WORDS BY STEPHEN YU
What are the best designer trainers that nobody else has? It’s one of fashion’s most pressing questions and here’s why.
While OG sneaker culture was an organic movement that arose from the obsessive hunt for rare colourways and limited editions of athletic footwear, today’s designer trainer fascination is rooted more in exclusivity through premium materials and price point rather than limited production runs. So while a pair of designer trainers are made from luxe leathers and are instantly recognisable, there’s definitely nothing unique about them, so the last thing you want is to see every basic person on the streets rocking the same pair as you. And whilst for many being spotted in the most hyped trainers of the moment signals their belonging in the upper echelons of the fashion elite, for others, it communicates that you belong to the late majority rather than the truly influential. In other words, if you’re still trying to be ahead of the curve by rocking a pair of Triple S’s, you may be communicating the opposite.
See why wearing a pair of unique trainers is so important now? Do you want to be a CDG Play Converse wearing basic, or a certified G wearing a pair of Rick Owens Geobaskets? Some of the lesser worn designer trainer brands will still have you turning heads on the street, with the added bonus that your most swagless friend isn’t going to turn up to the pub wearing the exact same trainers as you. To help you on your way, here’s our designer shoe brands list for some of the more slept-on designer trainer brands.
Love them or hate them, Masion Margiela have stayed true to their eponymous designer’s signature design ethos in the creation of the Fusion trainer. Though the shoe looks like a mutant skate trainer that’s seen one too many ollies, it is actually a deconstructed piece of artwork. A mishmash of parts taken from the most iconic trainers of all time, this Margiela trainer is painstakingly hand-stitched and glued together with the same amount of artisanry as you’d expect from one of Northampton’s finest cobblers. The raw, unfinished and exposed details seen on the shoe are a return to some of Margiela’s most edgy creations, and it’s fun to marvel at every hand applied piece of glue or duct tape.
Cult Swedish brand Acne Studios cast their elegantly minimal aesthetic to the world of designer trainers. Forget super-technical uppers and triple sole units, this Acne trainer borrows from the world of 90’s American sportswear to create a throwback silhouette that’s one of the cleanest chunky dad sneakers out there. Whether you prefer your crepes to look pre-distressed or boxfresh, there’s a variety of different leathers and finishes to satisfy every taste level.
While ex-DONDA and Been Trill designer Matthew Williams and his brand ALYX studios are best known for creating one of the past seasons must-have pieces – namely the rollercoaster seat belt buckled accessories seen on Dior Homme runway shows and every single street style influencer since their release – they’re also making waves in the world of designer trainers too. The removable Vibram sole released as part of their Nike collaboration has been seen strapped onto every hype trainer imaginable, and the brand continues to elevate contemporary trainer design with their combination of luxury leathers, knitted uppers and stacked rubber sole units. Buckle up and get on these before they get ruined by everyone else.
Just as notorious as they are lusted after, the original Geobaskets were pulled from the market by Nike for bearing too much resemblance to their Dunk silhouette. Now, forever known as the Rick Owens ‘Dunks’, the Geobasket is an archival fashion fan favourite establishing them as the de facto footwear of choice for those who think anything but vintage Raf and Carol Christian Poell is fashion for simps. These could be your ticket to David Casavant levels of clout at a fraction of the price, and a good entry point into the world of Rick if you’re not ready to drip in drape.
Tired of seeing Virgil’s Off-White x Nike’s everywhere (we are too even though they’re the best trainer collaboration we’ve seen in years) yet still want to own a piece of that signature Abloh design?! Off-White’s mainline trainers are just as creative without being sold-out everywhere and seen on everyone. The ODSY-1000 gets our pick for its ultra on-trend chunky skate shoe/ trail runner/ rugger hiker hybrid aesthetic – you get the trademark Off-White hangtag, industrial yellow heel tab, and ‘For Walking’ font detail as well as an aggressively lugged sole that looks like it eats mountains for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
An extra pair of trainers for the most extra fashion house in the industry, these Versace trainers are the brainchild of former Yeezy and Cole Haan footwear designer Salehe Bembury. Dubbed the ‘Chain Reaction’, this unique trainer helped launch Italy’s most opulent fashion brand into the future with its contemporary take on the house’s most iconic motifs – Greco-Roman mosaics and Medusa heads – as well as its Stay Puft sole which has you literally walking on Cuban links.
Luke and Lucie Meier are the husband and wife power couple at the helm of Jil Sander, and with experience as head designers at Supreme, Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga and Dior between them, we think they know a thing or two about designer trainer design. These vintage-style vulcanised trainers blend the trademark restrained minimalism of Jil Sander with the contemporary soul introduced by the Meiers modern take on the brand – the immaculately cut low-top leather silhouette becomes almost sculptural with the addition of a ribbed platform sole creating a modern take on the classic canvas trainer.
While pre-Tisci Burberry seemed almost ashamed of its associations with British youth culture, post-Tisci Burbs is very much embracing it. Two housing estate favourites meet in this unique trainer which combines a classic runner silhouette with uppers crafted from the British fashion house’s iconic Nova checked fabric. The chunky sole unit and velcro strapping further add to its sporting aesthetic. Chavvy chic at its finest.