What Happened: Since 2017, London-based designer Kiko Kostadinov and Japanese sportswear brand Asics have produced some of the most exciting and hyped collaborative sneakers on the market. The two entities are taking another step to cement their successful partnership with the launch of a new unisex clothing line, Asics Novalis.
With fashion-forward, but affordable silhouettes, Kiko Kostadinov’s Asics have helped make futuristic, technical sneakers one of the prevailing styles of the past few years. But the upcoming Novalis collection, which will debut at Paris Fashion Week in October before arriving at exclusive boutiques Dover Street Market in London and The Broken Arm in Paris, will apparently take a different approach: Novalis will focus on “quieter products,” as Kostadinov told The Business of Fashion.
The Jing Take: “Quiet luxury” has become an omnipresent buzzword in 2023. A sharp pivot from the prevailing logomania of the late 2010s, the craze for high-end apparel that whispers rather than shouts its status has been propelled by everything from Succession’s fictional billionaires to Gwyneth Paltrow’s real-life trial outfits.
The term is typically reserved for business or formal attire like suits and dress shoes. But Kostadinov and Asics’ bet on “quieter” sportswear is a sign that the flashy gorpcore stylings are potentially also due for a quiet makeover of their own.
With the increased popularity of brands like Arc’Teryx, Acronym and The North Face over the past few years, the outerwear look superseded its original purpose of providing high-performance functional gear to hikers and mountain climbers and became purely a fashion statement. Hiking shoes like Salomon’s and gore-tex jackets have become so ubiquitous among city-dwelling urbanites that the look is now frequently skewered by fashion meme accounts. The gore-tex pieces that have excited audiences often take on a more is more approach: the more zippers, the more weatherproofing, the more utility, the better.
But with the Asics Novalis line, Kostadinov is apparently interested in stripping down that approach and making performance pieces that can easily fit in with a more casual wardrobe, rather than requiring head-to-toe mountaineering cosplay. The line is slated to include parkas and cargos in muted colors, pieces that offer a “no-nonsense rejection of the superficially spectacular in favor of subtle elegance,” according to a statement from the brand. A promo image for the line on Kostadinov’s Instagram showcases a model with a graphic manicure – not exactly a hiking-ready look.
With the launch of the Novalis line, Asics also offers a competitor to existing diffusion lines from sportswear brands like Goldwin and Arc’Teryx. The latter’s Veilance line has churned out paired-down, minimalist but functional pieces since 2009, while Japanese outerwear brand Goldwin launched Goldwin 0 in 2022 to create unisex, sustainable pieces.
Outdoorsy styles aren’t necessarily going away. But hardcore gorpcore – like all trends – has an expiration date. Performance brands that wish to retain their fashion credentials will need to adapt accordingly; Salomon, the dominant hiking shoe of 2022, found a way to make its signature shoe fit into the balletcore craze with a Sandy Liang collaboration earlier this year. With the promise of quiet, subtle elegance from the Novalis line, Asics and Kiko Kostadinov are showing once again that they know which way the tides are turning for sportswear.
The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.