Whether or not Versace’s chunky foam-soled Chain Reaction sneaker attained the level of fame of Balenciaga’s Triple S or Yeezy Boosts is debatable, but it’s still a solid fixture on the Italian house’s roster. That’s thanks to Salehe Bembury, who was named Versace’s Head of Sneaker Design in 2017.
After establishing the iconic silhouette, the New York-born LA-based designer parted from the label at the end of 2020, just a few months after the momentous debut of his first ever collaboration with New Balance.
Bembury’s creative conceptuality, design expertise, and powerful hook on social media propelled him almost instantly into the holy grail arena of sneaker collaborations. That first New Balance 2002R in burnt orange by Bembury is now sat on StockX at a 258 percent price premium.
Fast forward to 2023, and the past week alone has seen the release of one of his cult footwear contributions, the Crocs Pollex, in a new colorway, along with the drop of a co-branded outdoor collection with Moncler. Meanwhile, social media was abuzz with talks of a new silhouette at New Balance (date to be announced), leaked on his personal Instagram account during Paris Fashion Week Men’s back in June.
Focusing on those three recent collaborations, this week’s Collabs & Drops newsletter delved into the genius of Bembury.
Luxury can learn a lot from the designer’s ability to capture consumer attention instantly on social media, as well as his talent for producing disruptive, forever distinctive footwear designs for established brands.
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Moncler x Salehe Bembury
Date: July 14
Product: Outerwear collection
Social context: On Instagram, #monclersalehebembury has just 109 organic posts. Out of the eight most recent posts on Moncler’s official account, there are insofar over 23,000 likes. Meanwhile, Salehe Bembury (758,000 followers) has raked in over 64,000 likes on his most recent post.
Verdict: Bembury has brought his popular trademark thumbprint motif to Moncler’s puffer outerwear, showcasing a convergence of famed brand designs. His cult following combined with Moncler’s trailblazing Genius concept has resulted in a collab that has received almost 100 percent positive feedback online, with netizens calling it the “collab of the year.”
However, as with a lot of Moncler’s releases, some fans are expressing frustration with the price points. So far, globally, the Padded Shirt has proven to be the most popular design, retailing for $1,155 (9,400 RMB).
Crocs x Salehe Bembury
Date: July 20
Product: Crocs Pollex Clog in Niagara colorway
Social context: Salehe Bembury’s official Instagram post has 34,300 likes, while Crocs is yet to post about the collaboration.
Verdict: Since 2021, Bembury has managed to completely reimagine the globally famous shoe silhouette, transforming the ugly footwear into an otherworldly textured design and instantly winning over streetwear fanatics.
Released exclusively on Bembury’s brand Be A Spunge’s website, this Crocs tie-up is evidently targeted at the designer’s own fanbase rather than at Crocs’ mainstream clientele. The “Friends and Family” Spackle White Salehe Bembury Crocs are currently selling on StockX for a 386 percent price premium. Bembury has successfully brought Crocs into the hyped footwear space.
New Balance x Salehe Bembury
Product: 1906R sneakers in sunset-style colorway
Social context: The Instagram post from June teasing the unreleased sneakers has gained 22,339 likes.
Verdict: This would be the first 1906R sneaker by Bembury, who has become fiercely synonymous with New Balance since their first collaboration in 2020.
Leaking the drop to Bembury’s loyal following is a great way to stir hype in the weeks leading up to the official announcement. The New Balance x Salehe Bembury Peace Be The Journey design is on StockX for a 258 percent price premium, reflecting the hype of their brand collisions.