A designer’s runway bow rarely generates buzz—that is, unless it’s Phoebe Philo’s. Since the 39-year-old British fashion phenom took the reins at French luxury house Céline in 2008, she has been popping out post-show in Paris to thunderous applause for her stunning minimalist-driven collections. But lately it seems all eyes have been focused on her feet. Adidas Stan Smith trainers, Nike Air Max 90s in pink—when it comes to game-day dressing, Philo prefers to rock a pair of runners rather than a haute pair of heels. So does Kristen Stewart. At the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012, she appeared on the red carpet in a body-skimming, floral-embellished Zuhair Murad dress paired with black stilettos, which she quickly ditched in favour of her Barbara Bui leather high-tops. First Lady Michelle Obama has slipped into metallic cap-toe Lanvin sneakers to carry out her White House duties. Even fashion’s favourite street-style star, Italian clotheshorse and editor-at-large of Vogue Japan Anna Dello Russo, who is never spotted without her five-inch spikes, was photographed wearing sky-blue New Balance trainers in Milan in January.
This spring, kicks are taking a walk on the wild side on runways, including Junya Watanabe, Moschino Cheap & Chic, Ruffian, Marc by Marc Jacobs and Ashish, and at luxury footwear labels like Christian Louboutin, Giuseppe Zanotti, Jimmy Choo and Pierre Hardy. At $500 and up, these new sartorial stars won’t be clocking any time at the gym, but they might give your wallet a workout. Surprised? Don’t be—this shift toward high-end sneakers hasn’t exactly snuck up on us. Running shoes first emerged as status symbols during the 1970s. “They were worn not just in the gym or to do athletics but for shopping and on your leisure time,” says Elizabeth Semmelhack, senior curator at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto and for its latest exhibition, Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture (April 25, 2013 to April 22, 2014). Mixed-media and graphic designer Karim Rashid, famous for colourful, eclectic designs that range from furniture to footwear, also knows a thing or two about retro sneakers. As the creative vision behind this exhibition, and an avid runner, he believes that “the running shoe [conjures up] nostalgia” and that currently, “there’s a big revival going on.”
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