WORDS BY STEPHEN YU
When Chitose Abe – formerly of COMME des GARÇONS and Junya Watanabe – founded her somewhat eponymous (Sakai was her maiden name) label in 1999, it was run by a team of one – herself. Every piece was handknitted by Chitose, and she ran the whole business by herself whilst juggling being a stay-at-home mother too.
Fast forward 21 years, and Abe’s signature of creating hybridized and often asymmetric clothing that combines unexpected combinations of patterns taken from different garments has inspired a new wave of fashion designers. So powerful is the sacai brand, that every big label from North Face to Beats by Dre is vying for Chitose’s attention. Not bad for a brand started at home, huh.
But there’s one partnership that’s established the sacai brand as a household name, their collaboration with sportswear giants Nike. Given free rein to explore the recurring concept of duality that’s practically woven into sacai’s DNA, the thread that ties together each release from the Nike x sacai collaboration is that of creating hybrid sneakers that fuse together two Nike icons – namely the LDV and the Waffle, and the Dunk and the Blazer.
Single-handedly saving sneakerheads from the constant drip of collaborations that are just variations of colourways, Abe’s designs highlight not only her creativity but also set a new level for sneaker design, one that considers form and construction not just colour.
So if you’re looking to cop what are easily the best sneaker releases of the last two years, we’ve put together a global hit squad of fashion’s finest to give you the lowdown on all things Nike x sacai, whether that’s styling, sizing, comfort or care.
Daniela Buck (@wideawakearthquake)
DJ and sneaker Instagrammer from Berlin
As a sneakerhead, I got to know the brand through their collaboration with Nike – the extreme shapes, strong texture-combinations and repetitive layering. The Nike x sacai LDV Waffle is so exceptional, it actually looks like art to me. It is certainly not a coincidence that it was nominated as sneaker of the year by Complex in 2019.
Since the sacai’s are very versatile, they easily go with different styles. You can go for a chic approach and wear them with suit pants and a blazer or a more casual approach and wear them with jeans and a simple T-Shirt. I personally like to combine them with high fashion brands like Gucci or Fendi, because I think it adds a little extra to the style. To emphasize the shape of the sneaker, I wear pants with tight cuffs.
Sizing & Fit:
I always use the Nike Air Force 1 as a benchmark, which is kind of similar. This means size 38 in Air Force 1 equals 38 in the sacai LDV Waffle. Since the shape of the sacai is rather narrow, I would go for a half size bigger if you tend to have a wider foot.
They are definitely comfy because of the foamy midsole. On top of that, they also make me a little bit taller, which I like. Due to its delicate mesh layering, the shoe is very breezy, which makes it the perfect summer shoe. Nevertheless, always wear socks! ;)
In general, I try to be very careful with all my sneakers. Since the sacai LDV Waffle is made of sensitive material, I avoid wearing them in winter or when it’s raining. If they do get dirty, which of course happens sometimes, don`t wait and clean them right away. When they get dirty, I clean the white foam-midsole with a rubber sponge, which I slightly wet and put a little bit of cleaning product on, e.g. Jason Markk. You really have to be careful doing that because it is a very delicate shoe eventually.
Fashion Instagrammer from France
First of all, I really loved sacai as a brand before Nike started to collaborate with them. I like the way all of the clothes are timeless yet innovative, the pieces play with the juxtaposition of various elements and the contrast between textures and fabrics. I remember the first time I heard about the Nike x sacai collaboration was during the S/S 19 Paris fashion week, I instantly fell in love with the shape and aesthetic of the shoes. I told myself ‘you really need these’! I’m really happy I managed to get my favourite colourway.
These shoes are really easy to wear, they go with so many different fits due to their futuristic aesthetic. I love to wear these sneakers with a large pant, they look very good with the double soles. I always style my sacai’s in an easy way, I just coordinate colours! As you can see in the picture I’m wearing a Nike yellow sweatshirt with green jogging pants. I really love to add luxury accessories with streetwear clothes, here I paired the outfit with a scarf and bag from the Louis Vuitton x Murakami collaboration made some years ago.
Sizing & Fit:
For me, the Nike x sacai LDV Waffles definitely fit true to size. Be careful though, the mesh is very fragile at the front so be sure to purchase a size that feels good inside and not tight.
The sacai’s are so comfortable compared to other sneakers, I used to walk a lot in them. I often take them with me when I’m going on vacation or on weekends because they are really light and stable. I truly recommend them for long walks and for everyday life.
I usually don't do anything to take care of my sneakers even though I know I really need to! But if I can give any tips I would definitely recommend to spray them with Crep Protect, Jason Markk or other similar products as this would definitely protect your sneakers. Most of the time when my midsole starts to get dirty I use Jason Markk wipes to clean them, it’s really easy to use them and so fast to clean, it will take you 30 seconds.
Leah Dy Angeles (@leahdyangeles)
Sneaker, travel and lifestyle Instagrammer from France
Before the collaboration between sacai and Nike, I already knew and loved sacai and Nike was my favourite sportswear brand. I always love wide-cut clothing and Asian culture so sacai was definitely a brand I followed. When they announced their collaboration I was shaking. My favourite sneakers brand and one of my favourite brands working together! That was amazing. I was waiting for a new shape, flashy colours and they definitely delivered. This new shape is futuristic and elegant.
