Image Credit: Eva Al Desnudo
In the 1990s, sneakers were everywhere. They were worn by grunge bands, marketed by sports stars and seen on the feet of every high school kid. Where sneakers weren’t to be found though was in the luxury market. At that time, fashion houses still saw formalwear as their principal domain, not at all like the collections we see today. However, one should credit Prada as being one of the first to develop and successfully market what we all know now as the luxury sneaker.
Before Dior leather hi-tops and Balenciaga Triple S’, the Prada ‘America’s Cup’ was the first iconic luxury sneaker. When the shoe debuted, it was a massive hit, worn across the world, by football stars, rappers and models. Released in 1998 under the product code PS0906 for the Linea Rossa Technical Collection, the shoe was worn by the Luna Rossa sailboat team as part of their official uniform.
Sailing is not often found in the cultural zeitgeist of sneakers but this shoe had something about it that appealed to everyone. When looking at the luxury sneakers of today, the influence of the ‘America’s Cup’ is pretty obvious. From the logo adorned tongue to the chunky midsole, it offered a futuristic yet designer take on sneakers. It was truly the beginning of luxury sportswear in fashion.
Not only that, but Prada was able to capitalise on their success to make the sneakers a worldwide trend. The model was released in dozens of colours as well as a high-top variant and a velcro pair. In the mid-2000s, Prada had caught up to Nike ID and introduced their online personalisation tools to create your own signature pair of the ‘America’s Cup’ sneaker.
The shoe never officially stopped production but as with every hyped-up piece of fashion, it did see a slow downturn in influence in the late 2000s. It has made a comeback in recent years, with the shoe returning to the forefront of Prada’s runways. For the Spring 2018 collection, the model was redesigned with a chunkier sole and a tapered toe.
Many who haven’t heard of the shoe may look at it and let out a snort of disbelief. It is quite difficult to imagine that this shoe that resembles one worn by nurses rather than all-stars would be so transformative in the fashion industry. We all know that a trend comes from somewhere, and this shoe is generational in its ability to pave the way for luxury sportswear. Without the Prada ‘America’s Cup’, we probably wouldn’t have the Triple S, the Chanel Runner or even the Alexander McQueen Oversized trainers. In a now incredibly competitive market, the Prada sneaker stands out as much more than just another luxury shoe.
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