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Luxury Players Are Breaking Generational Barriers With Sneakers

The fusion of luxury, street and athletic is taking place on the runway—literally. Sneakers came away as the clear winner of Spring ’19 men’s shows, with the likes of Louis Vuitton, Christian Louboutin, Dolce & Gabbana and Versace lacing up and with nary a classic leather cupsole in sight.

Rather, sneakers were loud, bold and in many cases, ugly. Retro runners, “dad shoes” and athletic-inspired styles took shape, complementing the slew of men’s wear collections based on active wear silhouettes, tech fabrics and in some instances, athletic uniforms.

With 85 percent of luxury growth in 2017 stemming from millennials and Gen Z consumers, savvy luxury brands are rewriting the definition of luxury fashion. In fact, Bain & Co. reported that sneaker sales in the luxury space increased 10 percent last year. Likewise, sales for casual companions like T-shirts grew 25 percent and down jackets increased 15 percent.

“It’s not really even a trend anymore—it’s become a category,” Bruce Pask, Neiman Marcus men’s fashion director told Reuters in May about the designer sneaker trend.

The most-buzzed about man in Paris, Off-White designer Virgil Abloh, revealed two new models from his ongoing collaboration with Nike. New styles include the Off-White x Nike Blazers in black and tan/orange colorways, and the Off-White x Nike Air Max 97 popped with a touch of pastel colors. The shoes are distinguished by their zip ties.

For his first turn as Louis Vuitton’s artistic director for men’s wear, Abloh’s focus was on retro basketball silhouettes with an ankle strap. The sneakers were shown in three colorways: black/grey, red/white and blue/white.

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Versace anchored its multi-hued raver collection with a new edition of the Chain Reaction sneaker, a $995 unisex sneaker marked by its signature chain link outsole. The new versions are made up of contrasting prints pulled from the apparel collection, a translucent cage and adorned with Versace’s Greco pattern.

The geometric outsoles of Dolce & Gabbana’s Super King jutted out from under models’ feet. The $945-$995 nappa leather sneakers, which are available for pre-order on the label’s website, are defined by its child-like use of colors and shapes. The brand’s logo is prominently placed across the heel and tongue.

Even red sole performance sneakers are on their way. Christian Louboutin staged a dance battle in Paris to demonstrate the performance of his new “Run Loubi Run” collection. The sneakers are designed with features typically saved for athletic footwear like cushioning foam, flex grooves and neoprene sock linings and knit uppers. The shoes, which will launch at retail in January 2018, sport the bulbous outsoles that Balenciaga, Gucci and their followers have deemed cool, albeit with red bottoms.