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Serta Hotsteps Into the Sneaker Game with a Collab That’s Too Cool for School

Don’t sleep on this sneaker collab.

Mattress maker Serta has jumped feet first into the footwear game, recruiting Panama-born hip-hop producer DJ Clark Kent to inject some cool into a unisex, $99 limited-edition sneaker collab that features the firm’s trademarked temperature-regulating technology.

No stranger to sneaker drops, DJ Clark Kent—who designed a New York-themed Air Jordan for Nike nine years ago—was “humbled,” “honored” and “intrigued” by Serta’s unusual request. Luxe materials like croc, lizard, nubuck and ostrich-embossed leather bring the disc jockey’s street-style aesthetic into the iC1 sneaker, which came to life with “lots of sweat,” “a few tears” and some “advertising magic,” the shoe’s website says.

Serta bills iC1 as the “coolest sneaker around,” thanks in large part to a raft of tech designed to keep feet cool and comfortable. Rich marine blues reminiscent of Pantone’s newly announced 2020 color of the year, and evocative of cold-weather climes, offset the white main and foam and rubber outsole.

Keeping consumers comfy while they’re drifting off to sleep is how Serta butters its bread. The company’s iComfort line of mattresses featuring the Serta UltraCold System sprang from “in-depth consumer research” citing stay-cool tech as bedding’s most important feature and function, Serta vice president of marketing Onney Crawley, said. The iC1, she added, translates that obsession with restful comfort into a new format: the “first wearable mattress for your feet.”

Within the shoe, carbon fiber absorbs and funnels away excess heat while Max Cold Fabric made from high-performance fibers offers “instant cool-to-the-touch sensation,” Serta said in a statement.

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Garrixon Studio, which partners with “agencies, retailers and brands to bring footwear experiences and activations to consumers,” helped DJ Clark Kent make each limited-edition and numbered shoe by hand, adding a mattress tag detailing the unusual collaboration.

Mattress maker Serta seized on DJ Clark Kent's street style to launch the iC1 limited-edition sneaker with iComfort cooling technology.

From Dec. 4, consumers were able to pre-order the shoe online through a link to Urban Necessities’ e-commerce site on icomfortshoe.com. The sneaker-centric store’s New York City and Las Vegas locations will offer the iC1 starting Dec. 10.

DJ Clark Kent, followed by 200,000 fans on Instagram, offered a candid take on his latest collaboration. “Before this project, I had never thought to put mattress material in a shoe,” he said, “but it makes sense to bring the comfort and cooling of the iComfort by Serta mattress to the sneaker community.”

And the unexpected pairing could help to revive the storied Serta name in a mattress market where direct-to-consumer bed-in-a-box startups like Casper, Purple and Leesa are getting all the buzz and winning with a millennial generation happily investing in nesting. The Serta Simmons company has already sought to hedge its bets with this new crop of competitors by merging last year with digitally native Tuft & Needle, whose 2018 sales totaled $170 million, according to CNBC.

Quirky drops, collabs and activations have proven to be an irresistible siren song for brands looking to cut through the noise and resonate with the teen-through-30something crowd. Italian denim brand Diesel decided T-shirts would be a good way to promote its new Miami luxury condos—provided the garments run for the cost of the pricey housing. Over the summer, Levi’s made its pride collection available for purchase through a Snapchat filter, a blatant attempt to appeal to the app’s core Gen Z user base.

Still, whether Serta rides the DJ-designed shoe to a wave of brand-building glory remains to be seen. But given the hypebeast’s unquenchable thirst for hard-to-cop kicks, the nap-knowledgeable firm might have a sleeper hit on its hands.