Y/PROJECT SS20 by Slow Waves

Y/Project SS20 Challenges Everything You Thought You Knew About Clothing, Again

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Glenn Martens has been rewriting the rules of fashion since he was appointed creative director of Y/Project in 2013. His womenswear found a fan in Rihanna, who adopted the voluminous denim as a part of her signature style, along with the wild UGG boots collab. Meanwhile, last season’s menswear evolved streetwear aesthetics with a couture edge for the designer’s guest appearance at Pitti Uomo 95.

For Spring/Summer 2020, Y/Project returned to its home turf of Paris, putting a runway in the Oratoire du Louvre church, where George Bizet’s opera Carmen and its Muppets parody reverberated around the chamber. It was dramatic, yet humorous — just like Y/Project.

SS20 honed in on the elements that patrons of the label are probably starting to expect. That is to say, heaps of deconstruction and garments that wrap around the body in ways that don’t really make sense: a pocket becomes a sleeve, a bomber worn upside down, and so on.

Shirt collars climbed around shoulders, boots rose from the front of their toe caps, and fanny packs were double-stacked around the waist. The ’fits seen among the pews were so visually arresting you’d wonder how they were ever made at all. Part of Y/Project’s charm is that it makes you really think about construction. How exactly does a designer stitch a shirt so it sits neatly on the body? And why does it have to sit neatly at all?

Clothes don’t have to behave the way we think they do, and for that reason, when it comes to Y/Project “more of the same” is actually a good thing. That Martens, the head of a brand that’s a darling of insiders but not yet stratospheric, can locate his visual DNA and stick with it is a triumph in an age in which newness is lionized yet, in some cases, turns out kind of boring.

Still, there were a few surprises, notably the footwear, which featured high heels and shiny metal hardware to complement the Y-shaped earrings models wore. There were also a few choice womenswear looks, including delicate, semi-opaque catsuits and a rainbow-striped dress with an amendment that wrapped around like a pant leg, presenting pants and dresses together as one chimeric item. As ever with Y/Project, we expected the unexpected and were rewarded in spades.

By Max Grobe for Highsnobiety

AMBUSH Spring 2020 by Slow Waves

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Yoon Ahn had already left Paris for Japan by the time this Ambush showroom visit took place. When we spoke by phone, she was outside of Tokyo, visiting specialized factories that she is considering for production of her ever-expanding brand.

The city, meanwhile, was at the heart of this collection—heart being the operative word. “I live in the middle of Tokyo, almost like living in Times Square,” she said. “I wanted to capture that hyper-animated reality coexisting with unreal emotions, because everything there is always on the move.”

Ahn’s high-octane translation of this spanned retro-future ’80s tailoring, late-’90s motorbike getups, and present-day streetwear. The statement was Bowie meets BTS. In general, her silhouettes were either influenced by Yohji Yamamoto (deconstructed with space between the clothes and the body) or sci-fi robots (blocky and modular). Her palette of red, green, and pink took direct cues from the glow of neon lights.

Hearts, meanwhile, appeared in the corresponding jewelry collection—but in the context of the other automobile-inspired pieces, they had an industrial vibe that read sleek rather than sweet. “I stayed away from cuteness for some time,” said the designer. “Here, I added hearts without them being unbearable.”

Ahn has an astute sense of observation and interpretation that serves her well across the collections. Although she is prone to leaning too literal, this is what allows the looks to transcend the “subcultures” that interested her this season to attract a wider commercial market. In case you were wondering, the cyborg Geta sandals were her equivalent of a concept car: sculptural and for show only, at least for now. But they were made, in part, at a car factory, and they give the feeling that she’s eager to shift into higher gear.

By Amy Verner for Vogue Runway

NIKE Collaborations: Yooh Ahn and Marine Serre by Slow Waves


Yoon Ahn and Marine Serre Celebrate the Football Shirt

In sport, the jersey is a garment that at once supports and celebrates brilliant performance.

For athletes, it serves a utilitarian purpose — the jersey is a tool for their crazy dream. For the fans, the jersey serves to support their favored team and, ultimately, their community.

As the world readies for play in France this summer, Yoon Ahn, Christelle Kocher, Erin Magee and Marine Serre transform the jersey in their vision, proving that while a jersey need not take a standard form, it can become a standard reminder of the unifying power of sport.

