Skechers' chunky silhouettes have never reached the same level as New Balance’s, which boast a cool, dad-like aesthetic. Yet the underdog sneaker brand is taking a page from New Balance’s book, and slowly transitioning itself from ugly shoe maker to coveted collaborator.
In an unexpected twist, Skechers is paying homage to Kansai Yamamoto, the legendary Japanese designer who passed away last year, through a collaboration with kansaïyamamoto. Known for his Kabuki-inspired style, Yamamoto often utilized the art form’s approach to dramatic costume and makeup, with his designs now appearing on four new Skechers styles.
A confusing collaboration — As a pop culture icon who outfitted some of the most well-known musicians of the ‘70s — including constant styling of David Bowie — Yamamoto seems like a strange choice for a Skechers collab. It’s easy to see what his incredible, recognizable work brings to the sneaker brand, but what is it doing for Yamamoto label in return?
Collaborations like this seem to be a silent agreement between two brands: One provides a legendary influence, while the other presents an opportunity for profit. Here, Skechers and kansaïyamamoto have nothing in common besides consumerism.
In streetwear especially, these types of partnerships are every day. BAPE and Coach, two brands with seemingly no shared audience, linked up recently while relying on famous faces to sell their otherwise confusing products. Some cash grabs are more obvious: Just look at the collaborative Cheetos x Adidas apparel.
Yet regardless of what makes sense, such collaborations are made knowing someone is bound to spend money on their offerings. And just as the latter examples are already building hype online, Skechers’ Yamamoto sneakers will no doubt sell out — perhaps as much as their makers.
Yamamoto elevates Skechers to high-fashion — Yamamoto’s colorful designs do elevate Skechers’ classic designs to some extent, perhaps because they cover most of the Max Cushioning Premier fashion sneakers. His signature designs, drawing from traditional kabuki theater and beauty, dress up the men’s KY Kabuki Paint and women’s KY Nadeshiko shoes, while the men’s KY Sol and women’s KY Luna styles include ombre color motifs that simulate the sun and moon.
Priced at $170 each, the kansaïyamamoto x Skechers Max Cushioning Premier sneakers are available at Skechers flagship stores worldwide and at the brand’s website. The cash grab will continue on August 21, when new styles from the collaborators will debut.