In the age of the sneaker forum and rap stars on catwalks, luxury sportswear is no longer an oxymoron. But back in 2005 when PUMA by Alexander McQueen was launched for SS06 the pairing were blazing a trail. The legendary late designer himself had form: he might have been best known for his runway show extravaganzas and exquisite craftsmanship, but he was rarely seen out of sneakers.
At launch the designer told the press, "I have always had a great passion for trainers, so I am very excited about this collaboration with PUMA. I am confident that my design philosophy, combined with PUMA's excellence in the field, will result in a totally unique product".
Since 2005, PUMA by Alexander McQueen has been concerned with breaking new technical ground and re-working classics in calf gloving leather, oiled suede and pony skin. Darryl Matthews, PUMA senior designer described PUMA "as an innovator in the world of sport" and praised McQueen for his ability "to juxtapose creative influences and push boundaries." McQueen's vision enabled the line to break rules even in a field as future orientated as sportswear. Matthews enjoys "mixing the theatrical world of McQueen and the rigidity of PUMA's performance engineering".
Matthews considers the design story as "defining PUMA by McQueen as luxury". This could be seen in the Man Cat icon, a blend of PUMA's leaping cat and McQueen's interest in the futuristic possibilities of therianthropy – the mystical amalgamation of human and animal. 2008's Spine Mid Velcro was inspired by muscle fibres, SS09's Ribcage Lux featured embossed leather 'cage' eye stay technical mesh and biological cell motifs are a recurring theme.
The AW09 collection is sought out by sportswear aficionados for the boxing-themed women's and men's apparel that wouldn't look out of place on current catwalks. 2010 saw the launch of the PUMA Trinomic by McQueen a trendsetting designer label technical sneaker.
Likewise one of Matthews personal favourite pieces was "a jogger in pony skin with a sheep shearling lining", for its "early foretelling of the running inspired trends of today." Another is AW13's Joust Hi Boot worked on with Sarah Burton (Alexander's highly regarded successor as creative director of McQueen) for its intricate detailing and hidden craft."
AW13 collection looks to Robert Falcon Scott's doomed South Pole exhibition for inspiration. Hues are saffron, plum, sycamore and winter white. For Matthews this works "because of the direct but subtle inspiration". Such as accentuated padded tongues and zip fasteners with anodized gunmetal ghillie eyelets, brushed leather frozen effect finishes are mixed with premium waxed leather panels, frosted fabrics, fluorescents, fossilised textures, thick soles, puffed materials and tumbled suede.