on the catwalk, but as the world of capital-F fashion has discovered, fetishized, and adopted the once-niche world of streetwear, some weird things have happened, such as Vogue writing about Thrasher magazine T-shirts and Supreme box logos appearing on the Louis Vuitton runway.
That's not to say streetwear has been chewed up and spat out — yet — but the latest women's SS19 shows could herald the start of a shift away from hoodies, sneakers, graphics, and streetwear-informed designs.
In stark contrast to the brand's FW18 season — in which a hiking-inspired sneaker made its debut and graphics featured throughout — Balenciaga's SS19 collection departed from what has been called creative director Demna Gvasalia’s memeification of fashion, instead pushing ’80s power suits, sharp tailoring, and glamorous formalwear, with not a single sneaker in sight.
Rick Owens' partnership with adidas ended in 2017, and the brand with the Three Stripes has effectively been replaced by Birkenstock as Owens' collaborator of choice on the runway. Margiela opted for pointy boots rather than a follow-up to the chunky Security sneaker we spotted last season. Hedi Slimane's Celine show was yet another affirmation of formal footwear. Gucci trimmed its rubber-soled offerings considerably compared with previous seasons. Even Kim Jones, the man who gave us Supreme's collaboration with Louis Vuitton, is bored of the term "streetwear."
On the other hand, some brands have stuck to their guns. COMME des GARÇONS continued its longstanding Swoosh partnership by showing a necklace-adorned Nike Shox. But those two brands have been linked since 1999, so don't expect that collaboration to disappear anytime soon. OFF-WHITE's Virgil Abloh also continued his co-branded Nike range.
But in terms of leading fashion brands investing in their own original sneaker designs, SS19 was a change of pace. In short, brands and designers that aren't Nike-affiliated seem to be losing interest in sneakers.
While our street style coverage showed that sneakers were still out and about in Paris and Milan, any change of direction by big brands will take some time to filter down to street level. While the women's circuit is perhaps known for offering a more traditional approach to fashion design, all eyes will be on the men's shows in January 2019 to see if footwear trends truly are shifting.
But going by the early evidence, for Gucci, Balenciaga, Rick Owens, and other couture brands reliant on seasonal "it" pieces designed by celebrity creative directors, sneakers seem to be losing their former place in the high fashion runway spotlight.
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