Each designer has also matched a bra with their jersey. Here they describe the intent behind their respective concepts:

Yoon Ahn’s Nike x AMBUSH® jersey shines a spotlight on the diversity and culture that is celebrated on the international tournament stage.

“My Nike x AMBUSH® jersey is a unisex hybrid football jersey inspired by the Happi coat, a traditional Japanese straight-sleeved coat. I chose the Happi coat because, although we are celebrating the tournament and the incredible female players, I believe it is just as important for the fans, for everyone to have a universal piece to celebrate in.”

Serre presents a slender, articulated jersey designed to be worn over a printed body suit.

“The focus of my designs is always hybridity and adapting to daily life. It’s important to create a purposeful line that makes a female feel good without compromising the style.”

PURPLE Magazine: Marine Serre by Slow Waves

“After the decade of Mugler and Montana, Paris mainly welcomed
young designers from elsewhere.
Today a new generation is finally emerging.”

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OSCAR HELIANI — Why did you settle in Paris?
MARINE SERRE — It wasn’t really planned. It just happened. I was living in Brussels — a wonderful city, by the way — but I was starting to get bored. When I got this job at Balenciaga, I found a tiny studio in Paris. You know how expensive the rent can be! On the whole, I’m more linked to people than to cities, but I do enjoy the melting pot of people and the huge opportunities that Paris offers.

OSCAR HELIANI — What is it like to start a business here?
MARINE SERRE — I never tried to do business in another city, so I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere. I could have chosen to start the brand in the Netherlands because my partner is Dutch, but, legally speaking, it was easier to do so in France, although I consider the brand an international one. I’m very happy with this decision, and I intend to stay in Paris and let the brand grow here.

OSCAR HELIANI — Do you feel a resurgence in the French capital?
MARINE SERRE — I do. I keep receiving job applications from people around the world willing to move to Paris and work in fashion. I’m not sure it would be the same in Lisbon. Who hasn’t dreamed of the Parisian way of life? Paris is a big city, without being huge. It is built in such a way that almost everything is happening in the centre. People usually complain when you invite them somewhere far away, and they pretend that the transport network is bad, and so on. I have to disagree. Major things are happening everywhere, especially in the nearby suburbs. Before settling here in the second arrondissement, we searched for offices in Aubervilliers [a suburb north of Paris] but couldn’t find anything big enough. We’re moving soon for something bigger, and it happens to be in the north of Paris.


OSCAR HELIANI — Do you see any disadvantage to moving to Paris?
MARINE SERRE — The rent is so high that you’re stuck in small spaces, without any possibility of expanding your business or even your team.

OSCAR HELIANI — What is your favorite neighborhood in Paris?
MARINE SERRE — I live near Porte de Clignancourt, and I really like it. Both the 18th and 19th arrondissements are cool for hanging out, taking a break, or biking.

OSCAR HELIANI — What is one of your secret places in Paris?
MARINE SERRE — Well, it won’t be a secret anymore, but I really enjoy going to Mala Bavo, a Kurdish bar in the Rue Saint-Denis. The mood there is nice, and people are totally relaxed. My team and I usually watch a soccer game, and I learned a traditional Kurdish dance the other day.

OSCAR HELIANI — Is there any link between your collections, the city of Paris, and French fashion?
MARINE SERRE — My collections have references, but not to Paris or French fashion, which, for me, mainly concerns the established houses.

OSCAR HELIANI — But isn’t casting Amalia Vairelli, Yves Saint Laurent’s iconic Somali model, for your “Hardcore Couture” show also a way of paying homage to French fashion?
MARINE SERRE — Not only does Amalia evoke French couture, but she’s also definitely a killer with her sharp hard-core attitude on the runway. I first got in touch with her because I love the way she walks, but as I got to know her, I discovered what a wonderful person she is. She understands the whole design process and knows how a garment works. There aren’t models like her anymore. If that’s what you mean by French fashion, then I’m definitely buying it!

OSCAR HELIANI — What is your approach to casting?
MARINE SERRE — The casting for my “Hardcore Couture” show took me more than three months. Seventy percent of the models were nonprofessional. I met each and every one, listened to what they had to say about feeling good wearing the clothes and being confident when walking the runway. Obviously, I’m not changing models every season. There is no expiration date, so why would I do it?


