Ah, collaborations! A tête-à-tête of brand identities, a twisted tale of two labels exchanging iconographies. But they’re now such a staple of fashion that they’ve entered into cliche territory, hitting an existential impasse. Still, they’re going nowhere, so what does it mean for two designers to make something…“together”?
A hilarious (and also very good) new pair of collaborative sneakers from Kiko Kostadinov and Kyle Ng’s Brain Dead provides a pretty great answer. Ng did the left shoe, and Kostadinov did the right. The ASICSport GEL-Fratelli: two mismatched shoes, coming together.
Kostadinov is the Bulgarian-born, London-based philosopher-king of fashion’s avant-garde; Ng is the spirited post-punk behind the beloved Los Angeles-based streetwear brand Brain Dead. They have wanted to work together basically since the moment they met in Paris a few years ago. “We don’t really have to talk about clothing a lot, or fashion,” Ng says of their friendship. “And I think the [sense] of humor is very similar—we just like being goofy. I don’t really hang out with a lot of people in the industry, and Kiko I don’t see as an industry friend at all.”
“We both have brands that need to align with what we wanna do,” adds the typically contemplative Kostadinov. “It was not just like, Oh, me and Kyle are going to throw a piece of cardboard on the street. I make a product that represents my brand, also my team and the people that like my clothes—same with Kyle.” Or, put another way: “I think both brands have a kind of cult following, or just people who are pretty diehard.”
But that didn’t mean they decided to get ultra-serious for their first partnership. This was, Ng says, “more out of a whim of like, let’s just do something funny, you know?”
Ng practically cackles thinking about the mismatched shoes—a number of friends have already asked if they can buy the matching pair. “That idea is so novel to them,” he says, adding that it’s both “awesome” and “weird” that many find it difficult “to comprehend that a shoe would be totally different colors.”
Nonetheless, they cohere beautifully, and they do share a silhouette. Kostadinov is a longtime ASICSport collaborator—they’ve partnered up several times since 2018—and took the reins on the silhouette. The shoe uses Asics’ GEL-Nimbus as its foundation, and the company’s Lazerbeam as its upper, plus adds a velcro strap borrowed from the children’s version of the Lazerbeam. “That shows the idea of making something playful, which is really important,” Ng says. “I always liked the playful troll nature of life.” Though the collaboration was already in the works before the pandemic, they worked relatively separately on their designs, checking in with each other regularly, and did a material study to see how the mish-mash might feel to wearers. Kostadinov’s shoe is a bit more subdued that Ng’s—there’s a modesty absent from Ng’s unbridled use of color that balances out the pair—but each shoe’s creation was “ultimately improvisational,” as Ng put it.