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Article Number Aims to Rebuild Sneakers from the Ground Up

Literally starting from the ground up, new sneaker brand Article Number takes pride in the production and execution of its sole units. Co-founder Jacob Willis revealed that shoe building is at the brand’s core, “Part of proposing another new sole unit is to make sure we stand for something new. [And to] make sure that other people, when they see us, they know that we’re not ‘Mr. Potato Head-ing’ stuff together.”

What else would you expect from a brand launched by former Creative Recreation product line manager and Second/Layer co-designer Josh Willis and his Second/Layer partners Ant de Padovane and Jacob Willis? With a streetwear tour de force behind the Los Angeles-based brand, its easy to overthink and overhype designs, but Article Number has hit the ground running thanks in part to its founders’ experience, realistic expectations and unique design concept.

Willis said the line is inspired by designs found in outdoor spaces. “[The] starting point for design doesn’t come from footwear. They start with cues from sculpture and architecture,” he said. The models in the upcoming spring collection are inspired by sculptures of large-scale minimalist artist Richard Serra.

The brand presents each design almost as wearable installations with a tinge of the high brow. For example, the collection makes a strong yet staid statement with great attention to minuet details. The mid-cut (1115-0234) incorporates premium Napa leathers with embossed python, on top of an injected phylon midsole, with a neoprene liner inside.

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Willis said the target customer is someone who is “trying to take a break from Jordan retros” but who might not be in the position to spend on luxury sneakers by Balenciaga. “[They] still want to wear something that stands for quality and high design.”

Article Number aims to push boundaries from the bottom up. New sole units are planned for the second half of spring. Willis noted, “There’s so many other brands out there using made tooling and made sole units, and just doing uppers. Nobody’s really taking the time — or maybe they don’t know how to — but they’re not taking time to build a new shoe.”

Even with recent launches at highly touted retailers like Kith and Barneys New York, and a presence at other premium institutions such as Colette, Beams International Gallery, United Arrows and Harvey Nichols. Willis maintains perspective. “We could blow through all the product that’s in the stores, and have some great ‘coming to market’ like everyone dreams of, but I don’t think that we [expect immediate success],” he said.