OSCAR HELIANI — You presented your first show at Calentito, Blanca Li’s dance studio in the 19th arrondissement, and your second show at the Jardins d’Éole, an outdoor setting in the same area. How do you choose your venues?
MARINE SERRE — For my “Manic Soul Machine” collection, I wanted a square space that had a raw concrete feeling without being too underground. When it comes to venues, the challenge is to find an affordable space matching all your criteria. The best solution is to reach a compromise, finding a location outside the area where all the fashion shows are held. Besides, I liked the studio’s neighborhood, and I used to practice contemporary dance myself, so I may have been unconsciously attracted to Calentito. The whole collection was related to movement: models were asked to walk in a choreographed way, and the fabrics were flowy, which was a perfect match. While working on the “Hardcore Couture” collection, I was walking one day with my sister on this long bridge under a beautiful sky, and it hit me: “Isn’t this the perfect spot for a show?” A huge catwalk crossed by all types of people: a guy on his bike, another one playing music, men exercising, and people taking a Tai Chi class. The day of the show, people in the garden could also watch the collection. I wanted everyone to be part of this experience. The only reason I decided to show outfits on men and children (who, by the way, walked with their real parents) was that I was seeking some realness. People never complained that these two locations were too far away.

OSCAR HELIANI — How would you describe your style?
MARINE SERRE — I don’t think of myself as an artistic director. I try to have a global vision for the brand, from design to production and merchandising. As fashion is always evolving, I would rather refrain from any definition of identity or style and avoid getting stuck there. But I can give you a hint about what I’m trying to achieve. I want to bring to my customer, who is between 18 and 65 years old, a very shaped silhouette with all the means to be free. I focus on proportions, and I pay close attention to shoulders. But if a woman wearing my design feels uncomfortable, this means I missed my goal. The women in my team and I try on all the pieces to ensure that everything is comfortable.

OSCAR HELIANI — Are you suggesting that other designers are not always down to earth?
MARINE SERRE — I have no comments to make about other designers. I would add, though, that we have to find a balance between the designer’s dream and the reality of the garment. Dreaming is important, but one should keep a sense of irony, too.

OSCAR HELIANI — What are some of your most popular designs?
MARINE SERRE — Our “Green Line!” It was really challenging to design. Having a limited quantity of fabrics, I had to think constantly about whether we had enough upcycled scarves to go into production. But the added value of this line is huge, and every piece is different from the others. The customer understands the time we spent collecting the fabrics, assembling and finishing the garment. And, above all, the final product is nice. I don’t want the customer to look like a clown. When we started the “Green Line” for the “Manic Soul Machine” collection, I didn’t tell anyone about the process. I wanted to check if people really liked it or not, without having in mind that it’s upcycled fabrics, so they should like it. We did it again for the “Hardcore Couture” collection. The “Green Line” pieces were the best-selling ones. It was the perfect time to launch this line. I’m lucky because five years ago, I’m sure that it wouldn’t have been as successful.

OSCAR HELIANI — If you had one fashion statement, what would it be?
MARINE SERRE — Keep your eyes wide open.

By Oscar Heliani for Purple Magazine

8 questions with Alice and Molly Goddard, fashion’s coolest sibling duo by Slow Waves

Alice and Molly Goddard discuss dress-ups, Avril Lavigne, and three decades of collaboration

By Clara Malley for Document Journal


Since childhood, Molly and Alice Goddard have enjoyed a close, at times adversarial, creative bond. From dressing up in tinfoil and emulating 90s pop stars, the sisters’ fashion tastes zig-zagged together and apart, as Molly pursued a career in fashion design and Alice in styling, the two developing reputations in their own rights. Molly launched her eponymous fashion line in 2014, while Alice juggled editorial styling with publishing her biannual zine, Hot and Cool. But in the midst of hectic, individual success, the sisters have continued to maintain their collaborative relationship, with Alice styling Molly’s London Fashion Week presentations.

In Molly’s London studio, the sisters read each other questions sent by Document. Their off-the-cuff conversation spanned early inspirations at Portobello Market, meandering style evolutions, and why, if you can, you should work with your sister. 

Molly Goddard
—Ok, recording. ‘What are your first memories together that involve fashion?’ Dressing you up. I used to make you clothes out of, like, everything. 

Alice Goddard—Tinfoil.

Molly—Tinfoil, jewelry, put makeup on you. Probably when you were about four and I was about seven.


