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  • Writer's pictureFrancesco Lo Iacono


Updated: Aug 23, 2021

With the easing of some restrictions here in London, I am slowly getting the feeling that things are gradually going back to normal. This means that I am now able to visit some exhibitions and look for some new inspiration. While 'The Photographers Gallery' has been my first spot on the list, I also enjoyed a visit to the Design Museum and its new exhibition: 'Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street'.

The exhibition aims to tell and explain how the footwear phenomenon has been challenging our everyday life, inspiring subcultures and opening a rich conversation with and within the world of fashion.

'Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street' shows how the younger generation, in need to express their identity, has paved the way for sneakers to become a cultural sensation with brands like Nike and Adidas getting more and more aware of the growing demand.

Sneakers are today a real platform for experimental design, with a cult status cemented by the endorsement of music artists and sports stars and the recurring collaborations with high-profile fashion designers.

I present here some sketches based on some of the models that intrigued me the most, whether for their colours, shapes or history.

The core of the exhibition presents some of the most popular collaborations that led to bringing the sneakers to their unique level of popularity. In this sense, Tokyo, where a certain streetwear sensibility was already developing in the late 1990s, became the first fertile ground for the most creative collaborations, starting with Comme de Garçons with Nike or Mihara Yasuhiro with Puma.

That was just the beginning, more recently, the number of collaborations between fashion and sportswear has increased exponentially. The long list includes A-COLD-WALL*, Versace, Craig Green and iconic pieces like the Jordan x Dior Retro High, considered the most expensive and valuable release of 2020.

The Nike Adapt Huarache 'Hyper Jade' model uses a self-lacing technology called Electro Adaptive Reactive Lacing (EARL). It was first created in 2016 but it can be now founded in several models. Its rechargeable power lacing system is controlled remotely via a smartphone, so that you can tighten or loosen the fit with a simple and quick tap of the screen.

Kuala Lumpur-based sneaker enthusiast Edmond Looi has made a name for himself since 2017 when he started customising sneakers, sewing, colouring and deconstructing different models. This one is inspired by the collaboration between Virgil Abloh's Off-White and Nike and it's based on the colours wore by Dragon Ball's Goku, one of the best selling mangas of all times.

The Adidas FutureCraft.Strung shoe-making robot, created by studio Kram/Weisshaar, was probably the highlight of the exhibition.

Using multi-directional weaving and knitting techniques, the robot creates a unique model of Strung uppers, ultimately reducing carbon emissions and waste.

'Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street' is a much interesting exhibition and a must for all the sneakers aficionados. It's open to the public till October 24th 2021 and advance booking is essential.

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