PARIS, United States — Ugly sneakers are footwear's unlikely king for the moment. But a new brand is betting clunky, comfortable styles are here to stay — no matter the silhouette.
David Tourniaire-Beauciel, the designer behind Balenciaga’s trend-setting Triple S sneaker and the creative director at Clergerie, is launching a direct-to-consumer line, Shoes 53045 (the numbers spell “shoes” upside down). The brand will sell styles distinguished by a thick, platform bubble sole sure to resonate with fans of comically loud footwear. The brand is coming to market with a $400 sneaker lace-up style available for preorder starting on Friday. Future releases will have the same sole but will look radically different on the upper part.
Tourniaire-Beauciel and his co-founder Aurelia Ammour (a former luxury fashion executive who has worked with LVMH, Kering and others) hope the bubble sole will become a brand-defining attribute like the thick sole of Doc Marten’s shoes.
“Before, there was this French proverb saying you need to suffer to be beautiful; Now, it’s over, we want to be comfortable,” said Tourniaire-Beauciel, who has more than 25 years of experience in footwear design and has worked under Jean-Paul Gaultier, Phoebe Philo at Chloé, Martin Margiela and Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy. He continues to work with Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga and several other luxury brands in addition to his role at Clergerie.
But when he designs luxury shoes and sneakers in Italy and Portugal, the product remains very traditional, Tourniaire-Beauciel said. “[It’s] still a shoe looking like a sneaker.”
The differentiator for Shoes 53045, said Tourniaire-Beauciel, is the mix of European design with athletic-shoe technology developed with Chinese manufacturers that creates the lightweight but voluminous platform sole.
“It would be impossible to do elsewhere,” he said, adding that he is proud to manufacture in China. While many luxury brands make their products in Asia — finishing off the process in Italy and France so they can avoid the “Made in China” label — there is still a consumer perception that luxury items should be made in Europe. (Production of the Triple S moved to China in 2018.)
Today, some mass market and luxury sneaker styles sell out nearly instantly and even accrue in price on the secondary market because sneakers have become the millennial’s status symbol. But Tourniaire-Beauciel says that the luxury sneaker market is in danger of losing steam because while the design of European-made styles evolves with changing trends, the technology of its materials and production isn’t keeping up in Italy and Portugal.
Shoes 53045’s price point is another differentiator, starting at $400 versus the $800 or more charged for luxury footwear styles, even sneakers.
Tourniaire-Beauciel, who had his own namesake shoe brand until 2017, said the direct-to-consumer model is key to not only lowering the price but also being free from the expectations of wholesale buyers. “They will buy what they think you are and here we are always changing, we will be always different,” he said.
Meanwhile, his co-founder Ammour is based in Los Angeles and is focusing on building a community of supporters. “We involve fashion stylists, we meet them to show them what we are doing to have their feedback,” she said. The brand is raising funding now, she said, and plans to open a store in 2020.