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Style Points is a weekly column on how fashion intersects with the world at large.
As Glenn Martens’ models strode out onto the runway, upper thighs wrapped in fluffy tan tubelets, the front row did a double take. Was it … could it be … UGGs?
Whatever your associations with the 40-year-old shoe company – surfers, Pamela Anderson, heroines of The CO—sound 2018 the collaboration with the avant-garde Parisian label Y / Project was probably not one of them. It was as if the quintessential normie shoe had returned from a year abroad at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp – alma mater by Martin Margiela, Demna Gvasalia and Martens.
“They weren’t expecting it,” says Andrea O’Donnell, president of UGG & Koolaburra by UGG of Deckers Brands, of the fashion crowd’s reaction, “and they certainly weren’t expecting it. in Santa Barbara ”, where the company is based. “The fashion community got engaged very quickly,” she says, adding with a laugh, “I think internally at UGG there was a lot of consternation.” Since then, UGG has looked into collaborations with independent designers, Eckhaus Latta, who has created square-toed versions this season in Telfar, Molly Goddard and Feng Chen Wang. In fact, a few years ago, “we changed our whole collaboration strategy” to focus on these kinds of labels, she says.
We have entered an era of intense cross-pollination between luxury brands and meme-worthy footwear: a short, but by no means complete list would include the famous Balenciaga Crocs, the opening ceremony’s tie-in with Teva and countless high-end Birkenstock. collaborations from Valentino to Proenza Schouler. This season was no different: Balenciaga’s Vibram toe shoes were one of the most talked about accessories of spring 2021.
But the designers UGG has chosen to collaborate with tend to be on the independent side of the spectrum, not necessarily household names (unless said household agrees with iD). What are they looking for? Someone who is “ideally, global, in terms of reach,” says O’Donnell. “Ideally a fashion show moment in one of the main fashion weeks. Someone with credibility. We do a lot of work on how their work is viewed in fashion publications. Goddard was chosen because of her “interesting and engaging perspective on femininity”, while Telfar “really embraced the fact that fashion can be democratic and ambitious at the same time.” The brand is also making forays into the art world with a fall 2020 collaboration with artist Claire Tabouret and by sponsoring the opening weekend of the Hammer Museum’s “Made in LA” exhibition.
Once the creators are selected, we give them, if not complete carte blanche, then something that comes close. “We want to make sure that designers have the freedom to express themselves in the context of this story,” says O’Donnell. “Each case is very individual, and we sort of look for that. We don’t want everything to be the same. This approach extends to the sense of humor woven into some of the campaigns, Telfar’s original promotional images, in which he wears a dazzled UGG T-shirt or holds a boot up as if he were in it. meme of Pope Francis in the Y / Project campaign. who inspired Greek mythology–if the goddesses wore UGG on the thigh.
The wave of all things cozy and the blurring of the lines between work and home are surely accelerating this trend towards comfort. But if anything, the success of these kinds of mass independent projects really has to do with the flattening of categories that is happening in fashion right now. “Normie” shoes can still be worn by Norman women, but they are now also acceptable to consciously “cool” people, and everyone in between. UGG boots and slippers are now casually worn by everyone from NBA players in the bubble to Cardi B in Cher to Hadids to my favorite menswear icon, Shia LaBeouf.
“I think a lot of fashion collaborations try to elevate something popular. I’m not up and down as a concept, period. “Says Telfar Clemens. And nowadays, fashion is neither more nor less democratic. or ambitious. Wearing something that others have and can have, it feels good, whether it’s Timothée Chalamet in “his own Juicy Couture” in GQ or Gwyneth Paltrow wearing Birkenstock Arizona sandals. And in the midst of a recession, the old fashion of celebrity excess may seem leftist. (Even Kim Kardashian recently turned to tracksuits.)
“There are a lot of conversations in the industry in general about ‘These two things [democratic and aspirational] mutually exclusive or can they be mutually inclusive? “O’Donnell thought.” Everyone in fashion has been about taking things away, making them less available, and making you want more. But in 2020, that adage, thankfully, is no longer true.
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