I wear my Nike x sacai’s with everything, but I prefer to pair them with a long skirt or an oversized jean! You can wear sacai with basic clothes. I used to buy all my clothes at Uniqlo because I like to wear my jeans, sweatpants and t-shirts oversized or boxy and I like their cut. It is a Japanese brand so everything is really straight and that is what I like. Otherwise, I would advise the following really nice brands that match with Nike x sacai: Comme des Garçons, Junya Watanabe & Marni.
Sizing & Fit:
Yes, the Nike x sacai fit the true-to-size so get your normal size, but if your feet are larger than normal I’d advise you to get a half size bigger.
The Nike x sacai are comfy, you really feel the foam when you walk and it’s really pleasant. Back in the day, sportswear sneakers were created primarily for performance and comfort and didn’t pay much attention to creatives. Right now they’re elevating everything to the same level and the Nike x sacai collaboration is one example of this. They did a great job!
First of all, I always use a protection spray and let them breathe for two days before wearing them. Sadly, you can’t wear them every day or the foam sole will flatten. Oh, and if they get dirty then use Crep Protect wipes; they can clean anything.
Fashion Instagrammer from Singapore
I’ve always viewed sacai as a highly technical brand. They have a very large and loyal fan base locally in Japan and have always been immensely respected in the fashion industry.
Chitose Abe’s (who formerly trained at Comme Des Garcons & Junya Watanabe) signature style of stitching together mismatched garments, patterns and colours has translated very smoothly into their Nike collaboration.
Of course, sacai’s clientele & the sneakerhead community are two completely different worlds, but when images of the first batch of LDV waffles hit social media, the hype was real. To be honest, I believe the sneaker world was in a very brief slump at that point of time and in search of something new to hype up.
The sacai collab was very different; something people hadn’t seen in a while and the hypebeast machine ate it up. It was the second batch of colourways (the ‘Triple White’ and ‘Triple Black’ colourways not to be confused with the third batch) that cemented it for me and left me going ‘damn, that’s a good looking shoe’.
I bought into the hype, picked up the Triple White pair and will safely declare that it very much lived up to the hype. The sacai LDV waffle was ‘The’ sneaker of 2019.
People throw this phrase around a lot, but the sacai LDV waffles are really one of those shoes that you can “throw on with just about anything”.
The long, narrow silhouette is extremely versatile for easy ‘lazy day’ styling – skinny jeans, nylon track pants, sweat pants and cargo pants – everything works.
Personally, I’ve been enjoying styling the sacai LDV waffles with the more clean-cut facet of streetwear; specifically the Jacquemus, Acne Studios or COS style of aesthetic. I prefer my pants to have a baggier cut so you’ll see me styling them with baggy cropped pants, chinos, trousers, corduroys, etc.
Sizing & fit:
Again, it’s a long, narrow silhouette so if you find your feet tend to be a little wider, you may want to go up a size for that extra width and comfort. I went true-to-size for my pair and I definitely don’t have any complaints.
The Nike x sacai are actually extremely comfortable! Those added ridges on the soles will feel weird initially, but I’ve worn them for both work and travel and I will say if you’re on your feet a lot you’ll definitely be good with the sacai LDV Waffles, especially when you’re comparing them to ‘high-fashion’ kicks (which look good but are mostly VERY uncomfortable).
I’ve only got one pair of sacai LDV Waffles and they are the triple white pair from the second release. Like all white sneakers, I would 100% advise on investing in a good water-proof spray. There are tonnes of brands out there e.g. Jason Markk, Crep Protect or in-house brands from retailers like Foot Locker.
A good water-proof spray will save your life on that unexpected rainy day or from that ‘accidental’ spillage in the club.
Some people like that ‘beat-up’ shoe look, but if you’re not into that, pick up a good shoe cleaning solution. I use Jason Markk personally and it’s always worked very well. Alternatively, the old trusty toothpaste and toothbrush combo gets the job done too - my OG’s know!
Fashion Instagrammer from Japan
I was worried when the first Nike x sacai collaboration was announced that it wouldn’t live up to expectations but it totally did. The Nike x sacai Mid Blazers are a nice shoe that really match my style, and as I’m Japanese just like sacai I was very interested in the collaboration and had to buy it. Most Japanese designers' clothes are simple and not very adventurous clothes, but sacai is the total opposite. What attracts me to the brand are the details, the design, and the unique aesthetic!
I coordinate my Nike x sacai Mid Blazers with simple clothes to make the sneakers stand out. I like to wear them with lots of layering. They’re perfect for coordinating streetwear style clothing too.
Sizing & fit:
I always wear Nike a half size bigger as I have small feet, so I'm always conscious of the balancing height and shoe size so my sneakers look in proportion. You should have no problem with the same size you always wear in Nike sneakers though.
Firstly, I have to apply a waterproof spray before I wear them. As I always want to keep my sneakers in beautiful condition, I always have a sneaker eraser in my bag so that I can wipe them down when they get dirty.