Molly—What else do you remember?

Alice—I don’t know. Playing fancy dress.

Molly—Yeah, fancy dress.

Alice—And, I don’t know, just being your little mannequin. 

Molly—[Laughs] Yeah.

Alice—And not really enjoying it. [Laughs]

Molly—I think you did enjoy it.

Alice—Deep down. [Laughs]

Molly—You should answer the next question.

Alice—‘Do you consider yourselves to have similar personal style?’ I think, now, yes, but growing up, not so much.

Molly—Growing up, not so much. I was quite J-Lo.

Alice—And I was quite Pete Doherty.

Molly—Yeah, you were more indie, I was more…

Alice—Brown tracksuit.

Molly—Yeah, velour brown tracksuit. [Laughs] And Benetton. 

Alice—Really? Like what?

Molly—I used to love my Benetton t-shirts. 

Alice—And I remember you had those pink driving loafers which were so good.

Molly—Yeah, pink driving loafers, low-slung jeans, Benetton t-shirt. That makes me sound really posh but it wasn’t posh. It was like Mike Skinner. And you were more…


Alice—My typical outfit was leopard-print leggings, fake Vivienne Westwood pirate boots, denim mini skirt, Batman t-shirt, and yellow plastic gun earrings.

Molly—That was good. That was when you were like 14, though. That was very good. 

Alice—That’s what I remember wearing all the time. 

Molly—I don’t know what I used to wear. I wore a lot of different things. But yeah, now we’re more similar. More classy. [Laughs]

Alice—More classy. [Laughs]

Molly—‘Who are fashion icons you grew up with that you think inform your work now?’ Ugh. I don’t like this question ever. I don’t know… Fashion icons is hard because it changes, doesn’t it. Do you have any?

Alice—Not [ones] who we really grew up with. 

Molly—It really varied, I suppose…I would watch music videos. You would watch “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child.

Alice—I suppose we both really liked those Vogue Runway magazines. I remember loving Luella [Bartley] and Marc Jacobs. That probably is a lot of what informs our work now to a degree.

Molly—Yeah. I think, also, it’s quite hard because you don’t sit around thinking, ‘This is an icon I admire.’ I didn’t really have that kind of obsession about things. Actually, thinking about it…I think Portobello Market was quite a big influence, and there were people there who I think were icons in a way. Like Mum and Dad’s friend, Evie. She used to wear very interesting clothes, and I’d always try to dress up and think about, ‘What would she think of my Red or Dead platforms or my tie-dye t-shirt?’ I think growing up in Portobello you kind of weirdly made an effort to look interesting. Do you think?

Alice—Yeah, I don’t feel like there was any single icon in celebrity way…I remember that I loved Lara Croft, actually.

Molly—Yeah, you did. 

Alice—I don’t know if that’s really had any influence on me now. [Laughs]

Molly—And I think it’s hard because you say one thing and then it kind of sticks. There was a phase where I definitely tried to dress like All Saints but only for one short period of time. 

Alice—[An] Avril Lavigne phase I think I had. P!nk phase.

Molly—Yeah, it’s hard.

Alice—‘Most stylish member of our family.’ Our Granny’s quite stylish.

Molly—Yeah I think our Granny’s quite stylish.   

Alice—She likes a brooch on her fleece.

Molly—[Laughs] Yeah she does like a brooch. She always looks very stylish. Mum and Dad are pretty stylish.

Alice—Yeah they’re pretty stylish. We’ve got quite a generally stylish family.

Molly—Yeah they’re not bad. ‘What is the best part about being sisters?’

Alice—I think we don’t have a choice. [Laughs]

Molly—I think laughing. Like we can be a bit silly. 

Alice—Working together. Being able to work together as sisters is pretty good actually.

Molly—It is pretty good.  

Alice—And being able to have fun and spend lots of time together. Aww, it’s quite nice. 


Molly—It is nice. It makes things very easy because we kind of already know what each other means before you even really have to say it. You don’t have to explain shit that you would to other people. And in the time we save doing that, we get to have a laugh. 

Alice—[And] talk about our favorite chocolate bars. [Laughs] I always find it funny when I have friends who aren’t similar to their siblings at all. Well, I suppose it might be nice to have a sibling who you’re not similar to, but it’s amazing that we’re so similar even when we’re not together. And we don’t fight at all.

