Sneakers have moved off the sports field & on to the red carpet

22 April 2018 - 00:00 By LEONIE WAGNER
If the shoe fits ... Thabiso Hadebe of Black Faff, a sneaker customising company, poses in the firm's studio in Tembisa, near Midrand, Gauteng. The company is taking advantage of the booming sneaker culture and creating unique, colourful designs for its clients.
If the shoe fits ... Thabiso Hadebe of Black Faff, a sneaker customising company, poses in the firm's studio in Tembisa, near Midrand, Gauteng. The company is taking advantage of the booming sneaker culture and creating unique, colourful designs for its clients.
Image: Alaister Russell

Stilettos and formal shoes could become to the fashion industry what vinyl records are to music.

Sneakers are steadily taking the long walk from the sports field to the red carpet. Whether it's Kanye West or Cara Delevingne, local comedian Jason Goliath or TV personality and Idols Judge Somizi Mhlongo, the once casual shoe has been evolving and is now 'gatecrashing' formal events.

Rapper West is arguably the public figure who spearheaded the sneaker trend when he collaborated with Louis Vuitton in 2009. Others going low and casual include Samuel L Jackson, Trevor Noah, Kristen Stewart, Kris Jenner, Naomi Watts and Ariana Grande.

This isn't just an international trend. For fashion designer and Sunday Times social columnist Craig Jacobs it's not just about comfort but also the "unexpectedness" of mixing something seemingly casual with something traditional such as a suit.

"Fashion doesn't need to live in a specific box; it can be fun and quirky. And it helps that sneakers come in so many different permutations these days that they can complement almost anything you're wearing," said Jacobs.

WATCH | These guys from Tembisa will 'tattoo' your sneakers

Sneaker-customising business Black Faff, based in the township of Tembisa, break grounds in South Africa’s sneaker culture by painting unique artworks on sneakers.

Customisation is a growing trend in South Africa. Creative director Angie Gouws has been customising sneakers for more than 15 years.

Originally from Los Angeles, Gouws said it was a huge trend in the US and the UK but had not quite caught on in South Africa in the six years she'd been in the country.

Thabiso Hadebe of Black Faff, a local customisation company, said: "The sneaker industry has evolved. Over the years I've watched them go from being something that only kids and students wear to having billionaires such as Richard Branson wear them to meetings. At the end of the day it's a shoe, it's whatever makes you feel comfortable, because at the end of the day it's who you are."

This year, US fashion designer Kate Spade collaborated with Keds, a canvas sneaker brand, to launch a bridal sneaker collection.

Local newlyweds Kylie and Jed Littlefield decided to wear sneakers on their big day because they wanted to make sure they could "dance the night away".

Gent Sibuyi of Black Faff customised the Littlefields' sneakers, with Swarovski crystals and glitter on Kylie's pair. The pairs had either "wife" or "husband" painted on them, the wedding date and the couple's initials, "JK".

"I thought it would be a lovely gift for my husband. I still wear my shoes today and I still get compliments wherever I wear them," said Kylie.

Nnana Lempe opted for customised "traditional" Ndebele sneakers for her wedding. "I don't wear heels; I'm always in flat shoes ... Initially I wanted the bling but it would have taken too long to have them delivered from the UK, so I decided to go local."

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