Common Projects are a modern classic that has always operated according to a philosophy that stretches far beyond shoes.
Since Common Projects first burst onto the scene over a decade ago, they’ve come to reimagine the sneaker as a luxury item. The now iconic Achilles Low was seen as a transcendent pair that successfully bridged the gap between the casual sneaker and the dress shoe. These pared-down kicks, whose only recognizable was a gold-stamped serial code at the back heel, are the heart and soul of the brand that sparked a movement that continues to define what exactly a luxury sneaker should be.
In the year 2018, we’ve witnessed the “ugly sneaker” all but dominate footwear trends across the runway. The world has gobbled up steroid-injected models such as the Triple S by Balenciaga while an endless string of chunky reiterations have been released by the likes of Givenchy, Gucci, Valentino, Maison Margiela and Versace–each progressively uglier than the last.
Through all of the noise, however, Common Projects holds steady. The New York-based brand continues to put forth its streamlined aesthetic with its signature pinch of upscale cool.
While their refusal to conform to disposable trends may seem admirable to some, those in-the-know realize that this is nothing new from the brand. In fact, Common Projects somehow remains in the spotlight of contemporary design and continues to be one of the must-have sneaker brands despite the lack of in-your-face hype.
This is because Common Projects has grown to transcend footwear. In fact, the brand was never supposed to be about just footwear.
Brought together by a shared love for simple and elegant design, Prathan Poopat, then a magazine art director, and Flavio Girolami, a consultant for Italian shoe brands, first began dreaming up the idea for a company in the late 90s. The two New York creatives would share sake at a dive bar under the Maritime Hotel in Chelsea where they discussed plans to perfect the designs of everyday objects such as a chair, dress shirt, or desk lamp.
It wasn’t until 2004 that the culmination of these boozy nights came to fruition and they conceived “Common Projects” to umbrella a series of seasonal items. The aptly-named company was meant to describe the creative, well, projects that the duo wanted to bring to life, almost like an object-based zine. Together, they set on their very first experiment, the Achilles by Common Projects.
The Achilles Low was their reimagination of the common tennis shoe. Crafted from high-grade Italian with minimal details besides the gold serial number that’s since become a cult symbol among followers of the brand, it was their attempt at perfecting an everyday essential. The model ended up being so popular that they decided to focus all of their initial attention on footwear. Considering Girolami’s long list of contacts within the industry, the decision was certainly a sensible one.
While Poopat and Girolami never quite intended to start with luxury sneakers, it just sort of happened. The opportunity presented itself as they stumbled across their rendition and the duo decided to seize the moment and roll with it. So Common Projects grew.
Inspired by the lines and shapes of everyday objects, the design philosophy of Common Projects has operated according to three basic principles: form, function and materials. The shoe certainly falls under the category of an everyday object that, above all, serves a purpose that we perhaps take for granted. They’ve taken the street sensibility of American sneaker culture, the Italian craftsmanship and an unwavering commitment to superior materials.
This less-is-more approach to design speaks volumes about the company. The brand doesn’t have much of a social media presence, while Poopat and Girolami prefer to remain out of the limelight themselves. They’ve never even run an advertisement or hosted a party for the brand.
They believe that the core demographic of Common Projects is not the type of person to respond to brash marketing and seasonal trends. In fact, they’re the type of unswayed individuals and free-thinkers that that do things for the moment because they’re right. In the same way that Poopat and Girolami refuse to rush into business opportunities that don’t feel right, the wearer of Common Projects is a person that just gets it.
Instead, they prefer to let their products do all the talking. Beyond the craftsmanship, detail and design, Common Projects embodies the people who wear their shoes and what they put into it as individuals. The duo has no intention of standing in the way of that. It’s hard to quantify exactly how much of an impact Common Projects has had on the luxury sneaker market. That’s because it pretty much invented it. While other brands continue to experiment in a different direction entirely, Common Projects has remained true to its core.
What Common Projects does well, it does well. The simple streamlined aesthetic of the cult label carries over to the range of basics for Fall/Winter 2018 season. While the original Achilles Low continues to be the bread and butter of the New York label, their autumn line showcases their unwavering commitment to their design philosophy.
From the initial Achilles Low, the company’s range of footwear has blossomed into high-tops, low-tops, boots, slip-on and derbys, all of which continue to strike the perfect balance between practicality and luxury. The Skate Low and Slip-On – both in a rich, luxurious black suede with white bottoms – are wonderful additions to the family. The brand proposes a hybrid of casual and polished styles adapted to today’s on-the-go lifestyle.
Since seemingly perfecting the modern sneaker, they’ve since expanded into other sleek everyday essentials: boots, wallets, cardholders and even backpacks. The range of cardholders is as functional as ever–a reminder of why Common Projects was conceived in the first place.
For Common Projects, everything serves a purpose. In their pursuit of the perfect shoe, they’ve created a modern classic. They’re an everyday essential that really begins to shine when you live with them day in and day out. Common Projects don’t scream that they’re special, and perhaps that’s what makes them special. In fact, they may even seem commonplace or mundane to some.
After all, how can something that’s so minimal and understated in its design be so recognizable when you see them on the street?