Molly—And everything kind of complements. Like, what you like and I don’t like makes it interesting. We tell each other when we’re being stupid or annoying.


Molly—[We] can be very honest. 

Alice—’How would you describe each other in three words?’

Molly—Oh dear [Laughs]. I think you are goofy.




Molly—And stubborn. Are those all a bit rude?


Molly—But stubborn in a good way. What’s another word for that? Strong-willed.

Alice—Awww, that’s nice. I was just going to say ginger, smiley, and nice. [Laughs]

Molly—[Laughs] You can do better than that.

Alice—I don’t know, it’s quite hard to be nice to each other, isn’t it? And serious?

Molly—It is quite hard. 

Alice—We weren’t brought up to be nice to each other.

Molly—No. [Laughs] That’s alright. ‘Ginger, smiley, and nice.’

Alice—I think you’re very nice and giving to the people that work for you. That’s what I think. You’re a nice boss.


—[Laugh] Okay, that’s alright. Thank you, that will do. ‘Discuss your childhood together and what’s brought your careers to this point.’ We’ve kind of worked together from the beginning, haven’t we?


Molly—I remember there was a point where I thought you were doing loads—when you started Hot and Cool, that was before I was doing anything. I was in Uni. I remember being very impressed with that.


Molly—We’ve kind of had a nice balance of, like, gearing up together. And now we get to work together…It’s all quite separate, the work we do together and what we do otherwise. Our work together is kind of just purely creative, working on the show….

Alice—I suppose what I mean about siblings who aren’t similar is that it must be funny to have a sibling who doesn’t fully understand what you do. It’s so nice that we both understand completely what we do and can help each other.

Molly—Yeah, and I think you’re the only person who actually understands what I want to do, which is what’s nice. No one else gets it.

Alice—I think I can do a better three words.

Molly—Alright. Are we done? Are you trying to think of three words?


Molly—What was mine? Strong-willed…

Molly and Alice—Clever.

Molly—Goofy. Is that good? I think that’s quite good.

Alice—Yeah. I’ll take that.

Molly—You need to go with the first thing that comes to mind.

Alice—Ginger, smiley, and nice [Laughs].


Alice—Clumsy, generous, and…

Molly—Stunning [Laughs].

Alice—Stunning, visionnaire [in French accent]. 

Molly and Alice—[Laughs]

Alice—Alright, that’s enough.

Molly—That’ll do.

Bella Hadid Wears Jiwinaia Hair Clips by Slow Waves

Bella Hadid Adopts Various Rock’n’Roll Personas for LOVE 21

For LOVE21, photographer Alana O'Herlihy captured her best friend, who happens to be infamous model of the moment Bella Hadid, adopting myriad rock’n’roll alter-egos in a ‘50s style film, over laid with a robotic ultra-feminine voice over, “It’s changed a lot for me. Before it was about keeping my façade and this stone-cold persona, ’cause I wasn’t able to be myself to the world, or myself,” said Bella.

Why Margiela's Tabi Boot Is Minting Money by Slow Waves

As the enigmatic designer's split-toe shoe gains a celebrity following years after its initial release, retailers are cashing in.

By Kati Chitrakon for BOF

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When Will Heyward bought his first pair of Tabi boots last July, he couldn’t quite believe his luck. The master’s degree student, enrolled at Central Saint Martins in London, had stumbled across an online Italian retailer called Dope Factory stocking brands like Maison Margiela, Off-White, Jil Sander and Alyx. He realised that not only did the platform offer legitimate Tabi shoes at an enticing price — 40 percent off — but also, the style was now available in sizes for men. Heyward purchased them immediately.“I love that some people hate or are scared of them,” he chuckled. “They’re the kind of shoe that when people don’t know what they are, they’re grossed out by them, and when people do, they’re appreciative and it’s like you’re in this little ‘it’ circle.”


Since Margiela introduced an iteration of the Tabi boot for men last season, they’ve been appearing on the feet of many a male — though that never stopped some from squeezing into smaller sizes before now. American Horror Story actor Cody Fern showed up at the 2019 Golden Globes, styled by Nicola Formichetti, in a full Margiela look that included black leather Tabi boots, which shook the Internet as the image went viral in minutes. American GQ promptly claimed that the Tabi boot would be the trend of 2019.

