There has always been a connection between artists and fashion, but especially in the area of designing street wear and trainers. This strong connection stems back to the early days of hip hop and graffiti, where trainers were very much a statement of the culture and in-line skaters began to customise their footwear. By the beginning of the 21st century, the big brands and manufacturers had recognised that it was beneficial to their designs to work with artists, who were still at the heart of street fashion. Brands gain credibility from this collaboration and often produce limited editions of clothing items. By limiting the quantity produced, the ‘must have’ element to a product is all the more relevant. Many street wear designs originated as sports wear, including trainers, but these days they are very much a fashion statement, as well as a way of expressing identity and lifestyle. Collaborations between artists and brands push the limits, by adding colours, textures, fabrics and styles that would not otherwise have been considered. For example, the use of bright ochre coloured suede in the manufacturer of a pair of designer trainers would have been unheard of before such creative collaborations. Trainers have most definitely moved from sportswear over to fashion wear, where the market is huge. That is not to say that the sports trainer is no longer part of a big market too, but street wear trainers are a fashion item that, by the very design alone, can define an individual
Beautiful designer trainers that have been created through collaborations with artists including the Nike Air Zoom Terra Tattoo, a soft brown leather shoe with dark brown graphics, inspired by the 4 elements of fire, water, air and wind. In 2004, the production was limited to only 300 and the trainers were presented in laser-engraved shoe boxes. The Nike Dunk High SB UNKLE, was created via a collaboration between UK DJ and producer, James Lavelle, founder of the Mo’Wax record label,and art director Ben Drury. A basic baseball boot shape was enhanced with splatterings of pink and white colour to create a paint splash effect that was very ‘street’. 2007 saw Reebok pair up with famous graphic designer, John Maeda, to produce the Ventilator Timetanium, the design being generated from mathematical algorithms and computer codes and with only 100 pairs released. Artist and surfer, Chris Lundy, collaborated with Nike to create the Dunk as part of the Nike Laser project, with flow-inspired artwork applied to a one-piece trainer. London’s Gasius, aka Russel Maurice, produced the GasrNike, with only 240 pairs released.
The long history of graffiti artists, surfers, skaters and computer artists who are in the thick of street fashion and who are frequently the innovators of fashion trends, are the ideal partners for the street wear brands who need to be aware of the emerging changes. Their input is colourful, vibrant and innovative, taking street clothing and trainers to another dimension. These are the artists and designers who where these fashions and live the lifestyle. Trainers are now so much more than running shoes