Sneaker drop: Born Outside Italy brings 001 trainer to Dubai with 'street quiet' aesthetic

The label tapped creatives who have worked with Virgil Abloh and Karl Lagerfeld

The new brand ‘blends comfort and quality, with an element of being cool’. Photo: Born Outside Italy
Powered by automated translation

It is believed the apex of sneaker culture was attained in 1985, when Nike's Air Jordan 1s were released – sending footwear enthusiasts into a frenzy. Many fashion labels followed suit, learning a thing or two from the collaboration.

Many culture-defining pieces later – from Kanye West's Yeezy to Donald Trump's shiny gold high-tops – the industry is projected to reach a whopping $120 billion by 2026, according to Statista. So when a newcomer enters the fairly saturated (and almost cultish) market, it needs to do so in a way that it will be remembered.

For Born Outside Italy, this meant imagining a shoe-shaped island where fashion meets luxury. In the lead-up to the brand launching its first pair of trainers, Sneaker 001, on Thursday, it piqued people's imagination by releasing renders of an island shaped like a trainer, off the coast of Dubai.

“In the world of luxury fashion, creativity is crucial,” co-founder Alfredo Bandini tells The National. “We wanted to do something that whether it was launched five or 10 years ago, in London, Los Angeles or Dubai, people would sit back and say: 'Wow, these guys really tried hard.'”

On this island, Bandini envisions people fully living lives “on their own terms and expressing themselves by indulging in their passion for sneakers”. In reality, this is one of fashion's ultimate functions, he says.

“I believe in this increasingly hectic world, fashion remains one of the few ways we can express something without having to open our mouths,” he says.

Unfortunately, Sneaker Island is merely conceptual. However, the company is hosting an invitation-only party for its debut pair on a real island somewhere off Dubai's shores on Friday night. Although a marketing gimmick at its core (for now), the idea represents the brand's palpable ambition to carve its mark in a crowded industry.

'Street-quiet' fashion

Born Outside Italy combines Italian craftsmanship, understated luxury and bold street culture, taking inspiration from Japanese and American streetwear. The company calls its aesthetic “street-quiet”.

“When you think of street-quiet, it's about blending comfort and quality, with a certain element of being cool but not over the top. We say we are a lot more subtle and elegant than Off-White, but are cooler and more expressive than Loro Piana,” says Bandini.

“The casualisation of fashion is here to stay and we believe we’re offering that perfect balance of quiet luxury where durability and comfort lies in the quality of materials.”

To achieve this, the brand hired Janna Arnold whose experience includes being the “right hand” of the late Virgil Abloh. Arnold worked on Off-White's Out Of Office trainers line, as well as with South Korean designer Yoom Ahn to create the first footwear line for jewellery brand Ambush.

Now working as Born Outside Italy's creative director, Arnold pays homage to Abloh's indelible impact on fashion, taking inspiration from the late designer in her own sartorial creations.

The result is a pair of trainers that channel 1990s street culture with contrasting shapes and colours. Unlike most other luxury footwear, Sneaker 001 is not loud.

It employs muted colours to deliver on its understated luxury promise. Perhaps the most defining design feature of the shoes are the hex nut shapes carved on the sole. Calf leather and suede feature in the piece, and it comes with a custom-designed tote bag.

The first colour, lavender dusk, is available on the company's website from Friday, as well as at SVD Middle East in Dubai Design District. Three other colour variations will be released in the coming weeks.

While fashion enthusiasts are sometimes guilty of prioritising brand hype over quality, Bandini says people are starting to realise that quality matters when it comes to purchase decisions. “It is not some attribute that is vague and philosophical,” he says.

Every little detail of the shoes, he explains, has repercussions on wearability and overall quality. Taking off his own shoes, Bandini shows us how, for example, there are no visible stitches inside that can typically bother the foot. The tongue is made of a technical mesh instead of foam for added support.

“There are a lot of tiny little details that when you're ready to invest in quality, they show up in comfortability,” he explains.

Bandini says the brand is also lucky to work with someone who has access to some of the best suppliers in Italy.

“Our head of product is a 67-year-old man who learnt from Karl Lagerfeld some 30 years ago in Fendi. He only did luxury shoes all his career, so you can imagine the amount of experience we could grasp from the thousands of projects he did.”

The co-founder adds they are having ongoing discussions with retailers such as Bloomingdale's and Level Shoes to amplify their reach. Trainers aside, they are also preparing to launch a ready-to-wear line soon, hoping to create a bigger community of like-minded people.

Updated: May 13, 2024, 9:12 AM