As more high-profile men adopt the cloven footwear — American musician Steve Lacy, hip-hop star A$AP Rocky, and Korean boy-band member Jin of BTS have all recently been spotted wearing the hooves — they may be onto something.

Making the ordinary exotic

As the Birkin bag is to Hermès and the red sole is to Christian Louboutin, the split-toed boot has become synonymous with the house of Margiela. First appearing in his debut show in 1988, the Tabi boot is the Belgian designer’s interpretation of the split Japanese tabi sock, which separates the big toe from the others and is worn with traditional thong sandals.

“The split-toe design has become associated almost exclusively with traditional wafuku Japanese clothing, since tabi socks are the proper — and perhaps only — hosiery to wear with wooden sandals,” said W. David Marx, a Tokyo-based cultural historian and the author of “Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style.”

Though Margiela’s first Tabis were doused in red paint — the designer said he wanted the distinctive hoof-like footprint to remain imprinted on the white catwalk (the stains were later transformed into a look that opened his next show in 1989) — the colour of tabi socks have traditionally been a marker of their wearer’s rank. Commoners were only permitted to wear indigo blue, while samurais could wear any colour, except for purple and gold, which were worn by the upper classes. Then, at the turn of the 20th century, thanks to the mass production and development of rubber, came the rubber-soled jika-tabi, often worn by working class labourers like farmers or construction workers.

So, how did the hooven footwear become so popular worldwide and what’s driving its resurgence today?

Going back to Japan where the style originated, Ametora’s Marx pointed out that companies such as Tabio have built an entire empire on modern interpretations of the tabi sock, while local firms like Sou Sou and Tabi-ji have grown businesses selling tabi-inspired sneakers. Foreign brands like Onitsuka Tiger and Converse have dabbled in offering tabi styles, too. Demna Gvasalia, who has frequently cited Margiela as a key source of inspiration, showed Tabi-style boots for Vetements Autumn/Winter 2018. There are also reports that Nike could bring back its split-toe Air Rift silhouette after product shots recently surfaced.

“All unusual Japanese designs just become fashion innovations in the West. They’re imported with a sprinkle of exoticism and without any of the social baggage of their origin culture,” quipped Marx. “Few [people] will look at a Margiela Tabi shoe and think, ‘ah, the shoe of construction workers.’”

A release provided to BoF by the house, owned today by Only The Brave (OTB) and led by creative director John Galliano, acknowledged the shoe's origins as footwear for the working class, but said that its key appeal — both historically and today — was comfort, allowing for greater agility for the feet and toes.

But it begs the question whether Margiela would be met with accusations of cultural appropriation had he launched his Tabi shoe today. 

"After nearly 200 years of Western artists and designers borrowing from the great tradition of Japanese aesthetics, I don't know how 'political' the idea of a tabi shoe would be considered in the West, but certainly in Japan, there appears to be no controversy," said Marx.


Tokyo-based fashion designer Kota Gushiken is among those who aren't bothered by it. “When I saw it for the first time in a photo, I was around 17-years-old and thought it was amazing,” he told BoF. “Because I’m Japanese, I had known of the tabi shape for a long time, but Margiela’s Tabi boot was something different. It’s [taken] from something traditional, but he took the inspiration and twisted it in his own way.”

“I’m pretty amazed that you asked me this question because I’m wearing them today!” laughed Maya Nago, a Tokyo-based journalist who formerly worked in the Japanese outposts of Wired and Farfetch. “I have two pairs, in black patent leather and in nude, and I don’t think it’s cultural appropriation at all. Rather, it’s a great opportunity for Japanese people to realise that [our] culture and design can inspire others, [especially] as the shoes are designed in a sophisticated, bold and high-fashioned manner.”

“How to explain his popularity? He’s got the magic touch!” said Kristina de Coninck, a longtime muse and model for Margiela, who first appeared in his show in 1989 and continued to walk for the designer until 2005. “When I saw the Tabi boots for the first time, I was immediately seduced by their originality. It was like a poetic fantasy from elsewhere, and wow, every season, Martin introduced a new way of wearing them,” she told BoF. "I think there is a total respect for the Japanese culture."

Maison Martin Margiela - S_S 1996 - Tabi sandal.jpg

But not everyone is as captivated by the designer, said Alexandre Samson, who worked closely with Martin Margiela to curate a retrospective show at the Palais Galliera in 2016. “You have to [realise] that his popularity is a posteriori. During his career, he was relatively unknown for a massive audience,” he explained. “The Tabi boots…were worn by very few daring people during the 1990s. In 2019, I’m not sure their aspects are yet accepted in the streets. Their provocative potential must not be underestimated.”

