Sure, we love our AJs and Made in USAs, but there are brands out there that are on the cusp of killing it with their venture into sneakers.
While sneakers from these lesser known labels tend to cost more than the brands we already know and love, they’re also typically made with better materials and workmanship. They aren’t bound by conventional designs and tend to turn up some interesting silhouettes too. Still skeptical? Take a look at these five brands that we’ve found.
Italian fashion designer Brunello Cucinelli is definitely not the first name that comes to mind when we think of sneaker designers, but the gentleman has been steadily building up his own brand of fine apparel and accessories, which includes sneakers built with simplicity in mind.
These tennis-inspired kicks are made from Italian leather and perforated suede, and come in understated grey with subtle details like leather trim around the padded collar. At US$825 a pop, it’s not a cheap option, but definitely one to consider if you’re hunting for something that has its roots in fine design.
Streetwear label ETQ Amsterdam has carved a niche space for itself in the sneaker market, and what’s especially cool is that they’ve got silhouettes in low, mid and high-top versions. They’re not afraid to play with textures too, as the uppers come in either smooth, tumbled or hexagonal patterned leather. Prices start at €235.
Another brand from Amsterdam, Filling Pieces came about in 2009. Its founder, Guillaume Philibert, told Business of Fashion that while he admired the footwear produced by Balenciaga, Lanvin and Common Projects, their prices were too steep. He started Filling Pieces to bridge the gap between streetwear and high-end fashion, using materials from Italy and workmanship from Portugal. Each pair is priced reasonably at €180.
Fresh from Los Angeles, newly established label Article No. has created a wide variety of skate and basketball-inspired sneakers that either have chunky midsoles, unusual paneling, fancy color-blocking, or a combination of all three. Wear a pair, and your mates will be taking a second look at your feet when they realize the Jordans they saw from afar are in fact, something else up close. Several models are currently on sale, and they only cost between US$100-125 each.
Last but not least, Greats is a Brooklyn-based startup that first appeared on the scene back in August 2013. The brand offers a plethora of silhouettes that range from budget to mid-level. Ryan Babenzien, founder of Greats, boldly stated that even though his brand’s sneakers cost lower than their equivalents from luxury labels, their quality is every bit as good.
This is best exemplified by the Royale sneaker, which is handmade in Italy with full grain leather and cowhide suede, but carries a price-tag of just US$159.