Surfaced: Common Projects
Surfaced: Common Projects
- Words Mayan Rajendran
- Date September 27, 2016
The ever-repeated minimalist white sneaker has now become fully engrained into the wardrobes of both men and women alike. You can see various iterations from the likes of Adidas and Nike, and also from other high end brands like Acne and Givenchy. However, you can trace this resurgence amongst menswear fans at least to one brand which was present before the marketplace caught up: Common Projects. Though they are the originators of this new minimalist movement, the illuminating effect of the brand has helped inspire an entire movement of basic but luxurious footwear and clothing across the industry. And, much like most other inspiration stories, it all started simply as a side-project.
Social and personal crossings brought Common Projects founders Peter Poopat and Flavio Girolami together almost 12 years ago when they sought to create a solution for a very pressing issue; they needed a summer wedding sneaker. At the time Peter was working as art director at V Magazine, and Flavio was a brand consultant based out of Italy, but the pair were able to put together common design elements to create the first Achilles. The resulting product came about as a casual option for a summer wedding they had to attend. Looking at the collection now, one is shocked to see the extensive range that it has blossomed into. Boots, derbies, the famed crepe-soled chelsea boot, and leather goods now present a wider range of product for those who choose to don the distinctive 10 digit gold stamp.
Like most of us, Poopat and Girolami began as sneaker enthusiasts but wanted something that felt like it had grown up in a similar manner to they way they did. After Stan Smiths, Jordan 1s, Air Force 1s, Vans Slip ons and Chuck Taylors all had their turn in the rotation, they began to seek a more refined alternative that offered exactly what it was designed to do; a minimal, sleek, well constructed piece of footwear. In 2004, they launched the company together, investing personally and starting with the Achilles low (in white, black, and grey), and welcomed UNITED ARROWS of Japan as their first customer. The slim silhouette, narrow last, and Margom cup sole all played together to create something that fell into a category that, at the point, hadn't even existed. With a $265 price tag, the Achilles placed itself into a category that had not yet existed; between luxury designer and mainstream staples. The allure of simplicity soon forged a place in the market that felt similar to an industrially designed product; satisfying in function, while maintaining a streamlined and mature silhouette.
The Achilles has found itself on the forefront of minimalist sneakers, a category that Poopat and Girolami created, and soon had a slew of designs and styles following behind. The most popular silhouette to follow in the Achilles' footsteps has been infamous the crepe sole Chelsea Boot.
Debuting to the public during Spring Summer 2015, the Chelsea boot first made waves when it was exposed to the social media realm by GQ writer Jake Woolf during a typical press preview. However it was back in 2008 when an early version of the shoe appeared. Made with a leather upper and sole, the Chelsea boot was slightly ahead of its time and was not as well received by the public as it's all-white forebear. Also, at the time, the Bottega Veneta version of the more casual boot was dominating the relatively small category and had not seen any worthy mainstream competitors stepping up to the plate. The re-interpreted Common Projects version had a suede upper and a comfortable crepe sole akin to it's Italian competition. After making its way onto Instagram, it was then re-grammed by close Kanye West affiliate and FEAR OF GOD creator Jerry Lorenzo. With his keen enthusiasm and demand for early acquirement, the internet was thrown into a frenzy that dictated a higher demand for the boot than the brand had expected. Once it had been released to the public the boot was seeing a 3, sometimes 4 fold increase in its resale value. With few seasons under its belt, the Common Projects chelsea boot is now a staple in the collection and the wardrobes of menswear enthusiasts around the world.
Stepping into an urban city you are sure to find men wearing a clean, and sometimes extremely worn-in, pair of Achilles. Be it with jeans or a suit the brand has been able to diversify itself all the while staying true to its ethos. With high-end fashion houses constantly flattering Poopat and Girolami with imitative renditions of their sneaker, Common Projects also opened the minds of new designers. The increase in the vast variety of “minimalist” luxury sneaker brands does not appear to be slowing down, and while this may seem like increased competition for Peter and Flavio, they have also been key figures in inspiring others and fostering the courage needed to start a new brand.