Selling an animalistic aesthetic

For some wearers, it’s exactly this that makes the footwear so appealing. “[The Tabi] still looks as provocative today as it did when it first appeared,” said Christa Kaufmann, catwalk editor for trend forecasting agency WGSN. “The cycle of the fashion system has been defined by an endless trickle-down of ideas and trends, which has led fashion-forward consumers to look for novelty, originality and individuality more than ever before.”

Social media has played a part in propelling its popularity. “Even though the Tabi boot made its debut pre-Internet, the recognisable clef-toe silhouette is predestined to be a success in the Instagram era,” said Kaufmann. “Because of social media, the ability to source images and the actual product itself has become so much easier,” added Ariana Waiata Sheehan of Aro, a London-based store and appointment-only archive, specialising in Japanese and Belgian designer pieces. Indeed, there is no end to the cult fan accounts celebrating Tabis that have popped up on Instagram, Tumblr and elsewhere.

For those like Heyward, it’s an opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals. “I feel like I have a small bond with every person that I see wearing Tabis,” he said, noting that not many men would give the split-toe shoe a chance — and with all things Margiela, that’s the point. “It’s not for everyone,” agreed Bryant Lee, senior buyer at the influential London-based boutique Machine-A, which has nine Tabi styles for Spring/Summer 2019. The buyer also wears Tabi boots himself.

As the shape becomes revitalised for modern culture, with new iterations and additional sizing for men, it's also driving business for retailers worldwide. “We’ve seen a 112 percent increase on Tabi boot styles arriving in US and UK online retailers over the past three months, compared to three months prior, revealing that demand is alive and well,” said Kayla Marci, market analyst at Edited, a data analytics company specialising in fashion.

“The volume of styles across luxury retailers has steadily picked up over the past few seasons,” agreed Kaufmann of WGSN, which noted a 17 percent uptick in the UK and 11 percent in the US over the past three months. “Though the quantities are small, the volume of styles for men has also doubled from October to December 2018.”

“Our first delivery of the Tabi boot in black leather [for men] sold out within days,” said Federico Barassi, senior director of menswear buying at Ssense, which began offering the Tabi sneaker and heeled boot for men in Autumn/Winter 2018.


“Season to season, we sell hundreds of Tabis and have increased by over 233 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year,” added Brigitte Chartrand, senior director of womenswear buying at Ssense, noting that as a result, the Montreal-based fashion retailer would be collaborating with Margiela on a capsule collection celebrating the Tabi for Spring/Summer 2019. The online platform currently carries 49 Tabi options, including 11 styles in varied materials and colours.

Both MatchesFashion.com and Machine-A, which have stocked the Tabi since Spring/Summer 2017, have seen similar success. “The Tabi boot may have launched in the late 80s, but it is still a very pioneering style that hasn’t dated,” said Cassie Smart, head of womenswear buying at MatchesFashion.com, noting that customers are attracted to the shoe as “an investment piece” and “a collectible.”

“A lot of customers come back each season to discover the new variation that the Tabis have to offer. The signature styles are always the first to go, as they are such classics, while the new designs [tend to] attract collectors,” added Machine-A’s Lee. The craze for Tabi has also extended into the resale market. “As a store of pre-owned pieces, shoes are a difficult product to buy and sell generally, except for coveted shoes like the Tabi, which there’s almost a waiting list for — it’s one of the most asked-for items,” said Aro’s Waiata Sheehan.

At online resale platform Depop, there was a 170 percent increase in the search for Tabi boots in 2018 compared to the previous year. The number of Depop users searching for Tabi boots, meanwhile, increased 134 percent. Prices tend to begin around £300 (almost $400), although the most expensive active listing currently sits at £5,555 ($7,396). “Since the start of 2018, gross merchandise volume driven by Tabi boot sales has increased 85 percent,” said a spokesperson for the company.

Much of the Tabi boot’s unexpected success rests on being deliberately bizarre and heinous, so does it make sense that the house of Margiela is now churning out the style in so many different variations?

Samson said it’s inevitable: “Tabis for Margiela are like tweed for Chanel. It’s become an emblem that is reinterpreted each collection.”